BFI London Film Festival Guests: Al Pacino

Autographed drawing of actor Al Pacino

Al Pacino joined Robert DeNiro and director Martin Scorsese on Sunday 13 October at the Closing Night Gala screenings of THE IRISHMAN, an epic saga of organised crime in America, at both the Odeon Luxe in Leicester Square and the Embankment Garden Cinema. While it’s not the first time the bona fide acting legends have worked together it is, surprisingly, the first movie Al has done with Marty. He has known Robert since 1968, appearing together in a handful of memorable films, beginning with the second instalment of Francis Ford Coppola’s THE GODFATHER trilogy in 1974.

THE IRISHMAN centres on Robert’s title character, a reminiscing geriatric union official and New York hitman Frank ‘The Irishman’ Sheeran and his involvement in the disappearance of powerful Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa played by Al.

Accolades have been frequent during Al’s five decade career. In a 2003 Channel 4 poll, British TV viewers voted him the greatest film star of all time. He is one of the few to win the triple crown of acting-a competitive Oscar, Emmy and Tony. His single Oscar win (from eight nominations) was for his portrayal of blind and medically retired Army Officer Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade in SCENT OF A WOMAN (1993). He also received the Best Actor BAFTA in 1976 for his roles as bank robber Sonny Wortzik in DOG DAY AFTERNOON and Michael Corleone, the crime family’s Don in THE GODFTHER PART II.

His two Emmys were for his portrayal of lawyer Roy Cohn in ANGELS IN AMERICA (2004) , which also won him a Golden Globe and Dr Jack Kevorkian in YOU DON’T KNOW JACK (2010) collecting a SAG Award as well. His double Tony wins were for his role as Bickham, a teenage drug addict in DOES A TIGER WEAR A NECKTIE (1969) and eight years later for the title role as a Vietnam soldier in THE BASIC TRAINING OF PAVLO HUMMEL. Al also received a Director’s Guild Award for the documentary LOOKING FOR RICHARD in 1997.

If critical response is any indication, his portrayal of Jimmy Hoffa will see additions to his trophy collection. The first was collected last night for Best Supporting Actor at the Hollywood Film Awards in Santa Monica.

Al signed for me as he was leaving the Corinthia Hotel in London on his way to the Gala screenings.

Drawing: Al Pacino

al pacino

I drew this portrait of Al Pacino as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice in 2011. Actually, I drew a couple of sketches of him in the New York production. One I posted, but never came back. This one sat in my bag folder I carry daily, along with other numerous drawings of possible luminaries I might come across. Last Sunday he was at London’s BFI for the screening of Salome (the film) and WIld Salome (the doco). I was not optimistic as I positioned myself in a pen with a pen sat the beginning of the red carpet.

He made his Broadway debut in Don Petersen’s Does A Tiger Wear A Necktie? at the Belasco Theater on Februry 25, 1969. Although it closed after 39 performances Al received rave reviews, winning the Tony Award.

Al played the Bard’s ruthless Venetian Jewish money lender in the summer of 2010 in a Shakespeare in the Park production of The Merchant of Venice. It transferred to the Broadhurst Theater in October and continued there until February 2011, with Al being nominated for another Tony.

He can be difficult to get a ‘graph from because everyone wants him, and if you do get one, it can be unrecognisable. He’s very quick. The customary ‘Al’ has many variations, especially when you’re caught up in the maelstrom that surrounds Alfredo James Pacino.

A climate change protest in Central London grid-locked the traffic, including Al’s car. We were warned he will be late, will do press and go in… but never fear, he will come back to sign. All that happened, but not necessarily  in that order. He would talk to media, then slip over to the baying crowd and sign a bit.

On one such sortie, he came down the line to me, but it was mayhem and he pulled away to head back to the press. He then noticed my sketch and came back, took it and signed a great ‘Al’ on it, gave me the thumbs up, handed it back and moved back to the media scrum. My folder was one sheet lighter and my collection now included one of the greastest actors of our time.