Al Pacino was born on April 25, 1940 in the Bronx, New York. His parents, Salvatore and Rose Pacino, divorced when he was very young. Al moved with his mother to his grandparents' house, where he spent the rest of his childhood.
When he was young, Al often mimicked the actors he saw in movies, practicing different voices and emotions. Although he did not particularly enjoy classes during school, he found fulfillment in school plays. After dropping out of school, Al chose to pursue a career in acting, finding small roles on stage productions.
During his early period of acting, Al did not make very much money and was forced to live in poverty. He also suffered depression and was very frustrated by the lack of openings in the city for actors. His first break came in 1966, when he was accepted into the Actors Studio and allowed to study the method acting advocated by Lee Strasberg.
Pacino started getting some bigger roles and won an Obie award for his performance in "The Indian Wants the Bronx". Another performance soon after in "Does the Tiger Wear a Necktie?" earned him a prestigious Tony Award. His acting was becoming more known and he was drafted by film directors to join the cast of "Me, Natalie" in 1969 and "The Panic in Needle Park" in 1971.
Around this time, casting was being conducted for the film version of Mario Puzo's epic novel, "The Godfather". Al managed to get into the auditions and made a large impression on Francis Ford Coppola, the director. However, the feeling wasn't mutual and virtually everyone else involved in the project demanded that a more prominent actor fill the role instead of "that midget Pacino". However, Francis vehemently defended Pacino and was eventually allowed to film with him playing the important role of Michael Corleone. Under intense negative pressure by the studio heads, Francis filmed quickly, fearing that he would be fired in favor of a different director. Al remembers the set of the film as very tense and he was nervous throughout the production.
When the film was released, it was a major hit and everyone loved Pacino's amazing performance. Even the Academy's attention was gained and he was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actor. Pacino went from being a nobody to international star virtually overnight.
Although he could have settled for easy acting roles, Pacino went on to choose some of the most difficult roles in film history. In 1973, he starred in the film "Serpico" as a police officer intent on curing the corruption in the New York Police Department. In 1975, he played the role of Sonny in "Dog Day Afternoon", a tale of a bank robbery gone horribly wrong. In 1977, he starred in "Bobby Deerfield", which didn't do very well, but regained his momentum in 1979's "And Justice for All", giving an amazing performance as a caring lawyer. His performance earned him another nomination for best actor and showed his versatility as an actor.
In 1980's "Cruising" and 1982's "Author! Author!", Al's career faltered slightly. Both films did poorly at the box office and were met with poor reviews by critics. However, he recovered yet again with "Scarface" in 1983, which ended up being an epic tale of crime, popular for years to come. In 1985, he starred in "Revolution", which suffered from a very bad production and ended up being a horrendous flop.
He retreated from the film industry for a few years, returning with his directorial debut in 1989's "The Local Stigmatic", which was never released. That same year he starred in the erotic thriller "Sea of Love", which was a large success. This film triggered the start of a great decade that included "Godfather Part 3", "Dick Tracy", "Glengarry Glen Ross", and "Scent of a Woman", which finally earned him an Academy Award for best actor.
Over the rest of the decade, he starred in "Carlito's Way", "Heat", "Looking for Richard", "City Hall", "Donnie Brasco", The Insider", and "Any Given Sunday", all of which did very well in the box office. His more recent films have been less difficult and include the total flop "Gigli", which is regarded as one of the worst films of all time.
Al Pacino has been a bachelor all of his life and has never chosen to marry. However, he has had long relationships, including one with Godfather costar Diane Keaton. He quit smoking in the early 90s in order to preserve his voice, which became damaged over the years.
Al is regarded as one of the best actors in film history for his incredible emotion and powerful performances. Among his trademarks are his owl-like eyes and bouts of rage on screen that capture the stage.