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Pacino Re-Focuses on Film Career : After five-year absence, actor returns to the big screen

September 17, 1989|FRANK LOVECE

There were workshop productions of "Crystal Clear," "National Anthems" and other plays, including a current Manhattan project he's not ready to talk about. There was "Julius Caesar" for Joseph Papp last year. There was "Carlito's Way," if you go by Elliot Kastner's lawsuit alleging that Pacino committed to the film last April for $4 million plus a profit percentage. And most time-consuming, there is "The Local Stigmatic," a play Pacino had starred in Off Broadway in 1969 then re-mounted in 1985 with director David Wheeler and the Theater Company of Boston to film a 50-minute movie version that may become his "Unfinished Symphony."

"I don't think people relate to that kind of private work," he says. "Because (acting) is such a visible profession that if you're not real visible in it, they assume you're not working.

"I remember back when everything was happening, '74, '75, doing ("The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui") on stage and reading that the reason I'd gone back to the stage was that my movie career was waning! That's been the kind of ethos, the way in which theater's perceived, unfortunately. My big problem has been that I've been trying to ride both rails. And I can tell that some of my work has been affected by that. I wish I was able to have gone into both media with more focus."

He's trying, and the $16-million "Sea of Love" required all the focus he could give it. Producer Bregman let the original director go days before shooting was to begin, bringing in Harold Becker ("The Onion Field," "The Boost") for a long, grueling shoot that lasted from about May through September of last year. Pacino did a cameo in Warren Beatty's "Dick Tracy," playing Big Boy, "the world's largest dwarf." He dabbled with "Three Thousand," reading with Julia Roberts for the role being played by Richard Gere. And in November, he begins production on "The Godfather, Part III." "It's that movie to do, so you sorta gotta do it," he says smiling.

"You know, I wish, in some ways, the government forced me to make a movie once a year," he adds, with a laugh. "There would be a sort of regularity, a kind of consistency in the output so that your movies don't become blown all out of proportion--it turns a simple movie into an epic kind of thing, if you make them only every few years. I've decided not to go as long between them. The idea of going two years between pictures, I'd rather not."

Then again, a few years of that might remind him why he slowed down.

"When it was all happening to me," he says of his firecracker string in the '70s, "I don't think I was aware of it. I knew around me things were going on. But I kept trying to focus on the next play or movie I was gonna do. And when I looked up it was five years later."

The thought brings him in mind of a story:

"We were doing 'Richard III' in Philadelphia one winter, and first we're in this sort of marathon rehearsal and then playing night after night there. And I remember one day finally getting in the car to drive back to New York, and we stopped at a light and I looked out and thought, 'What are these people doing, they don't have coats on, they're just walking without a coat?' And my friend says, 'It's spring, Al.' "

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