Al Pacino: “When you have access to real character, it stimulates the imagination. It’s something to take off from”
It’s no secret that Al Pacino‘s best work in recent years has been on television. While his recent films have been awful to mildly disappointing, he has won Emmys for his roles in Angels in America and You Don’t Know Jack. In his latest TV movie, Pacino takes on another controversial figure, Phil Spector, the famed music producer known for his “Wall of Sound” technique who was later convicted of murder. Written and directed by Pacino’s past collaborator David Mamet, Phil Spector features Pacino in perhaps the perfect role for the loud, aggressive latter-day Pacino. He spoke to The New York Post about the role and what interested him about it.
During his murder trial, there was more talk about Spector’s ridiculous hairpieces that he wore in court than the actual trial itself. Pacino says that acting as Spector was so much based on the feeling he got while wearing the assortment of wigs. He says, “You put one of those things on, you don’t have to play anything. Let the wig act for you. Every day was a good wig day for me.”
Pacino admits that as learned about Spector he learned how fascinating of a person he really was. “They handed me a documentary, The Agony and Ecstasy of Phil Spector, where he talks for an hour straight and where they actually go into the Wall of Sound and the mechanics and you get a sense of what this guy did. It’s beyond what I could conceive of. Seeing that got me thinking that there’s really something there to make a film about and of course David Mamet was the going to write and he was excited about it, which is important.”
The Godfather star, who has done a movie with just about every great actor of the last five decades, has heaps of praise for co-star Helen Mirren, who plays Spector’s lawyer Linda Kenney Baden. He says, “There’s something to say for that kind of balance. You see them falling in like with each other. That convinced me to do it.” He adds that Mirren is, “the greatest person I ever worked with. I don’t mean to gush. Just every day to see her. Just to talk to her every day. What a treat.”
Pacino adds that he enjoys portraying real-life figures on film these days because of the resources available on them. He explains, “There’s film on everybody. I watched those documentaries on Spector or Kevorkian. When you have access to real character, it stimulates the imagination. It’s something to take off from. You don’t do it literally. You just live with it.”