March 20, 2023

Lavish Lizard

Once Upon A Time In Old Hollywood

What Was Al Pacino’s Break Out Role

3 min read
al Pacino

Academy Award winning actor Al Pacino was not a struggling actor for long when he was cast as Michael Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 The Godfather. This has to be the one of the greatest castings of a virtually unknown actor. When Coppola wanted Pacino for Michael. At the time the big wigs at Paramount Robert Evans, and Charles Bluhdorn could not pronounce or was unable to properly spell his name.

Al Pacino was spotted by Francis Ford Coppola. It was in a little film about a New York thief and drug addict called The Panic In Needle Park released in 1971; I think you need to leave it up to a director to see something in an actor for a role, not so much the producers or the studio heads. This was a massive gamble casting Pacino, and it almost cost Coppola his job as director of The Godfather. Francis Ford Coppola wanted that one authentic Italian character to play Michael.

Marlon Brando was the star of The Godfather

The Godfather was a very big Paramount production filled with many other unknow actors, and actresses. This was a colossal risk on Coppola’s judgement. When the Godfather was released we never heard of John Cazale, Diane Keaton, Richard Bright, or Gianni Russo. So you had your big Hollywood star Marlon Brando to totally anchor the film down which helped tremendously of course. If all else failed in casting decisions you still have Brando. He was the only actor that will billed as the star of the film. All others were supporting actors or actresses.

The only reasonably well known actors that you’ve seen before their appearances in the Godfather were James Caan. Who just came off his Emmy nominated TV role as Brian Piccolo in Brian’s Song the previous year. We knew Robert Duvall for several years as playing many supporting roles in very big films. A few years back in such films Such as in True Grit opposite John Wayne, and Bullitt with Steve McQueen.

Some of the biggest stars took longer to get their break out role

Actors and actresses on many occasions will appear in very small low budget films, and get paid very little to totally be seen by other actors, producers, studio heads, and the very important director. If Al Pacino was not cast as Michael Corleone. I’m sure he would have went on to be launched into larger roles. His his trajectory probably would have been a much slower process. Say much like Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood or Steve McQueen. Who all got off to very slow starts . Al Pacino was a Broadway guy making his debut on February 25th 1969 in Don Peterson’s Dose A Tiger Wear A Necktie? at the Belasco theater in New York City. This play ran for only 39 performances, but Pacino got incredibly rave reviews, and won a Tony award in April 1969 for his performance. Which put him on the map but for primarily in New York.

Al Pacino went on through out the 1970’s with an incredible run of starring roles and Academy Award nominated performances. His next performances directly after the Godfather was in Sidney Lumet’s 1973 Serpico, and Jerry Schazberg’s Scarecrow co starring Gene Hackman. More nominations followed with his reprising his role as Michael in The Godfather Part ll, and with his co star John Cazale in Sidney Lumet’s 1975 Dog Day Afternoon.

During the 1960’s and 70’s it was extremely hard to make it as a working actor or actress. In my opinion their were much fewer out lets to a appear on . Their was no Amazon, Netflix or any form of cable television. Their was just theatrical films, Broadway off Broadway, and television with very limited exposure. So you had to be very good as an actor or actress to be trusted enough to be given a very important role in a very large theatrical production such as the Godfather. Al Pacino dose not have to really thank anyone for his being offered the role of Michael in the Godfather. He dose not have to thank Francis Ford Coppola, Paramount heads, Charlies Bluhdorn, Robert Evans or producer Albert Ruddy, or any one else. The only person he needs to credit for getting this plum role is himself for being extremely talented.

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