Al Pacino will be 83 in April 2023. With a career spanning the course of nearly six decades, the actor is still perhaps best known for playing mafia boss Michael Corleone in The Godfather trilogy of films by Francis Ford Coppola. The importance of that particular role was emphasized in an interview he did with The New York Times in March 2022.
“I’m here [in my career] because I did The Godfather,” Pacino said. “For an actor, that’s like winning the lottery.” That is not to say that the actor is a one-trick pony. As a matter of fact, he is also synonymous with other leading roles in multiple Hollywood blockbusters.
He played a Cuban refugee who becomes a Miami drug lord in the 1983 cult classic Scarface. This particular role earned him a Golden Globe Award nomination for “Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama,” but also came at the cost of a permanent, altering effect on his face in real life.
Over the years, Pacino has also refused to star in a number of movies, including the part of Han Solo in George Lucas’ Star Wars franchise.
Al Pacino Played A Leading Role In The Movie The Devil’s Advocate
Another one of Al Pacino’s strong performances over the years was in the 1997 supernatural thriller film The Devil’s Advocate by Taylor Hackford. The movie’s synopsis centered around a young and ambitious lawyer named Kevin Lomax who, after winning a high-profile case, is recruited by a prestigious New York law firm headed by the enigmatic and charismatic John Milton.
As Kevin becomes increasingly embroiled in the firm’s mysterious and morally dubious practices, he begins to suspect that his boss may be more than just a successful lawyer; he may be the actual Devil, disguised as a human and using the law firm as a front for his demonic machinations.
The character of Kevin was played by Keanu Reeves, who had just previously refused to star in a sequel of his successful action film Speed from 1994. Pacino portrayed the dubious boss John Milton, and was in fact revealed to be Satan in the course of the film.
Although The Devil’s Advocate was met with mixed reviews, Pacino’s performance was widely lauded, with Yahoo! calling the film his “most underrated” work.
Al Pacino Had Previously Turned Down The Gig Three Times
Months before the release of The Devil’s Advocate, The New York Daily News published an account of the development and production of the film. In the article, director Taylor Hackford described the story as “a modern-day morality play.”
“[It is] a Faustian tale played against the backdrop of the super-rich and powerful legal profession, which today is like a secular religion,” Hackford went on to elaborate. “It’s about ethics, about what lengths you will go to to attain success despite your professed morality.”
It was this same report that for the first time disclosed Al Pacino’s prior hesitation to take on the role of John Milton / Satan in the picture. According to the write-up, the New York City-born star was in fact approached three times beforehand, and he refused to accept the offer in every single one of those.
“Right from the start, I could feel there was something on Taylor’s mind,” Pacino said, describing the director’s persistent pursuit of him. “But the very first time I saw the script, it wasn’t complete.”
What Eventually Changed Al Pacino’s Mind About Starring In The Devil’s Advocate?
So determined was Taylor Hackford to eventually land Al Pacino, that he persistently reworked the script alongside writer Tony Gilroy to try and get closer to where the actor needed it to be. It was this diligence that eventually won The Godfather star over, and he finally committed to the role.
“Then that thing Taylor was reaching for, it finally started manifesting itself in the script,” Pacino was quoted saying in the NY Daily News report. At that point, the pressure moved away from the director and on to him.
“Suddenly it became a challenge,” said Pacino. “[But] you want a challenge in this business, you want to see if you can reach what you’re going for. As Lee Strasberg used to say, ‘Man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what is heaven for?”
Keanu Reeves — who was previously said to have been cautious about working with Pacino — had nothing but praise for his co-star: “I knew by working with [Mr Pacino] I could only raise my game, so to speak. We work in totally different ways but our relationship was, for me anyway, fantastic. I had some of the best times of my life with him.”