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Al Pacino in Supporting Roles: 5 Times the Star Shone Without Being Lead Actor

By    |   Wednesday, 15 Apr 2015 07:45 PM

Al Pacino is famous for busting the boundaries of the material he has to work with. That’s likely why the larger-than-life method actor is more likely than most to really shine in a movie, even when he doesn’t have the lead role.

Here are five roles in which Pacino starred in a support role:

1. Ricky Roma, “Glengarry Glen Ross” (1992)

Pacino extended his range as the one successful salesman among the beleaguered real-estate hustlers in the movie adaptation of David Mamet’s stage play. It’s a movie he wanted to be in so badly that, he charged only $1.5 million instead of his usual $6 million, according to The New York Times.

“Pacino enjoys his plum role to the fullest,” wrote Washington Post reviewer Desson Howe in 1992. “But although Pacino pulls off a fine performance, he doesn’t nail it to the immortal wall.”

Pacino was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, and Reelviews critic James Berardinelli said in 2006 that it was “inexplicable and inexcusable” that was the only nomination the movie received.

2. Big Boy Caprice, “Dick Tracy” (1990)

The gangster boss in the Warren Beatty movie adaptation of the hard-boiled crimefighter comic strip, Pacino is “heavyweight hilarity of a high order,” according to Vincent Canby of The New York Times. Pacino invests Caprice with “a mad mixture of Scarface, Richard III, and Groucho Marx. He carries on as if his debt to the devil had just come due,” Canby wrote.

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Although the makeup for the other “Dick Tracy” villains in the movie was designed to match as closely as possible the surreal drawings of comic strip creator Chester Gould, Pacino designed Caprice’s movie makeup and prosthetics himself, Vulture reported. He turned the strip’s bald and bulky bad guy into a slick, sneering, shoulder-padded crime boss who combines all of Big Boy’s chins into one big, proud, prow that wouldn’t look out of place on a steam locomotive. 

3. Willy Bank, “Oceans Thirteen” (2007)

Pacino does a sendup of his usual flamboyant role as a sleazy casino owner who finally crossed the wrong people and is the target of George Clooney’s third reimagination of Frank Sinatra’s original gang of thieves.

“Maybe because Al Pacino is just so good at everything he does, and makes it look so effortless, we should just sing his praises now,” wrote Roger Friedman of Fox News. “His turn as a villain ... is worth its weight in gold for elevating mere fun to actual pleasure.”

He received a Teen Choice Movie nomination for a villain role. 

4. Shylock, “The Merchant of Venice” (2004)

A longtime Shakespeare fan, Pacino has spoken the Bard’s words on stage and, in this adaptation, on the screen.

Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian said the “fresh, lucid and unpretentious screen revival ... is raised above the commonplace by a brilliant performance from Al Pacino as Shylock.”

The British paper’s reviewer said Pacino’s version of the reviled moneylender is “right up on stage, flinging defiance in his oppressors' teeth, devastating their hypocrisy and cruelty.”

He even allowed how this American actor did a credible turn in a Shakespeare play: “Pacino gives an object lesson on speaking the verse, matching and often outclassing our native Brits who sometimes breathily overemphasise and overinterpret the lines.”

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Al Pacino is famous for busting the boundaries of the material he has to work with. That’s likely why the larger-than-life method actor is more likely than most to really shine in a movie, even when he doesn’t have the lead role.
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