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The Disturbing Truth About Al Pacino

Al Pacino is one of the most recognizable and respected actors of our time. He’s been acting for over 50 years in legendary films like The Godfather, Scent of a Woman, Scarface, Dog Day Afternoon, and The Irishman.

He’s a method actor that has inspired generations of actors with his talent. He’s won many awards over the years including an Academy Award and two Emmy Awards.

That fame and admiration didn’t come easy though. Pacino has dealt with more than his share of tragedy, like losing his mother when he was still fighting his way into the acting game.

In this video, we’re going to look at Al Pacino’s life – the ups AND the downs. Make sure you watch to the end to learn Pacino’s biggest regret.

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Growing Up in a Broken Home

Born Alfredo James Pacino in 1940 New York, Al never knew what it was like to have two parents at home. His parents split when he was only two years old.

He didn’t have much to do with his father and his schoolteachers often said he needed a father-figure in his life. While his teenage years never got completely out of control, it came pretty close.

He grew up with his mother, sister, and grandparents and while they didn’t have a lot of money, that didn’t hold him back. He credits the family he had for taking care of him and helping him grow into the person we all know and love.

The Arts Always Fascinated Pacino

Pacino was interested in the arts from a young age, often performing anywhere he could find an audience. It was so much a part of his life that he became known as “The Actor.”

Joke books, comic books, and anything else he could find served as inspiration for his “parts.” Being a YouTuber or TikTok influencer would have been perfect for Al if he hadn’t pre-dated them by several decades.

Pacino’s good looks didn’t hurt either. The neighborhood girls started calling him “Sonny Pacino, the lover bambino.”

School Wasn’t Pacino’s Thing

Pacino’s interest in the arts prompted him to join the drama class in Junior High. When given the opportunity to be part of the High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan, he jumped at the chance.

His mother wasn’t completely on board though. “Acting isn’t for our kind of people,” she said. “Poor people don’t go into this.”

Pacino didn’t let his mother’s ideas slow him down, but he hit a roadblock when it turned out that the non-acting classes at the high school were harder than he expected. He didn’t stay long, leaving the school at 16 years old.

He started auditioning for other roles and worked at learning his craft.

A Rough Start as a Struggling Actor

Pacino struggled to find roles at first. He went through a dry spell when he even had to sleep in a storefront for a few nights.

That experience stuck with him though. He’s never been particularly materialistic and credits those early struggles.

Loving what he was learning made the lack of money easier to deal with. He was a voracious reader and meeting all kinds of characters on the streets of New York helped him develop his craft.

Pacino believes that being young helped. Poverty didn’t seem like a big deal to him at the time. He could make a street slice of pizza go a long way.

“You just have yourself to deal with,” he said. “A piece of pizza goes a long way. But you could live on anything at that age. It doesn’t matter. You extract every bit of that piece of pizza.”

Losing His Closest Family When Only 21

Al was only 21 and still struggling to make a breakthrough in his career when he lost his mother. She was only 43 when she died, dealing him a huge blow.

He was still figuring out how to deal with that loss when his grandfather died less than a year later. By 1962, he wasn’t sure how to make sense of his life.

Pacino has said that was one of the worst periods of his life and an extremely difficult time for him. He had no father and felt lost.

That didn’t stop him from pursuing his acting dreams though. He kept looking for work, dealing with rejection, and searching for great roles while learning to cope.

Feeling Inadequate

Pacino joined the Actors Studio at 23, improving his craft and developing his acting chops under the tutelage of the famous director Lee Strasberg. Many of his contemporaries came from more privileged backgrounds though, and he felt both different and inadequate.

“I knew I was this vagabond kid,” he said.

As an Italian American, he didn’t look like most of his competition for auditions. He felt like a bit of an outcast but didn’t let it stop him. He knew being patient would pay off when the right gig landed in his lap.

“I knew, when the opportunity came, all I’d have to do is be there,” he told the New Yorker.

When he was working on the play “Creditors” with classically trained actors, he was close to giving up and leaving the show. Fortunately, his friend, mentor, and teacher — the director Charlie Laughton — convinced him to stick it out.

Fighting through that challenge was transformative for Pacino and an image of him in the Creditors play sits on his mantelpiece to this day.

Struggling to Land Acting Jobs

Pacino wasn’t always the superstar he is today. In the early days, he had to fight for every part. And when he landed a part, he would worry about whether he was connecting with his audience.

In his Off-Off Broadway debut, for example, he started tearing up during the intermission because he was so sure his performance wasn’t landing.

His friend Charlie Laughton helped him work through it though, and he went back to the performance. “It was a very important moment for me,” he later said. “I went back in there and finished the run.”

Struggling to land roles meant Pacino would take every opportunity he could get. He and his peers would stage plays in cafes, making the most of what they had to work with.

They would pass the hat around after each performance, getting whatever coins the audience was willing to share. But it was enough to keep food on the table.

Early Struggles with Alcohol

Like many people struggling to deal with stress, Pacino started turning to alcohol to help him cope. His dedication to method acting often left him feeling overwhelmed after a performance and alcohol became his “reward.”

He was only a teenager when he had his first drink and liked the way it made him feel. It didn’t take long to start affecting his relationships though.

Pacino struggled to kick the habit for years, once saying, “I need that drink after the show. I really need it.”

His closest friends and family recognized it was becoming a problem for him and they helped convince him to finally get sober in 1977. He traded the reward of alcohol after a show for the reward of ice cream and Oreo cookies.

Nearly Missing Out On an Iconic Role

Pacino’s portrayal of Michael Corleone in The Godfather is not only one of his most iconic roles, but also one of the most iconic roles in all of film. But he almost didn’t land the part.

More famous actors at the time were being considered for the part, including Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, and Robert Redford. But the director, Francis Ford Coppola, was convinced Pacino was the right actor for the part and was set on casting him.

He convinced Mario Puzo, who wrote The Godfather, to support him.

But even after landing the role, Pacino nearly lost it when he showed up to the screen test hungover. He needed three tries to get his lines out but after some back and forth, he was offered the part and the rest is history.

The role of Michael Corleone propelled Pacino into the limelight, which wasn’t an easy transition for him. He wasn’t sure how to deal with this newfound fame.

He was so disillusioned by it that he ended up seeking professional help, attending therapy sessions five days a week. He wound up continuing those sessions for the next 25 years.

Pacino Had His Share of Failure

While most people think of Al Pacino as a screen legend, he’s had his fair share of failures. His 1985 film Revolution was a much-anticipated movie. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a major flop.

That led him to step back from acting for several years. He was tired of everything and needed to take a breather. By the end of the decade, he was going broke and stepped back into the limelight with 1989’s Sea of Love.

In spite of the ups and downs, Pacino’s passion for acting never left him. He believes if you’re passionate about something, you should keep at it which is why he’s still making films at 80 years old.

But he does have one big regret – the loss of anonymity. Pacino can’t remember the last time he could be out in public without worrying about being mobbed by fans.

“I haven’t been in a grocery store or subway for years,” he says. “It’s hard for my children to go out publicly with me.”

In spite of that, his love for acting keeps him hard at work. Hopefully we’ll have many more years of watching Pacino work his magic on-screen.

What’s your favorite Al Pacino movie? Be sure to leave a comment below to let us know. And like and subscribe so you don’t miss any of our behind-the-scenes videos.

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