He was highly inspired by his grandfather who he says taught him the joy of working.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on January 7, 2020. It has since been updated.
Success means different things to different people. For some, success is a lot of money; for some, it is being around family and loved ones and for others, it is doing what they love to do. Alfredo James Pacino, however, has a very unique take on success. He always wanted to make a mark but that was never about money or any materialistic pleasure. Very early on, life taught him to be strong and never to quit. His entire life, he frantically pursued his passion for acting. He proved himself to be one of the finest actors in the world but now, he feels very differently and the meaning of life and success for him have seen a total shift.
His parents split when he was only 2 and he was brought up at his maternal grandmother's place. As he grew up, his family and friends saw in him an amazing talent of mimicking various actors. As a result, he was named "the actor" by his close ones.
What he wasn't really good at was academics. In an interview with The Guardian, he admitted that his teachers thought that he "needed a dad. I wasn’t an out-of-control teenager, but I was close," he said. Therefore, he went on to focus all his energies on his passion for acting. He dropped out of high-school and got himself enrolled at the High School for Performing Arts, Manhattan.
To support his studies, Pacino started working odd jobs including being a janitor, busboy, and postal clerk but that never made him hungry for material possessions. He said, "After college, I was often unemployed and at one time I slept in a storefront for a few days. But I’ve never been materialistic."
However, academics weren't his strong suit. He failed most of his classes and eventually dropped out of school again. Although, that never stopped him constantly trying and working hard. He was relentless and he was determined. He started professional acting training again despite the fact that being homeless and penniless kept pulling him down every day, reports Childhood Biography.
But the one who is meant to do great things will eventually do greats things, no matter what. He went on to do some notable work and won a Tony Award for Broadway's Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie during a very nascent phase of his career. He later went on to do a few more films that did not become successful but Pacino had established himself as a fiery new talent. And then, history was written. He was cast for the role of Michael Corleon for the cult movie The Godfather. The movie went on to be a massive success and also received critical acclaim.
He was now on the list of the finest actors of Hollywood. While Pacino himself thought that he would not be able to pull off a complex character like Michael, writer and director Francis Ford Coppola believed in him. He had always envisioned Pacino, already an acclaimed New York stage actor, as Michael. “His intelligence is what I noted first. He knows how to use his gifts,” says Coppola. “He uses what he has, this striking magnetic quality, this smoldering ambiance," reports Washington Post.
Fast forward, he is not one of the greatest actors we have in the world. An actor whom film historian David Thomson in 2002 deemed “our greatest actor now.” Pacino is the winner of an Oscar (eight nominations), two Tonys, two Emmys, four Golden Globes (17 nominations) and a National Medal of Arts.
But now, after years and years of accumulating critical acclaim, maddening stardom, and a substantial amount of wealth; the star says that anonymity is a luxury. "I haven’t been in a grocery store or subway for years. It’s hard for my children to go out publicly with me. Fame is different now than it was 20 years ago – I don’t know what the hell it is now! If I have a rare time of being somewhere and not being recognized, it’s a luxury," he told The Guardian.
While he has never been married, he is a doting father of three children - daughter Julie, twins Anton and Olivia - from two partners. And he says because of them his life got a different meaning and perspective. "Before I had my three, I’d walk around in my own head, not noticing anything," he said. "Acting used to be everything; now, because of them, it’s just a small part."