Pacino Posted by Loren Kantor December 22, 2012

Pacino, woodcut and text by Loren Kantor

When Francis Ford Coppola and Paramount Pictures set out to cast the role of Michael Corleone in The Godfather, they had a disagreement. The studio wanted Robert Redford, Warren Beatty or Ryan O'Neal. Coppola wanted an unknown Italian American actor. At the time, Al Pacino had just one starring film role to his credit, playing a heroine addict in The Panic In Needle Park. Coppola brought Pacino in for multiple auditions but Pacino kept blowing his lines. Producer Robert Evans referred to Pacino as “that little dwarf” and he told Coppola “a runt will not play Michael.” Evans was concerned that Pacino's short stature would be a problem since Sonny Corleone was originally to be played by six foot four actor Carmine Caridi.

Coppola continued to audition actors for Michael including Robert DeNiro, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, David Carradine and Martin Sheen. The studios began pushing James Caan for Michael but he wasn't Sicilian enough for Coppola (Caan is Jewish). Coppola threatened to quit if Pacino didn't get the role; Evans agreed as long as Caan was cast as Sonny.

A few weeks into production, Coppola began having second thoughts. He was concerned that Pacino was playing the role as too meek and mild. “You're not cutting it for me kid,” Coppola told Pacino. True to his Actors Studio training, Pacino was allowing himself time to discover who Michael was as a character. Marlon Brando understood Pacino's method acting approach. He intervened on Pacino's behalf and urged Coppola to keep him.

The scene that saved Pacino's job was the restaurant scene where Michael retrieves a gun from the bathroom and kills Sollozzo and the corrupt cop McCluskey. The scene is a tour de force of brilliant acting. Michael and Sollozzo converse in Italian with no subtitles. Since the audience doesn't know what the actors are saying, they are forced to focus full attention on Pacino's eyes, his sagging shoulders, the way he subtly moves his head to conceal his inner turmoil. The scene depicts the moment that Michael transforms from a naive young man to a vicious mob boss. It's also the moment that Al Pacino transforms from unknown actor to movie star.

Pacino was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor for The Godfather. He has since been nominated for eight Acting Oscars, winning once for Scent Of A Woman. Pacino's salary for The Godfather was just $35,000. Two years later, his salary for Godfather II increased to $500K + 10% of the gross after break-even. (4" x 6" black ink print)

“Pacino” was originally published on Loren Kantor's blog,, on November 19, 2012.


One Fifth At A Time Posted by The Loose Hinges (Kris McCarthy & Eliot Houser) November 10, 2012

One Fifth at a Time
The Loose Hinges
Session in the Field
November 3, 2012


The Writer Posted by Loren Kantor October 2, 2012

The Writer, woodcut and text by Loren Kantor

Aram Saroyan is a renowned poet, novelist, playwright and biographer. His father was legendary author William Saroyan and his stepfather was actor Walter Matthau.

Aram came of age in the 60's and his early writings were heavily influenced by the Beat Generation. He met the beat triumvirate of Kerouac, Ginsberg & Burroughs and Aram's book Genesis Angels chronicles the life of beat poet Lew Welch. Saroyan's philosophy of writing owes much to Allen Ginsberg's exhortations of &ldquo:First Thought Best Thought” and “Candor Ends Paranoia.”

In 1967, Aram and his friend the poet Ted Berrigan traveled to Lowell, Massachusetts to interview Jack Kerouac at his home. It was a few months before the summer of love and people were always showing up at the house to see the author of On The Road. Kerouac's wife Stella was the gatekeeper and she tried to shoo Saroyan & Berrigan away. After they insisted they'd come to interview Kerouac for The Paris Review, she finally let the men into the house.

By this time, Kerouac was a “bull-like ruin.” Sitting in the darkened living room, Berrigan gave Kerouac a handful of Orbitrols (Kerouac called them “forked clarinets”). The two poets watched as Kerouac reminisced about his days with Neal Cassady riding around the country “free as a bee . . . We had more fun than five thousand Socony Gasoline Station Attendants.&rdauo;

Kerouac expressed his admiration for Aram's father, William Saroyan. “I loved him as a teenager, he really got me out of the nineteenth-century rut I was trying to study, not only with his funny tone but with his Armenian poetic.”

Kerouac played piano for the poets then composed a spontaneous haiku:

with big leaf on its back

Kerouac riffed on the origins of Buddhism and the impact of Zen on his writing. “When a man spit at the Buddha, the Buddha replied, ‘Since I can't have your abuse you may have it back.’” Aram asked Jack the difference between Buddha and Jesus. Kerouac said, “That's a very good question. There is none.”

As their meeting came to a close, Kerouac recited his poem Mexico City Blues. He asked Aram to repeat the words after him, line by line:

Delicate conceptions of kneecaps.

Like kissing my kitten in the belly.

The quivering meat of the elephants of kindness.

When the poem was complete, Kerouac rewarded Aram by saying, “You'll do, Saroyan.” To Aram, this was the equivalent of a literary knighting.

Currently, Aram teaches creative writing at USC. Aram's 2007 collection, Complete Minimal Poems, received the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. His latest book is Door to the River: Essays and Reviews from the 1960s into the Digital Age. (5" x 7", black ink print)

“The Writer” was originally published on Loren Kantor's blog,, on May 1, 2012.


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