New York Film Academy students received the rare opportunity to participate in an intimate Q&A with one of the greatest actors in film history Al Pacino this past Thursday, December 4th at the Warner Bros. Studios in Los Angeles, CA. The discussion took place after a special advanced screening of Pacino’s new film The Humbling. In this, funny, observant, erotic comedy, Pacino plays an aging actor who feels he is losing his craft and after a breakdown becomes involved with a much younger woman but soon finds that it’s difficult to keep pace with her and makes the ultimate performance. The film was highly received by the students for its content and Mr. Pacino’s amazing performance in it. Producer Tova Laiter moderated the Q&A.
Oscar, Emmy, and Tony winning Al Pacino took the stage to an uproar of applause and a standing ovation from students. The legendary actor, who’s entertained and inspired us with iconic performances in The Godfather, Scarface, Dog Day Afternoon, Scent of a Woman, Glengarry Glen Ross, and Heat, to name just a few, was tremendously gracious for the warm reception. Pacino was all smiles and full of life, emanating that vivacious energy we’ve come to love him for.
In a profound statement about the actor’s process, and artistic process in general, Pacino stated, “I love the line that Michelangelo said in a poem when he was doing the Sistine Chapel, he said, ‘Lord, free me of myself that I may please you.’ Meaning, get to that place in us where we’re not censoring ourselves or trying to do it good or right but rather connect with whatever it is we’re trying to say in our work. Become. Become it, absorb it and let it come out and let the unconscious free. And I strive for that. And I rarely, rarely get it. If I do it’s for a moment or two… Sometimes I’m given a role… Then I have to look at the empty canvas and I say, ‘Wow, I don’t know anything about acting. I don’t know anything about anything. What am I gonna do?’ And you start. And the hope is that instead of figuring it out, you find it.”
But it wasn’t all serious talk. Pacino revealed the origins of his “Hoo-ah!” line in Scent of a Woman in an amusing story: “That came because I was learning to assemble and disassemble a .45 in forty-five seconds. And that ain’t easy. And I worked literally weeks on that, months, just with this Lieutenant Col. who would say to me every once in a while when I did it well, he would just say to me (pointing) ‘Hoo-ha!’ And I finally said to him, ‘What is that?’ And he said, ‘Well, you see that’s the way I talk to the troops. If they get in line and their suits are straight and their metals are straight, I just go up and I say ‘Hoo-ha!’ And that got into the movie. That wasn’t written.”
In closing, to the question of what the most important thing acting has taught him, Pacino answered, “It taught me to love people more. I feel more a part of the world. And that we’re all actors. Only some of us can really do it. Some of us have the ability to do it…and the desire to do it. And it taught me that desire can sometimes trump talent. Think about that. So that you may not have as much talent as you think you have, but if you have the desire, your talent will find you.”
When the Q&A ended, Al Pacino thanked and waved goodbye to students as they all stood and cheered once again. It was a wildly entertaining and inspiring night that was a special gift to NYFA. In a cosmic coincidence, Pacino’s daughter Julie Pacino, an alumna of NYFA, showed her movie to NYFA students at our Union Square square campus the same day!
We thank Al Pacino for sharing his time with us and look forward to the success of The Humbling (which Mr. Pacino also produced), directed by Barry Levinson. The film opens in theaters in limited release for a week on December 5th and wide release January 23rd, 2015.