"Stand Up Guys" finds Al Pacino playing an aging criminal released from prison after 28 years and taking stock of his life while trying to prove he's still got some life in him. So it seems like a perfect time to check in on Pacino himself and see how he's holding up. Here's what we learned from our chat with the 72-year-old actor.
He has no plans for retirement:
"I don't even know what that means, really. It's all about retiring to what? What is retirement about? Sometimes I wonder, why am I doing this? And then sometimes I don't think about that. I think it's understanding what you're capable of doing. If a role interests me, excites me or challenges me, then I don't see any reason why I wouldn't try it. If the roles become far and fewer between, then that's OK too, because then I'll find other things to do. But there's [directing] 'Salome,' doing 'Looking for Richard,' those things are sort of extensions of myself and my life. I could be doing that while I was retired, you know?"
He feels far from accomplished as a director, though:
"I feel that I'm doing the wrong thing. Sometimes when I do a movie and I'm sitting seeing a preview of the movie I'm thinking — because the film is some place else, usually in the editing room, miles away, and they're bring it to the theater — I often think, I hope that somebody grabs hold of that film right now and recuts it and makes it good. (laughs) I've made about four or five of my own films. Only one has seen the light of day, but I do have other films I've made, with my own money. Spielberg once said to me, 'Never put your own money in a movie.' And he was right. But at the same time, it was fun to do and I'm glad I did it. And I'd do it again. I'm trying to put together this thing on Modigliani, and now I will either direct it or I'll produce it or something, but it was my idea to do it. I've wanted to play it for a long time, but I'm too old to play Modigliani now."
He admits he wasn't always easy to direct:
"There's no doubt that I've gotten easier to work with. There's no doubt. They tell me that. (laughs) I think that when I was younger I was much more difficult. If I learned anything from directing, I learned what directors go through with actors. A certain amount of empathy is gotten out of that by doing it yourself."
The joys of poker:
Throughout his career on stage and screen, Al Pacino has had one hobby that keeps him happy: holding a regular poker game. "What I like more about poker more than anything else is it's a game. It's for very low stakes, and there's a friendliness in it," Pacino says. "And I enjoy the guys that I get, the group, because a lot of them are old friends. I like that gathering. There's something comforting about it. Sometimes I just lose track of the game. People confer, and sometimes things come out and people talk. And I enjoy that. And when I focus on it, like anything else when you focus on it, you forget everything else. So it's very zen. It's like meditation."
And his "Stand Up Guys" director, Fisher Stevens, was a one-time fixture at those games. So how good was Stevens' poker face? "Fisher wasn't very good," Pacino says with a grin. "But the good thing about Fisher was he thought he was, so we liked to encourage him. If he reads this I'm in trouble."