“You Want It. I Think I Had to Have It.”

Charlie Rose interviews the great Al Pacino. The stuff on The Godfather alone is worth your time. The character of Michael Corleone is one of American film’s most compelling and inimitable. He begins as this college-boy war hero, with the pretty WASP girlfriend, sitting off in one corner of the garden wedding scene, a wall of separation between him and the rest of the Corleone clan (“That’s my family, Kay. It’s not me”) and ends up sitting in his late father’s seat of power — and the transformation is utterly credible. And yet, as Pacino says in the interview, Michael remains an enigma. Who is he really? Was he always this calm, cool, collected murderer? Or will he wake up one morning in a cold sweat and curse his fate and those Old World blood loyalties?


Most underrated performances, and underrated because he had already developed the reputation for chewing scenery: Donnie BrascoThe Insider, Any Given Sunday. Fun performances include People I Know and Phil Spector. (I have yet to see his Jack Kevorkian, which I’m hoping to stream this weekend.)

It was Tony Randall, of all people, who acted with him in 2002 in The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, who nailed the essence of the Brasco performance: “He was completely exhausted.” And that was it: imagine a would-be Michael Corleone, who had no family connections, and who had spent his life clawing his way to the middle, finally reconciling himself to the fact that it’s just time to die. All he has to leave his wife, and the world, is a wedding ring and a few errant bills from a roll in his pocket.

And he was so smart and smooth in The Insider, the consummate professional. And if you never saw him on stage, especially in the early years, you only got a glimpse of his talent. I was still in high school, if I’m not mistaken, when I saw him in The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel—he strutted across this massive stage that was suppose to be barracks and battlefield in Vietnam and you couldn’t take your eyes off him. I then saw him in American Buffalo and Richard III (I think I told this story before: my mother, God rest her soul, got me a front row seat for my birthday, and Pacino is of the shout-and-spit school of Shakespearean theatrics, and so I had enough of his DNA on my person by performance’s end that I could have gone straight to a lab and reconstructed an army of Pacinos).

Now, most overrated performance, perhaps of all time: Scarface. I have never understood the fascination with that film or with that ridiculous character, all West Side Story swagger pathological underbite. Maybe if they had broken out into song, it would have been worth at least a few laughs…


2 thoughts on ““You Want It. I Think I Had to Have It.”

  1. There’s a moment in the after-show commentary PBS aired along with Laurie and Frye’s “Jeeves and Wooster,” where Frye laments the difficulties posed to an actor by Wodehouse lines like, “Jeeves shimmered into the room.”

    “Pacino could do it,” says Laurie.

    “Yes,” Frye agrees. “Pacino could do it.”


    1. I’d love to see the two of them discussing the series. Have to try and dig it up online — or maybe on DVD.


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