As seems to be happening increasingly often, I was awake between the hours of 4 and 5am this past Saturday night/Sunday morning. I was sleeping on a bed with a slightly-too-small-fitted-sheet in a cabin in the middle of the woods. My bunkmate, a pal from high school, was snoring loudly beside me, and even though I knew that wasn’t the reason I was awake, I persisted in periodically shaking the bed in the hopes that I could startle her into stopping (I couldn’t, God bless her). I was burrowed in deep under 3 heavy blankets, tossing and turning in measured waves so as not to provoke the demise of the slightly-too-small sheet, and thus expose the surface of the mattress and its accompanying unknown past. One foot out from under the covers. Too cold. Back in.
I began having an imaginary conversation with Al Pacino to pass the time. A mentor of mine worked with him on a production of Julius Caesar in the 80’s. He recently told me a story about a conversation they had, and an overactive imagination makes me feel like I had it, too. Also, I watched The Godfather the previous weekend, and, quite frankly, I wish I could talk to him about it. Maybe some day I will. For now, this will do.
Fortunately, a transcription of our conversation survived the night.
J: Hi Al, thanks for being here.
J: So, let’s see…I’ve seen The Godfather, Merchant of Venice, Angels in America, The Devil’s Advocate…
A: What, no Scarface? No Scent of a Woman?
J: I know, really embarrassing.
A: I’m yankin’ your chain, I like Angels best, too.
A: Nah, but it saves you the trouble of askin’ me what my favorite movie I did was.
J: You’re a funny guy, Al.
A: Yeah, you’da known that sooner if you watched Scent of a Woman.
A: Okay, okay, I’m done, I’ll stop. Ask me anything. I’m all ears.
J: Okay, what was it like after The Godfather?
(He thinks, Sicilian eyes wide.)
A: Ya know, one day, I’m walkin’ outta my apartment, headin’ to the store, and I see all these cameras outside my building, so I’m thinkin, “Whoa, there must be something goin’ on, I wonder what’s goin’ on…and then they start followin’ me. I mean, they completely descend. And I realize, “Oh my God, they’re here to see me, they’re here for me.” So I just started runnin’ in the other direction.
J: Were you scared at all?
J: Well, I mean, surely you expected that that was part of the deal going into it.
A: Jess, come on, I don’t know, I just set out to be the best actor I could, and that was it.
J: But how did you even get by before all of that happened? Weren’t you 30? What happened before?
A: What do you mean, what happened?
J: Like, what were you doing while you were waiting?
A: I wasn’t waitin, baby, I was expecting.
J: You know what I mean.
A: I was doing what we all do, what all of us have done. I was in class, I was movin’ and doin’ what was there to do. I was just around, following breadcrumbs and gettin’ good. And I got good. And then I was runnin’ away from people with cameras, but it didn’t really matter because I was good.
J: But how did you get by?
A: Come on, gimme a break, next question, let’s go.
J: Do you like karaoke?
A: I excel at karaoke.
J: Are you an asshole in real life?
A: Yeah, probably.
J: Do you think that the movies they make now are better or worse than the ones in the 70s?
A: Worse, unequivocally. And none of it’s Shakespeare anyway.
J: Do you think you did the right thing with your life?
A: I think I did about the only thing I could do with my life.
J: But how do you get by?
A: I’ll tell you what, Epstein, you either get by or you get goin’.