Al Pacino interview

Are you a big football fan?

"I am, though I don't know the game as well as I know baseball. But I played football as a youngster. The game has changed now, it's much more complicated, so I don't know the inner workings of it but I enjoy watching it. The machinery of football, the inner workings of it are much more complicated than I ever realised or imagined. The playbook has 130 plays, and these coaches work all year, seven days a week to put this together."

Isn't that part of the fun of acting for you, researching different worlds that you then get to recreate on screen?

"I believe in a good, healthy preparation about things, you go out and consume as much information as you can get, you get out there and read all the coaches and get out on the field. You do that, and it's the real fun of it, to go out there and spend the time with whoever. I got to find out about things in that way, and I look forward to the next project where I can find out about a new subject."

There were some rumours of tension on set between Jamie Foxx and LL Cool J?

"I think it invariably happens where actors and actresses somehow take on the role and it mirrors their lives a little bit, and it's effective in it. LL and Jamie were competitive in the movie, and I think that unconsciously they carried that off screen but it was a very minor thing."

Are you aware of an aura you bring with you of a famous movie star that other people you work with might find intimidating?

"I certainly don't feel that when I'm working with them. I approach my work and do it the same way I always did. I couldn't possibly act if I felt that way, that they had this feeling of being intimidated by me. We have to get in there and do this thing together, it's as though we're an orchestra and playing together, so you don't really have that sense of what someone's thinking about you. But when I go to do a movie, I feel I come with, I guess 30 years of experience, you come with your past and all the movies you've made, so people have a tendency to respond to where they've known you. A lot of people here in this room sort of grew up seeing pictures of you, there's an image instilled in people that comes out of all this time. I know I have it when I meet someone who I've known just through movies. I always have an image of them, but through the years I've learned it's a good idea to let that go because it's never what you think it is, they're never what you think they are. So in answer to the question, I think it's built in anyway and they soon get over it."

There seems to be an ongoing controversy about how much top professional sportsmen get paid, something that is touched on in the film. What are your feelings on the subject?

"When one looks at the lifespan of an athlete, and takes into account the kind of money that's generated from their playing of the game, you have to just step back and take a look at it and determine what you think. I believe that athletes are well paid because of what they generate and the people who know about that are usually their gobetweens, between the league and the player, there's a go-between who seems to understand the nature of the outcome, you can get hurt. It's a dangerous game. I never thought much about the price they receive, I'm sure it's relative to how much they bring in people, so I would imagine it's fair. It's a funny thing, because there's been such an outing of prices, of how much movies make and all. I try not to pay much attention to that."

How difficult is it, given the choice of scripts you must have, to pick roles that will challenge and excite you rather than roles that are simply not matched to your abilities?

"For most actors the instinct is to go with the role, any role that they'll have you in. But along the way one has to remember there's a point in a career where, if you do make it and have a lot of attention, there's a tendency for people to want to use you, and sometimes not in the right role for you. You have to be careful when you choose a part, because you really enjoy the idea that people want you, and you start thinking that maybe you can play whatever role it is. But you really are wrong for it. You think you can do it though, so you go in. Whereas if you weren't famous they probably wouldn't take you for the part. You have to really be careful of that."

You must have come into contact with Oliver Stone 17 years ago, when he wrote Scarface - have either of you changed much in that time?

"I don't think Oliver's changed at all, he's as wild as ever. That's wonderful. He's the same guy I knew back then. I guess only he can tell you if I've changed. I hope I did a little, in that I don't feel as laboured about things any more, I don't labour over them in the same way."

How do you think Any Given Sunday will play in countries like Britain, which does not have the tradition in American football?

"I don't know, that'll be interesting to see. It's a game, it's a sport, it's kind of interesting to get into the philosophy of it, how it impacts on peoples' lives and personalities, so maybe that is relatable. The excitement and chaos of it."

There seems a vibrancy to a cast that includes people like you, rapper LL Cool J, a comedian like Jamie Fox, James Woods, Cameron Diaz - people from diverse acting backgrounds.

"All the styles just came together. LL is a natural, he has a natural gift. And of course Jimmy Woods is a brilliant actor, we've seen it. We all do it together, but the approach when Oliver is at the helm there, calling the rehearsals, some actors like to rehearse more than others. What I remember about the football picture is that we got together in a room with Oliver and we would discuss the scenes and who we were in relation to one another, and all of that was pretty much as usual. Then we played ball."

What do you feel are your weaknesses as an actor?

"My weaknesses.................. I wish I could come up with something. I'd probably have the same pause if you asked me what my strengths are. Maybe they're the same thing."

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