Earlier in the week, we celebrated the birthday of the legendary Jack Nicholson. Today we honor another icon of the big screen with the great Al Pacino. Born and raised in New York City, the Italian American actor has built as remarkable of a career as anyone. Over the last 50 years, Pacino has worked in some of the most prestigious films of all time. He also made a name for himself in the gangster, crime genre. Through all of this, he’s been consistently entertaining to watch.
Working in mostly theater and smaller films, Pacino got the most significant break of his career with “The Godfather.” As Michael Corleone, he plays a war hero turned mob boss who would stop at nothing to build a stable criminal enterprise. Throughout this story and two sequels, we see him complete an arch of one of cinema’s most complex characters. Director Francis Ford Coppola had to beg the studio to allow him to cast Pacino in the role, and it paid off.
After “The Godfather,” he moved on to his Oscar-nominated role of “Serpico.” As an undercover cop investigating his fellow officers, Pacino proved his staying power in Hollywood. He then garnered more praise for his work in “Dog Day Afternoon,” in which he played a bank robber. Based on a true story, his manic portrayal of John Wojtowicz landed him his third Oscar nomination.
Though the next two decades weren’t as strong as the 1970s, each brought Pacino career-defining highlights. In the 1980s, Brian De Palma’s “Scarface” presented a character just as memorable for him as Michael Corleone. Immortalized with classic lines and an over the top accent, Pacino’s Tony Montana is one of the most recognized characters in the crime genre. And as the 1990s rolled in, so did his first and only Academy Award. With Frank Slade in “Scent of a Woman,” he gave a bombastic performance with an all-time monologue at the film’s climax. He also got the chance to work opposite another big-screen giant in Robert De Niro with Michael Mann’s “Heat.”
Beyond his leading roles, he’s delivered supporting turns in many projects throughout the 90s. Titles like “Dick Tracy,” “Glengarry, Glen Ross,” and “Donny Brasco” wouldn’t be the same if he wasn’t involved in the cast. But over the last twenty years, Pacino has made noise on the smaller screen. “Angels in America,” You Don’t Know Jack,” and “Phil Spector” brought him a lot of critical acclaim and three Emmy nominations and two wins.
2019 did showcase his best work in years with his transformation into the labor union leader Jimmy Hoffa in Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman.” Along with two fun scenes in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Pacino doesn’t show any signs of letting up with quality efforts in front of the camera. With all this said, Happy Birthday to the great Al Pacino. Thank you for this wonderful bounty of cinema.