Al Pacino gives fans a night of conversation

By Genevieve Hassan
BBC News entertainment reporter

image captionAl Pacino has been nominated for eight Oscars over his career

Oscar-winning actor Al Pacino has delighted fans at the London Palladium with an evening of conversation about his life and career.

The star had previously put on his one-man Q&A show in New York and Sydney, but much was made of his first on-stage interview in London.

This would never be shown on screen, never to be repeated again, host Emma Freud assured the crowd.

He's turned down chat shows and even the most respected feature writers for interviews, so this will be your chance to meet "the real Al Pacino", she said.

Not quite true, The Telegraph's David Gritten leaned over to tell me, saying he's had the privilege.

After arriving on stage nearly half an hour late, the 73-year-old entered to a standing ovation from the audience.

This was more of a Pacino fan convention/love-in than serious talk with brevity.

Friendly heckles

Even Freud made no secret of her lust, using her first question to ask if she could lick Pacino's face.

Fans were presented with a showreel of Pacino's work including Scarface, The Godfather, Dog Day Afternoon and Serpico - punctuated by cheers and applause from a crowd who had paid up to £250 to be in their hero's presence.

Each clip was supported with an anecdote about the star's experience on the film like how he was cast for The Godfather and how he learned to disassemble and reassemble a gun for Scent of a Woman.

Playing up on her lineage, Freud ran through Pacino's childhood, touching on him smoking a pipe by the age of 11, drinking at 13 and the friends he lost to drug abuse.

It was while watching a performance of Chekhov's The Seagull in New York when he was 14 that the star was inspired to become an actor, he revealed.

It is clear that Pacino is a masterful storyteller - playing to the crowd well and easily handling friendly heckles from excitable audience members.

And although he sometimes lost track of what he was saying, his punchlines were always met with more cheers and applause.

The star's most lively responses came mid-interview.

Who was his best leading lady? "She's out there and we've not met yet," he quipped. And his worst? He wouldn't name her, but said it was someone he was very fond of who had once critiqued his performance while on set - a big no-no in his book.

image captionPacino confessed his Frankie and Johnny co-star Michelle Pfeiffer was a good kisser

Best kisser? "Michelle was a good kisser, Michelle Pfeiffer," referring to their time on 1991's Frankie and Johnny.

What about films he turned down? Gasps came from the crowd when Pacino confirmed he passed over Richard Gere's role in Pretty Woman and Bruce Willis' lead in Die Hard.

"I gave that boy a career!" he joked. "You know who else I gave a career to? Harrison Ford in Star Wars - that role was mine for the taking but I couldn't understand the script."

But he denied being offered the leading roles in Goodfellas, Midnight Cowboy and Misery, made famous by Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman and James Caan.

Poetry recital

Fans literally lined up in the aisles during the half-hour open Q&A session.

A couple asked about his acting method and motivation; one man used his time to merely thank Pacino for signing an autograph for his wife, and another woman asked the star to re-enact a line from her favourite film, Scent of a Woman.

"Which part have you have played that is the closest to your character?" asked another fan. "If I knew who me was, I wouldn't be an actor," the star shot back.

Perhaps saving the best for last, Pacino ended the show reciting poetry. First was Somewhere I Have Never Travelled by EE Cummings.

Then came Oscar Wilde's The Ballad of Reading Gaol - performed in the dark with a single spotlight on the star.

He held the crowd captivated as he showed off the acting skills that have earned him Oscar, Emmy and Tony awards.

Whether or not "the real Al Pacino" revealed anything his die-hard fans didn't already know is questionable.

But it was clear that getting the chance to spend two hours in the company of their acting hero was money well spent.

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