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Al Pacino did one of his best movies because he was going broke

Al Pacino wound up getting one of the best thriller movies ever from Diane Keaton at a point when he was out of work and his accounts were looking a bit dire.

Al Pacino in The Godfather 2 over an image of Sea of Love

No matter how great you are, you’ve got to pay your bills. Al Pacino learned that the hard way during a fallow period in his career. Yes, there was a time when even Al Pacino wasn’t getting roles, but as one of the best actors, he bounced back hard.

As he explained to the SAG-AFTRA foundation once, he actually made one of the best ’80s movies because he was getting desperate. “[Diane Keaton] came into my lawyer’s office, and she looked at me and my lawyer, and she said to him, ‘Do you know who he is?’,” the actor says,

“The lawyer says, ‘Yeah’, she says, No you don’t, no, he’s an idiot, and you’ve gotta take care of him’,” he continues. Little did he know, this exchange would lead to one of his best movies. “She says, ‘Al, come here, I’ve got something you’re going to like, it’s you, because you’ve got to get back, you’re not on the A-list – here it is’. She gave me Sea of Love.”

According to Pacino, someone else was in line for the feature — but he wouldn’t mention who. What matters is that he got to do one of the best thriller movies ever at a time when he needed a win.

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“She says, ‘This is a good picture for you’,” he adds. “I knew I had to work, I did, I needed the money too.” Pacino was coming off 1985’s Revolution, a box office bomb. Although he did Scarface, in 1983, he was less successful than you might think, with a number of the new movies he made in the late ’70s into the ’80s not exactly catching fire.

Sea of Love, from director Harold Becker and writer Ricard Price, very much reversed course on all that. Featuring Pacino as a New York City detective tracking down a serial killer, Sea of Love was one of the highest-grossing movies of 1989, and the next year Pacino was in Dick Tracy and The Godfather 3 — which, as we know, were both sensations.

Sadly, I don’t think the rest of us can count on a Diane Keaton or Sea of Love turning our fortunes around. But we can only hope. More recently, Pacino was in The Irishman, one of the best Netflix movies, and House of Gucci from Ridley Scott. Working with the best directors, as always.