Personal detailsName: Al Pacino
Born: 25 April 1940 (Age: 74)
Where: New York, New York, USA
Height: 5' 6"
Awards: Won 1 Oscar, 2 BAFTAs, 3 Golden Globes
All about this star
It's those coal-black eyes, glistening with absolute conviction and (probably) malicious intent. Glaring out from millions of film-posters on millions of bedroom walls, they have at some point given us all the shivers. Because, cinematically speaking, we all know what those eyes have seen, we all know what terrors their owner has perpetrated. With just two of his many roles, Al Pacino has lodged himself in solidly our imaginations. As Michael Corleone in The Godfather trilogy, we watched him evolve from a hopeful student innocent into an all-powerful, all-controlling tyrant. And in Scarface, we saw him grow from a sassy street-kid into a paranoid, murderous despot ("Say hello to my leedle friend!"). These characters were the ultimate anti-social anti-heroes, genuine threats to our way of life - genuine because Pacino, the consummate professional, made them so very real. Add to these roles his other classic performances, in Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon and The Insider, and you realise why the man is an undeniable and deserved screen icon.
Getting there wasn't easy. Alfredo James Pacino was born to a family of Italian immigrants in East Harlem, New York, on the 25th of April, 1940, his grandparents having crossed the Atlantic from Sicily. His father, Salvatore, was an insurance agent who split from Alfredo's mother Rose when the boy was just two - mother and child moving in with her parents in a dirt-poor area near the Bronx zoo. As an only child, he was zealously protected by his grandparents, hardly leaving the house till the age of seven. When he was older, his mother would take him to the cinema (he was terribly hurt when she died young in 1962) and he'd act out the plotlines to his grandma on his return. Shy and insular, he'd impress his school-mates with a fictional past he'd invented for himself, claiming for instance that he'd been raised in Texas.
Thankfully, his teachers spotted his talent, cast him in school plays and asked him to read from the Bible at assembly. He enjoyed this but did not consider acting as a profession till, at age 14, he saw Chekov's The Seagull performed at the Elsmere Theatre in the South Bronx. This led to him enrolling at the prestigious High School of the Performing Arts but, flunking everything but English, he eventually, at 17, dropped out.
Yet Pacino, like many of the characters he'd later play, was remorseless in his ambition. He worked his ass off to finance his further studies, toiling as a messenger-boy, a movie-usher, an apartment superintendant and as a mail-deliverer at Commentary magazine. He attended acting classes and gained experience in basement plays before joining the Herbert Berghof Studio, under the tutelage of the legendary Charles Laughton.