Pacino Greets Film Students at DVD Event7 Jun, 2007 By: Thomas K. Arnold
Actor Al Pacino and producer-director Jon Avnet
About 100 USC, UCLA and American Film Institute (AFI) film students gathered on the 20th Century Fox studio lot last week for Al Pacino's second premiere of the day.
The screening of Babbleonia, a 52-minute insight into Pacino's career, his body of work and his perspectives on acting, was arranged by the studio's home video division, which commissioned the documentary as an exclusive feature on its new Pacino: An Actor's Vision boxed set.
The four-DVD set, which arrives in stores June 19, skips the actor's famous hits and instead focuses on three of his most personal films. The Local Stigmatic (1990) is a disturbing character study in which Pacino plays an English fisherman obsessed by Greyhound racing and celebrities. Chinese Coffee (2000) is a poignant film about two bohemian best friends (Pacino and Jerry Orbach) who struggle with betrayal, jealousy and rejection. And Looking for Richard (1996) is a documentary, helmed by Pacino, on the Shakespeare play Richard III.
Fox arranged the screening to promote the DVD release to its target audience: the serious film student.
“Babbleonia is the closest thing to Al Pacino's memoirs,” said Steve Feldstein, the SVP of marketing communications for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. “It provides the viewer with an intimate look at his craft and his career.”
The film consists entirely of a conversation between Pacino and New York University film professor Richard Brown, and takes place at the Actors Studio in New York City, the celebrated workshop for young actors where Pacino and myriad other famous stars got their start. Pacino freely speaks about his own career ups and downs, as well as the differences between stage and film acting, such as having to “project to the third balcony” rather than the camera.
Accordingly, the film's screening was followed by a 45-minute question-and-answer session with the star himself, who arrived fresh from the Ocean's 13 premiere earlier that evening at Graumann's Chinese Theater in Hollywood.
“I work best when people ask me questions,” Pacino said, as the worshipful crowd broke into applause.
And ask questions they did — amid words of praise for a man many have admired all of their young lives, and who last week received the AFI's Lifetime Achievement Award (the ceremony will be broadcast June 19).
“I got into acting because I wanted to be involved in great plays, great material,” Pacino said in response to one question. He advised the students to never give up, noting that he failed his first audition at the Actors Studio and one actress, Geraldine Page, failed 18 times.
“Lee [Strasberg, who founded the Actors Studio in 1947] used to tell me, ‘We like to see people who don't give up,’ Pacino said.
He advised them to travel the world, read good books and watch children for inspiration, noting that his young daughter “can play a puppy much better than I ever could.” He also suggested they study their characters carefully and try to become them rather than merely act like them. “If you're playing a short-order cook,” he said, “start cooking.”
Pacino spoke of the different styles of directors, noting that Francis Ford Coppola tends to ask actors, “Well, what do you think you should do,” while others, like Sidney Lumet, call the shots themselves. “I prefer the ones who tell me what to do, where to go,” he said.
The biggest laughs came toward the end of the presentation, when Pacino said, “The actor is an emotional athlete, so you have to be a little nuts.”