Pacino, Al (1940- ), American actor, born Alfredo James Pacino in New York. Pacino trained at the Actors' Studio and made his screen debut in Me, Natalie (1969) while pursuing a full-time career in the theatre. His second film, Jerry Schatzberg's The Panic in Needle Park (1971), brought him star status, and in 1972 he effortlessly faced Marlon Brando in The Godfather, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, without being upstaged-to such convincing effect that he has starred in a further two films in The Godfather series.
Pacino is an actor of many facets, who excels at difficult roles, such as a crazy bank robber in Dog Day Afternoon (1975), a homosexual in Cruising (1980), and a breathtakingly elegant, tango-dancing blind man in what is possibly his greatest film to date, Scent of a Woman (1992). While Pacino can deliver truly virtuoso performances as over-the-top flamboyant characters, he is equally good at portraying the average man, with foibles and weaknesses, as seen in Frankie and Johnny (1991) and Carlito's Way (1993). However, his particular speciality, the subtle suggestion that an idea or a feeling is gradually taking shape in his character's mind, is best shown in The Godfather films, in which he is the incarnation of quiet fanaticism-and cold ferocity.
The same masterly psychological control appears in his psychopathic portrait in Scarface (1983), directed by Brian de Palma, in his superbly believable trapper caught up in the American War of Independence in Hugh Hudson's Revolution (1986), in his ruthless salesman in Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), his policeman relentlessly pursuing the gangster in Heat (1995), and his mobster in Donnie Brasco (1997).In 1996 Pacino directed his first film, a documentary about Richard III called Looking for Richard.