Al Pacino Did Not Want Michelle Pfeiffer For Scarface and 8 Other Revelations About the Gangster Classic
In honor of Scarface's upcoming Blu-ray release, Universal Studios hosted a lavish soiree on Tuesday night to celebrate the Brian De Palma gangster flick which has become a machismo cult classic since its poor critical reception in 1983. At the Belasco Theater in downtown Los Angeles, the event featured Cuban cuisine, desserts shaped like lines of cocaine, a Ludacris concert and a Q&A panel with stars Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Robert Loggia and F. Murray Abraham, as well as Scarface producer Martin Bregman. From their Scarface-style thrones on stage -- bathed in red light and surrounded by Roman sculptures, natch -- the cast reflected on their movie's present-day popularity, machine-gun injuries and Eddie Murphy. The nine most interesting revelations follow.
9. Al Pacino came up with the idea to remake the the original Howard Hawks-directed Scarface, says Al Pacino.
When asked how the Brian De Palma classic was conceived, Pacino explained, "My first experience was seeing Paul Muni in the Howard Hughes film, the original Scarface that they did in 1932. It was at the Tiffany Theater here in Los Angeles on Sunset Boulevard. I went and saw that film and called Marty Bregman after. I said, 'I think we could do this thing. There's a remake here.' And he, very wisely, very astutely, got out there and put the whole thing together. [...] I said, 'I gotta be that Tony Montana guy. That's my license to live.'"
8. Scarface's signature decadence was Brian De Palma's vision.
When asked about Tony Montana's lavish lifestyle, Pacino said, "It was Brian's idea to make it -- so much of it is outlandishly big, but that was always his intent. He saw that as the way to tell the story because it's kind of appropriate with what [Bauer was] saying about it's not enough. It's sort of like cocaine, being addicted to cocaine, which was the '80s. It's just never enough. It's like being addicted to money. It in itself is an addiction. It's all about addiction, but it was Brian's idea to make it that way."
7. Pacino and Steven Bauer were so well-rehearsed that they could have taken Scarface on the road.
"There was a point where we were actually rehearsing at Universal and we didn't have sets," revealed Bauer. "We just had markings of the rooms where we would be doing the scenes in and we'd walk through these scenes. We rehearsed that for a couple weeks and we were like, 'We could take this on the road. We could actually do this as a play on the road. The national touring company of Scarface.'"
6. A machine gun-related injury kept Scarface's star on the sidelines for two weeks.
While describing his lengthy, intense rehearsal period, Pacino revealed, "I got shot! [...] I shot off 30 rounds. I get hit with the squibs. I start leaping up in the air, flying up in the air and I land and I go to grab the gun and guess what? I grabbed the barrel...on the gun that just shot off 30 rounds. My hand stuck to that sucker. That was it. I couldn't get my hand off of it. I couldn't work for two weeks."
5. A then-unknown Steven Bauer was told he had the part of Manny before auditioning.
"I got really lucky," Bauer conceded about being cast as Tony Montana's best friend. "I was working with Stella Adler, a great acting teacher in New York City. [...] I got this call to meet the casting director Alixe Gordin. It was the first day of casting, and the moment she saw me, she said, 'Yeah. You're Manny.' Then she called Brian De Palma and she said, 'I've got Manny here.' It was day one of casting and she said, 'Go see Brian.' So I went to see Brian and he said, 'Yeah, you look like Manny.' And he said, 'I'm going to call Marty Bregman in L.A.' I went to L.A. and I saw Marty and the moment we met, he told me, 'I'm going to tell you something. You're going to do this film. You're going to play this role.' I said, 'I haven't auditioned yet.' And he said, 'Just take my word for it. You're going to play Manny.'"
4. F. Murray Abraham's mother doesn't care how big of a star Al Pacino is. He shouldn't be using foul language.
"My mother's Italian and she's still around, she's about 97 years old," Abraham told the audience. "She's very serious about being Italian. She's very proud of it and she said [after seeing Scarface], 'Murray, I saw the movie. Can you tell Al not to use that language? It's not good for the Italian people.' I said, 'Mom, it's the script. He said what he had to say.' She said, 'He's a big star! He doesn't have to talk that way.'"
3. Pacino may not remember it, but he did not originally want to cast Michelle Pfeiffer as Elvira Hancock.
While discussing the film's female casting, Bregman said, "Michelle Pfeiffer... That was a battle because of everybody in town was going out for that. In spite of what [Al] said before, [he was] a star at the time. Michelle wasn't known at the time."
"And you had that sense about her," Pacino offered. "Because I probably would have said no."
"You did say no!" replied Bregman, inciting laughter from Pacino and the entire theater.
2. The entertainment industry hated (and Eddie Murphy loved) Scarface when it first came out. Just ask Liza Minnelli.
"I remember an industry screening with the heads of two studios," recalled Pacino. [...] I went into Sardi's after the show -- they were all at Sardi's after the show -- and I walk in, and you know that movie The Producers, when they walk in and do the Nazi song? The audience in the restaurant were like statues, like wax figures. So I came in and there was Liza Minnelli who hadn't seen [Scarface] and she came up to me and she said, "Al, what did you do to these people?' [...] But I remember Eddie Murphy was there and he came up to me and said [adapts spot-on Eddie Murphy impression], 'I loved it, Al!'
1. Even though they admit that Scarface's cult following a surprise, Pacino & Co. also agree that their film was perfect, thanks to the rehearsal time they were given.
"We weren't just going in there and doing it," explained Bregman. "We had a long period of rehearsals. By the time we got to performing, we were primed, and we delivered."
"The movie becomes part of our life," said Abraham. "That's it. It becomes real to us. And that's what made this particular film perfect. It's a perfect film."
"Also, the reinvention," added Pacino. "The fact that it came out and it was not really received that well, so we did not feel as though we were in something that was going to be lasting. Usually, it's very rare that a movie opens and it is instantly made a classic. It's not sort of eviscerated the way this was and treated with disrespect. As time went on, it stayed there and had this rebirth, this constant rebirth that is almost like a miracle."