Stories of Pacino becoming lost in his roles abound. According to legend, when Pacino was playing a lawyer, a friend told him he was having conveyance problems, and Pacino asked to see his friend’s contract. He did shifts in a café, tossing pancakes, to prepare himself for Frankie & Johnny. He even tripped over a shrub on Park Avenue while he was working on Scent of a Woman – even though his eyes were wide open at the time.
Apparently Pacino became so immersed in his Scent of a Woman character that he actually couldn’t see during filming. Some weeks after the completion of principal photography, O’Donnell received a note of congratulations from Pacino: “Although I didn’t see you, I know you were great.”
Even when he is not performing, Pacino tends to focus on living in a character. ”That’s what I do when I’m not working—I learn roles,” he reports. ”If I’m not appearing anywhere onstage or making a movie, I’m usually learning some role or practicing it or getting involved in some workshop. I can recite Hamlet for you practically verbatim. I can give you Othello or Iago… Sometimes you learn a lot by a role that isn’t quite right for you. Sometimes you learn by falling on your face – you learn through the struggle.”
Leslie Bennetts, “Pacino Returns to a Favorite Role,” New York Times, 10/23/83
Scent of a Woman Production Notes, Universal Studios, 1992
Simon Hattenstone, “Pacino’s Way,” The Guardian, 12/3/04