Al Pacino Interview For ‘Wilde Salome’
Referred to by actor/director Al Pacino as his most personal project ever, the unconventional feature documentary ‘Wilde Salome’ invites audiences into Pacino’s private world, as he explores the complexities of Oscar Wilde’s acclaimed play ‘Salome,’” Wilde himself and the birth of a rising star in actress Jessica Chastain. Check out what the legendary actor had to same about the project below.
‘Wilde Salome’ is sort of a play, documentary and movie all at the same time, can u tell us a little bit about the process of directing this?
Al Pacino: I didn’t know where it was going, I once said that I had a vision, but I didn’t have a story. I guess what I tried to do was create a story, but you’re quite right, I don’t know what it is, I like to say that it’s not a documentary because it’s not a film – but then it’s not a documentary either, so I’m confused too (laughs). Except, I feel what I tried to do, I wanted to make a kind of collage, and put it together so that by the end of it you get the idea of what I was doing. I wanted to reflect some of who Oscar Wilde was, what he went through – but not intensely, not like a documentary would do it, which would be much more complex. I thought that if I gave a overview of Oscar Wilde and connected it in a way with the struggles we were having, to put a play on, and the actual play of ‘Salome,’ that somehow they would inter-connect, and somehow it would be revealed by the end of the movie what I was trying to say. At least it would have been revealed to me (laughs). I think that’s what I was doing.
With Jessica Chastain, I really believe she is the reason I made the movie, because as soon as I met her and saw her, I thought, ‘this is the person to play Salome if I ever saw it, I must get her to play it before the world picks her up and turns her into the next star,’ which it has done now (laughs). She was very gracious and said yes. I think it was this idea of creating something that would reveal things – about myself also, because I interject myself throughout it as a kind of go through guy, or as someone who’s trying to deal with the process, whatever you want to call it, the process of making movies, doing plays, the creative process, you can call it all these things – that was my idea.
The idea of ‘Richard III,’ when I did a movie about fifteen years ago called ‘Looking for Richard,’ it was simply to see if I could get the audience to relate more to Shakespeare, if I broke it down using documentary style. Because in America at the time, and it still is, the Americans and their relationship with Shakespeare, and myself being an actor who has always wanted to play Shakespeare, and has played Shakespeare…..but it is difficult in the US for it to be accepted readily, or it was as an American doing Shakespeare – that belonged to the rest of the world. With Americans, except for the great actors who have played it, and risen above the prejudice, and the great Joseph Papp who created the public theatre, where he had interracial casting, so people from all parts were able to express that in a film. What the film is always trying to do is to present, by the end of it, this play ‘Richard III,’ which now – hopefully – the audience understood, that was my whole point. In ‘Wilde Salome,’ it’s to give a sense of what I felt when I saw the play, and to give a great sense of a writer, a genius if you will, who was taken out before his time and to show the style of his play and how passionate it is, how some of the issues in ‘Salome’ are revealed, how interesting they are, how inventive Oscar Wilde was in doing this – because it was not his style at all, he’s known for something entirely different. So I thought covering his life a little bit, it would shed some light on the play. I think I could go on talking forever (laughs).
The play and the theatre side of ’Wilde Salome’ adds a great dynamic….
Al Pacino: Thank you. When you work in theatre, live theatre, and you work with fellow actors and actresses, you have a bond that happens, it just is a natural thing. Sometimes early on it’s a little difficult, you know, maybe people are not as open early on, sometimes nor am I. After a few days everyone sees that we are in this thing together. I think of it pretty much as a high wire act, we’re all up there performing this act, we all depend on each other because if we don’t do it together we fall. It’s the way we are in theatre today, that’s come the last hundred years with Constantin Stanislavski and the method we approach theatre as a group, and theatre companies. In the old days before Television or Movies, it was an actor, manager and the star actor was the centre of attraction – here now we do it as a group. Even in Shakespeare’s day, they worked as a company, so it’s inherent in the very context of theatre that people are together – because you need to be, because every time you forget your lines on stage, you need help (laughs).
You’ve worked on this project for a number of years, did you leave it for months at a time?
Al Pacino: I didn’t know where I was going with it, we operated by the fly, any documentary filmmaker would tell you that it does take a while. But I was doing other things intermittingly, I had other movies that I would go off and do. But interestingly enough, having worked on it, finally I said to Barry Navidi (Producer), who without which this would have never happened, he made such a major contribution artistically to this endeavour, I couldn’t do it without him, we did it together….so at one point I said that I wasn’t going to look at the movie for five months, because I didn’t know where to go with it. Finally after five months I took a look at it, then I sort of knew what to do. I think it’s like if you do a painting and you step back from the painting in order to see it. I think part of my luck was that it worked, because we had been showing it to audiences, occasionally I would get feedback, but it wasn’t until I stepped back…..then five weeks later I had finished it. After that time I knew where it was, I didn’t while we were doing it. I recommend having a script, I recommend myself too (laughs).
As a cinema actor and stage actor, when was it that you started directing?
Al Pacino: Something happened to me about twenty five years ago, I sort of always thought of myself as someone who did these parts in movies. I was trying to work things out in my personal life, and also in my theatre life. I was both torn between the cinema and the theatre, I felt as though I was falling between chairs. I wasn’t committing to one or the other. And then I started to put in some of these little things I liked, whatever they were, some idea, or some little play, and I started filming it. I think that was the start of my filmmaking days because I really wanted to put these things on film, I enjoyed it, before that I didn’t understand it. As soon as I started making my own films, I actually became easier on directors (laughs), because I was very difficult at first, when I first started out. Because I really didn’t know the medium, but once I started, the magic of movies came into my life. I loved the idea of making a movie, it was magical to me, also that it was such a young medium. I’ve made about five or six movies on my own, that nobody knows about, nor ever will (laughs). I keep them hidden like my paintings. I’m on the side doing it, because I’m a stage actor, movie actor, that’s what I do. ‘Looking for Richard’ was one of the movies that got away, and now it looks like ‘Wilde Salome’ is getting out and walk around a little (laughs). This movie is a step out for me.
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