Al Pacino, Tony Montana himself, described the allegorical 1980s gangster movie Scarface best when he said, “It was a lot of movie. You go to a movie, you get a lot of movie with Scarface." So what is Scarface about, for the six of you who haven't seen it? It’s the story of a Cuban immigrant who shoots and screams his way up to the top of the Miami drug game, only to crash and burn. As with many an epic movie, there are a plethora of larger than life behind the scenes Scarface stories.
Scarface quotes fill the front of t-shirts and posters in dorm rooms, and basically every good rapper has spit a line or two about the film. Yet, the movie was absolutely destroyed by critics and was only a modest box office success when it was released in 1983. However, time has been good to Scarface; the film has taken on a cult status reserved only for a rarified few.
You would think that Al Pacino would favor his other iconic gangster character, Don Michael Corleone from The Godfather, over Tony Montana. You, of course, would be wrong. You big silly idiot, you. Scarface is actually the actor’s favorite movie. And he has a pretty deep bench to choose from.
So why does Pacino have such a fondness for this over-the-top gangster movie? Once you read these pieces of Scarface trivia and facts, the answer should become obvious.
Due to the film's language, violence, and insane drug use, the MPAA initially gave Scarface an "X" rating. Because an X rating (normally associated with pornography) would have severely crippled ticket sales, director Brian De Palma re-edited the movie four times to try and change the board's decision. However, even after the edits, the MPAA still felt that the film was too violent.
De Palma eventually gave up and refused to cut the movie any further. He even told Universal that they would have to fire him and find someone else to hack away at his film. The studio decided to appeal the MPAA's verdict. Eventually, the decision was overturned and Scarface received an R rating.
Michelle Pfeiffer only had one big screen credit, starring in the notorious box office flop Grease 2, before auditioning for the role of Tony's drug-addicted trophy wife Elvira Hancock. Unfortunately for the relatively unknown actress, most of Hollywood was also up for the coveted role. Fortunately for Pfeiffer, producer Martin Bregman liked the blonde bombshell for the part.
Pacino, on the other hand, wanted to pass on Pfeiffer. "We continued auditions but I knew that it was going to be Michelle. And so did Brian," said Bregman. "But it took a little time to convince Al. He was concerned that she was not experienced enough and that she didn't look right. She didn't fit the image of Elvira that he had in his mind. But he was dead wrong. To put a long-standing rumor to rest: It wasn't Brian, it was Al who had the resistance to Michelle."
Pacino told Martin Bregman that he wanted Glenn Close for Elvira. Bregman, however, ultimately made the call to cast Pfeiffer. Her portrayal of Elvira launched the actress's career, and she became one of the most marketable stars of the '80s.
Al Pacino and co-star Steven Bauer, who played Manny Ribera, rehearsed for the gangster movie for several weeks before filming began. During one session, Pacino seriously hurt his hand with a machine gun. The injury would keep him out of the rehearsal room for two weeks.
He explained how he received his injury: "I got shot! [...] I shot off 30 rounds. I get hit with the squibs. I start leaping up in the air, flying up in the air and I land and I go to grab the gun and guess what? I grabbed the barrel...on the gun that just shot off 30 rounds. My hand stuck to that sucker. That was it. I couldn't get my hand off of it. I couldn't work for two weeks." Now that's some commitment.
Al Pacino could have looked to all the obvious choices for inspiration for his ruthless gangster character. There's his co-star Marlon Brando from The Godfather, for one. He could have turned to Paul Muni from the original Scarface, or even Edward G. Robinson from Little Ceasar.
Instead, Pacino looked to Meryl Streep's work in one of the saddest movies in film history. "I was very inspired by Meryl Streep's work in Sophie's Choice. I thought that her way of involving herself in playing someone who is from another country and another world was particularly fine and committed and...courageous."