Al Pacino with Brian Timoney
Brian Timoney Meets Al Pacino

I meet Al Pacino recently and he said something very interesting indeed… that I don’t believe he has never shared in public before.

I asked him ‘Al, when you were developing your instrument,’ (this is what Method actors call their mind and body) ‘did you have any blocks you had to overcome?’

He said, ‘Yes, good question’ in that Pacino way of his.

‘When I was learning to act, I did things very small and quiet. I was quite shy. Then one day I was doing an exercise in class (the private moment exercise), which requires you to recreate a room from your own home and to live in it while doing a scene or monologue. I brought some bedding in, music and some books, and I started to PRETEND to be in the room and PRETEND to be listening to music, etc. I wasn’t very good. Then I started to look at my year book which had my picture in it. I didn’t like me very much back then and I felt a rage build in me, and I was just about to rip the book up when a the teacher stopped me.  They didn’t want the year book damaged.

It was the first time in my acting that something personal to me really affected me and came through me, into my work. I wasn’t pretending anymore; I was involved’.

In Method Acting, the actor uses his/her personal experiences to fuel their performance.

He also discussed what he thought about emotional memory work.

‘Yes, isn’t it wonderful? Isn’t it amazing how you can think of something from your own life and it generates the right emotion for the role?’

It is indeed, Al.

Al made it very clear what he thought an actor’s job was, in one simple statement:

‘We actors are emotional athletes.’

He is absolutely right.

Acting is a craft that must be worked on as if you were an athlete. Al understood this and surrounded himself with great teachers all through his career. The learning process for an actor never stops. Why? Because your instrument is organic and constantly changes; plus, you have to keep honing the skills you need to play at a top level.

One of the skills that Al developed is to easily use emotional memory. He can turn it on and turn it off like flicking a switch. This is something that is practised so that when the words ‘ACTION’ are called, he is ready and willing to go to places most can’t or won’t go.