I received a call yesterday (Saturday) from a dear friend asking whether I would like to attend a special event at the London Palladium with Al Pacino. The event was booked out within a few hours of being announced some months ago. Well, in true Godfather style, it was an offer I could not refuse.
The format of the evening was very simple. It began with a 5 minutes or so montage of clips from many of the movies Pacino has acted in. Emma Freud was the interlocutor for the evening and posed a series of questions to Pacino. The questions were interspersed with additional clips from Pacino movies including The Godfather, Dog Day Afternoon, Scarface, Scent of a Woman, Looking For Richard (a movie that Pacino said he was very proud of and which he spent two million dollars of his own money to make) and an upcoming film Wild Salome – based on Oscar Wilde’s play – to be released in October this year.
Pacino is not known for doing many interviews and we were told by Emma Freud at the outset that this event was not going to be filmed or released on DVD – it was a one-off. That added to the specialness of the occasion but did we really learn much more about Pacino that we did not already know? His passion for Shakespeare (not ‘obsession’ he pointedly corrected Emma) is well known. He did say that he does not drink alcohol anymore and had not touched alcohol for twenty-five years. That was interesting but was not followed up by Emma. It was interesting because twenty-five years ago would be circa 1988. In 1984, Pacino made Hugh Hudson’s Revolution which was a massive flop at the box office and contributed to the UK movie production firm Goldcrest going broke. (As an aside, Pacino said that he believed that Revolution had been released six months too early and that more production work had been needed. He praised the director Hugh Hudson for releasing a recast of the movie – I had not known that Hudson had re-edited the movie). Anyway, Pacino did not make another movie after 1984’s Revolution until 1989’s Sea of Love. So, could his movie comeback have been related to giving up alcohol?
Pacino ended the night with a reading of an extract from the Oscar Wilde poem, Reading Gaol. Wilde wrote the poem when he was incarcerated for ‘gross indecency’. This was a time when homosexuality was illegal in the UK. Pacino rightly remarked on the ‘tragedy’ of how Wilde was persecuted because of his sexuality. Still, it was a reminder of how today’s UK is a more tolerant place than a hundred years ago.
Update: Here is an exclusive photo of the charismatic leading actor himself dressed in a rather fetching blue suede jacket. No idea who the weird bloke on the poster behind him is though…