Celebrating the Magic of Al Pacino on His 73rd Birthday

In his book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, Peter Biskind writes that the 1970s was a time when "New Hollywood swallowed Hollywood." And when it came to the actors that made the generation come to life, a sea of gritty new talent stepped in, providing a sense authenticity and realism that echoed the incredibly hard-hitting films being made in rapid succession during the decade from young and emerging talent on the verge of making history. And at the top of that list was the frenetically passionate and incomparable Al Pacino, who in his long and winding career has worked with everyone from Francis Ford Coppola and Sidney Lumet to William Friedkin and Jerry Schatzberg and Brian De Palma. But, of course, it’s Robert Evans who takes the cake for giving Pacino the role that would catapult him into an icon with The Godfather—well, according to Evans.

So in honor of his 73rd birthday, let’s not only take a look back on some of the best moments in Pacino’s career, but a conversation Evan recalls having in The Kid Stays in the Picture between himself and lawyer Sidney Korshack, that led to the greatest  "sense of discovery“ casting ever. Enjoy.

“Sidney Korshak, please.”
Yeah?”
“I need your help.” “There’s an actor I want for the lead in The Godfather.”
“Yeah?”
“I can’t get him.”
“If I lose him, Coppola’s gonna have my ass.” 
“Yeah?”
“Forty-eight hours ago he signed for the lead in a picture at Metro—The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.”
“Yeah?”
“I called Aubrey, asked if he could accomodate me, move his dates around.”
“Yeah?”
“He told me to fuck off.”
“Yeah?”
“Is there anything you can do about it?”
“Yeah.”
“Really?”
“The actor…what’s his name?”
"Pacino…Al Pacino.” 
“Who?”
"Al Pacino.”
“Hold it will ya? Let me get a pencil. Spell it.”
“Capital A, little l—that’s his first name. Capitol P, little a, c-i-n-0.”
“Who the fuck is he?”
“Don’t rub it in will ya, Sidney. That’s who the motherfucker wants.”
“Where are ya?”
“At the New York office.”
“Stay there.” 
Twenty minutes later my secretary buzzed. “Mr. Aubrey’s on the phone, Mr. Evans.”
“Jim?”
“You no-good motherfucker, cocksucker. I’ll get you for this.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You know fuckin’ well what I’m talking about.”
“Honestly, I don’t.”
The Cobra cut me off. “The midget’s yours; you got him.” Hanging up he horn on my ear. Immediately I called Korshack.
“Yeah?”
“Sidney, it’s Bobby.”
“Yeah?”
“Aubrey just called.”
“Yeah?”
“Pacino—I got him. What happened?”
“I called Kerkorian.” 
[Kirk Kerkorian at the time was the sole owner of MGM. He never involved himself  with the day-to-day running of the studio, a provision written in cement when Aubrey took the presidency. Kerkorian was totally involved in building his Las Vegas empire. The MGM Grand was near completion, but he was going through a financial crunch as construction costs were considerably over budget.]
“I told him Bobby needs some actor for The Godfather, that his schmuck Aubrey wouldn’t let you have him. He tells me—get this, Bobby—’Sidney, I’d do anything for you, you know that, but my deal with Aubrey is he’s got total control. It’s Aubrey’s call, I’ve got to say no in it.” The operator interrupted. “Mr. Wasserman’s on the phone, Mr. Korshak, says it’s urgent.”
"I’ll call him back in ten.”
“Well?”
“Well what?”
“What did he say?”
“Oh, I asked him if he wanted to finish building his hotel.”
“Yeah?” 
“He didn’t answer, but he asked who the actor was. I told him. He never hear of the schmuck either. He got a pencil, asked me to spell it—’Capital A, punk l, capital P, punk a, c-i-n-o.’ Then he says, ‘Who the fuck is he?’ ‘How the fuck do I know. All I know, Bobby wants him.”
“That was it?”
“That was it!”
His other phone rang. He didn’t even say goodbye. That’s the inside, inside story of what eventually became—mind you, against my better judgement—possibly the greatest “sense of discovery” casting in cinema history.
 

Bobby In The Panic in Needle Park

 
 

 

Sonny Wortzik in Days Day Afternoon

 
 

 

Rocky Roma in Glengarry Glen Ross

 
 

 

Michael Corleone in The Godfather Parts I & II

 
 

 

Tony Montana in Scarface

 
 

 

Francis Lionel Delbuchi in Scarecreow

 
 

Roy Cohn in Angels in America

 
 

 

Frank Serpico in Serpico

 
 

 

Steve Burns in Cruising

 
 

 

Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade in Scent of a Woman

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