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Al Pacino: In Conversation With Lawrence Grobel    by Lawrence Grobel & Al Pacino order for
Al Pacino
by Lawrence Grobel
Order:  USA  Can
Simon & Schuster, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Master journalist and interviewer Lawrence Grobel writes of his conversations with master actor Al Pacino in a style that's a pleasure to read. The book begins with 1979 interviews, extending through 2005, during which time a lasting, trusting friendship was forged. Pacino is protective of his privacy and Grobel's book is likely to be the closest a reader will get to Pacino memoirs (unless, of course, the actor decides to write an autobiography). In Pacino's Foreword, he writes of Grobel that 'He has a genuine interest in people, which is why he's such a good writer ... We have forgiven each other many times, I have forgiven him for writing this book. I hope he forgives me for writing this foreword.'

Born in East Harlem to Salvatore and Rose Pacino in 1940, Al Pacino was raised mostly by his grandparents and mother in the Bronx. (His parents divorced when he was two years old.) Pacino attended the High School of Performing Arts, because (in his own words 'it was the only school that would accept me'. He left the school at the end of his sophomore year, turning to odd jobs as a furniture mover, shoe salesman, a supermarket checker, and fruit shiner. During his teens, Al auditioned for Lee Strasberg's Actors' Studio, was rejected the first time, and entered the actor's studio of Herbert Berghof. Here he met the man who was to become his mentor and closest friend - Charlie Laughton. In his second audition four years later, Pacino was accepted in Strasberg's studio.

Pacino chooses his roles because there's something he can relate to in the character. In 1968, he won an OBIE for Best Actor in Israel Horovitz's off-Broadway production of The Indian Wants the Bronx. His first Tony Award followed in 1969 for his Broadway performance in Don Peterson's Does the Tiger Wear a Necktie? Pacino was 'lured by Hollywood', appearing in a controversial film, The Panic in Needle Park. After eight Oscar nominations, he won Best Actor in Scent of A Woman (1992). He was named Best Actor by Golden Globe and Emmy awards for the HBO production of Angels in America (2003). A Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Pacino in 2005 by The American Cinematheque. His film roles include The Godfather I, II, and III as Michael Corleone; Serpico; another controversial film, Dog Day Afternoon; Dick Tracy; The Devil's Advocate; The Merchant of Venice; and in 2006 88 Minutes.

Pacino expresses a desire to do comedy, and prefers stage to film. He appeared on Broadway in Richard III, American Buffalo, Julius Caesar, twice in Oscar Wilde's Salome, Oedipus Rex, and the 2005 production of Orphans. He advocates for increased exposure of Shakespeare's works, reciting passages eloquently. Released recently is the Al Pacino four-film DVD Collection - Looking for Richard (a docudrama of Shakespeare's Richard III), The Local Stigmatic, Chinese Coffee, and Babbleonia (talking about acting). Asked for insight into qualities that make a good director, Pacino replies, that 'basically great directors can understand staging in such a way that can make a scene come alive ... setting a kind of ambience around the set that makes everybody creative around them.' Pacino refers to New York City as 'his turf', having got to know the City in his days as a messenger - 'It's home. I know it all, from Battery Park lower West Side right up to Harlem'.

Grobel writes that the book 'IS a collection of interviews and profiles ... NOT a biography of the man, nor a memoir'. He reveals Pacino's 'artistic sensibility', the actor's passion 'foremost for the theater', adding that Al is an 'artist concerned more with the process of his art than with the fruits of his labor'. Grobel's book about Pacino is straightforward and pulls no punches, providing insight into Pacino the man, as well as the powerful actor. He portrays Al Pacino as an intriguing, forthright individual, living with simplicity - 'I believe in one day at a time, you've got today, that's what you've got.'

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