Al Pacino Finally Reveals the ‘Perverse’ Habit He’s Developed Over the Years

Al Pacino‘s place in cinema history is firmly locked in place. The legendary actor has starred in some of the most acclaimed films ever made. On several occasions, Pacino has shared the screen with fellow icon Robert De Niro.

Such is the case with the pair’s new film, The Irishman. Much of the press surrounding the film has stemmed from director Martin Scorsese. Yet, Pacino and De Niro recently did a joint interview with GQ, in which Pacino shares some intriguing new information on his process.

Al Pacino at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival
Al Pacino at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival | Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for Santa Barbara International Film Festival

Al Pacino’s polarized filmography

Before we get to Pacino’s latest revelation, it’s worthwhile to revisit his impact on the big screen. With a filmography that includes such classics as The Godfather, Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico, and Heat (also with De Niro) the actor has tremendous range. Decade after decade, he has proven he is equally adept at big, over-the-top performances and more understated work.

But for all his undeniable talent, Pacino has a certain penchant for popping up in some notorious misfires. In addition to working with legendary filmmakers like Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, and Sidney Lumet, the actor has appeared in films like Gigli and Jack and Jill. With such a breadth of skill and experience, why, fans may wonder, would Pacino take on roles that are ostensibly beneath him?

Why the actor accepts bad movies

In that aforementioned GQ interview, the actor sheds a bit of light on exactly that. At 79 years old, Pacino doesn’t have to keep as busy as he does. But it seems that poor scripts present a temptation he just can’t resist.

You know what? I may be falling into a bad habit now. I think I’m starting to get a little perverse. I’m starting to want to do films that aren’t really very good and try to make them better. And that’s become my challenge. I don’t think I go in thinking it’s not gonna be very good, but it’s like [Robert De Niro] said: Sometimes they offer you money to do something that’s not adequate. And you talk yourself into it. And somewhere within you, you know that this thing is gonna be a lemon. But then, when it comes full circle, and you see it, you say, “Oh, no. I’m gonna make this better.” And you spend a lot of time and you’re doing all these things, and you say, “If I can just get this to be a mediocre film,” and you get excited by that. It’s an impulse that I’ve got to just put that away now. “Every time I get the urge to exercise, I lie down till it passes.” That’s Oscar Wilde, I think. But the point is that it’s true. I work onstage a lot when I’m not doing other things.

There’s something admirable about Pacino’s goal to improve every project he appears in. And in large part, his approach works. After all, his fake Dunkin’ Donuts commercial in Jack and Jill is the kind of ridiculous that only Pacino can make a joy to watch.

Will ‘The Irishman’ earn him a second Oscar?

His more questionable work aside, Pacino could be heading back into the Academy Award conversation for The Irishman. The actor’s only Oscar win to date was back in 1993 for Scent of a Woman. That victory followed seven nominations spanning 20 years.

Now his role as Jimmy Hoffa in Scorsese’s latest could send him to the podium again. The Irishman remarkably marks Pacino’s first collaboration with Scorsese. The film was likely an easy one for Pacino to agree to, considering the pedigree of talent involved. And with any luck, the actor — who’s receiving rave reviews for his performance — will get some awards consideration in the process.