birth place: New York, USA
Alfredo James Pacino was born into a family of Italian immigrants in East Harlem, New York City, shortly after his grandparents had just emigrated to the States from Sicily.
Al’s father was called Salvatore, and he worked as an insurance agent in New York; Al‘s mother was called Rose. Al’s parents split up when he was just two years old, and his mother then moved to live with her parents in a very run-down area of New York, in the South Bronx. He saw little of his father whilst he was growing up, as Salvatore went to live in California, and opened a restaurant called Pacino’s in Covina.
He was an only child, and both his mother and his grandparents, were so highly protective of him that he was scarcely allowed to leave the house until the age of seven. Money was very tight when Al was growing up, but as an occasional treat, his mother would take him to the cinema, and he would act out the storylines for his grandmother when he got home.
Al was an extremely shy and introverted little boy, and used to weave stories of a fictional past for his class-mates, regaling them with tales of how he’d really been raised in Texas!
Acting didn’t figure highly among Al’s priorities when he was a schoolboy. In fact, it wasn’t until he was 14, when he went to see a performance of Chekhov’s “The Seagull” at the Elsmere Theatre in the South Bronx, that he was bitten by the acting bug. He was offered a place at the renowned High School of the Performing Arts, but flunked nearly all of his classes except English, and he dropped out of school at the age of seventeen.
Despite his failure to graduate from High School, his ambition to act grew stronger day by day. He worked ceaselessly at a string of low-grade jobs, including messenger boy, busboy, janitor and postal clerk, in order to finance his acting studies. He gained valuable experience by acting in basement plays in New York‘s theatrical underground, and then joined the Herbert Berghof Studio, where he worked with the legendary actor Charles Laughton. Then, when he was only 21-years-old, fate struck a cruel blow, and his mother passed away; Al was totally devastated by the loss…
In 1966, he enrolled for lessons at the Actor’s Institute under the world-famous coach Lee Strasberg, where he got to grips with the technique known as Method Acting. Strasberg later acted alongside his pupil, appearing as Hyman Roth in The Godfather, part II. But Al served a tough apprenticeship in acting on the various stages of New York. He worked at the Children’s Theatre, then made his off-Broadway debut in Hello Out There by William Saroyan, which was directed by Charles Laughton. At times he was both penniless and homeless - but by the end of the 1960s, he had won an Obie award for stage work in “The Indian Wants The Bronx”, and a Tony award for Best Supporting Actor in the Broadway play, “Does The Tiger Wear A Necktie?”.
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