The timing was perfect for the American Museum of the Moving Image’s career tribute to Al Pacino, a black-tie fundraiser that brought out celebrities from both coasts Saturday to Manhattan’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
The star’s two Oscar nominations were on most people’s minds as colleagues and friends expressed admiration for his work in films and onstage over the past 30 years.
By far the most enthusiastic response of the evening of film clips spanning his 24-year movie career came after the selection from “Scent of a Woman.” Pacino’s memorable tango with Gabrielle Anwar was a highlight of a gallery of roles ranging from Michael Corleone in all three “Godfather” epics to Tony Montana in Brian De Palma’s “Scarface” remake.
As evening co-chair Linda Janklow said to open the event, AMMI was there “to honor a hometown boy,” with many Gotham industryites stepping to the podium.
His “Glengarry Glen Ross” co-star Alec Baldwin saluted “the intensity and power of Al Pacino, which combine with the sympathy and vulnerability he brings to his characterizations.”
Sidney Lumet applauded the honoree as both “a star and a great actor. I’ve never known him to take a safe choice,” recalling Pacino’s courage in tackling the role of the gay bank robber in “Dog Day Afternoon”.
Ron Silver kidded about Pacino getting all his roles, ranging from “The Godfather” to “Glengarry,” but turned serious to say, “Al has a deep understanding of the human condition. He’s gonna make that human being (he portrays) understandable.”
Rarest clip of the night was a scene from “The Local Stigmatic,” a film adaptation of a Heathcote Williams play that Pacino has worked on since 1985.
Pic’s director David Wheeler also announced that a docu film on Pacino as “Richard III” (which Wheeler directed on stage in 1972 and 1979) is currently being edited under Pacino’s supervision.
Pacino also supervised the re-editing of Hugh Hudson’s ill-fated “Revolution, ” which will preem March 13 at AMMI in Queens as part of a two-week retrospective of the actor’s films.
Pacino accepted the evening’s kudos with a fond tribute to his late mentor at the Actors Studio, Lee Strasberg, and his stage director Charles Laughton, as well as his mother, “who gave me the encouragement early on to become an actor.”
AMMI director Rochelle Slovin announced that the museum is embarking on a new project, planning to open an exhibition in 1995 on technology and the skills needed to produce moving images as hands-on exposure to movie and TV technology for museumgoers.