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For Al Pacino, a heartfelt hooo-yah!

Fellow performers pay glowing tribute to the actor, recipient of this year's American Cinematheque Award.

October 24, 2005|Susan King | Times Staff Writer

Al Pacino has uttered some of the most memorable lines on-screen -- from "Attica! "Attica!" in "Dog Day Afternoon" to "Say hello to my little friend" in "Scarface" to "Just when I thought that I was out they pull me back in" from "The Godfather: Part III.'"

But he said he was at a loss for words Friday evening when he accepted the American Cinematheque Award at the Beverly Hills Hilton.

"You think you're going to be able to speak at something like this," he told the black-tie audience. "I'm overwhelmed."

Pacino was the 20th recipient of the award. Previous winners include Steve Martin, Nicole Kidman, Robin Williams and Denzel Washington. The ceremony was also a fundraiser for the Cinematheque's film and video programs at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood and the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. An edited version of the show will be shown Jan. 22 on the AMC cable channel.

Considered one of the greatest actors of this or any generation, the 65-year-old Pacino has received eight Oscar nominations -- he won best actor for 1992's "Scent of a Woman." And he's been a movie star since his mesmerizing turn as Michael Corleone in 1972's "The Godfather." He's also a Tony Award-winning stage actor and received an Emmy last year for the HBO miniseries "Angels in America."

During the tribute, hosted by Jeremy Piven, performer after performer took the stage to sing Pacino's praises.

James Caan, who played Pacino's big brother Sonny in "The Godfather," recalled that director Francis Ford Coppola had to fight to get Pacino cast.

"The executives didn't want Pacino," he said. "If it weren't for Francis being so stubborn, we would have all been cheated of Pacino's performance." Longtime friend and "Heat" costar Jon Voight recalled Pacino as a good friend who once took a consoling walk on the beach with the actor during a particularly low point in Voight's life."I asked Al if I was a good actor," he said. "Eventually he said, 'Jon, you're a great actor.' It made all the difference to me. To sustain a career in this business is a miracle. When you look at Al Pacino, you see the magic, the poetry. There's magic in his every emotion."

In a taped statement, Meryl Streep said: "I'm still in awe of you as an actor. There's nobody fiercer -- you are relentless in your pursuit of a character.

"In normal life," she deadpanned, "well, you're just kind of regular."

A nattily dressed Bruce Willis, who received the Cinematheque honor in 2000, gave the award to Pacino. Willis recalled how seeing "The Godfather" in 1972 changed his life: "It was then I decided I was going to be an actor, which sounded like a bad idea at the time, but it worked out. When you're in films where people walk around their house doing scenes and lines from your movies, then you've made it."

Accepting his award, Pacino told the crowd what being an actor has meant to him.

"I was at an event with young actors and they asked what advice I had. I really didn't have any. We're all so different ... The fact that you want to do it -- that could take you far. Acting has taken me very far -- all over the world."

With tears welling in his eyes, he added: "I wish I would say more about what's in my heart, but I've always needed a writer."

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