Not many leading actors would come out to support their biggest movie flop over three decades, but Al Pacino has always been special.
Pacino signed off a 34-film retrospective of his work at New York City’s Quad Cinema by making an appearance at a special screening of his 1985 historical drama, “Revolution.”
Made for $28 million, considered a sizable budget in the 1980s, “Revolution” is set against the backdrop of the Revolutionary War and grossed barely over $350,000, according to Box Office Mojo.
But Pacino, 77, remains proud of the film and, having just finished shooting Martin Scorsese’s upcoming Netflix drama “The Irishman,” took part in a discussion with “Revolution” director Hugh Hudson. The pair collaborated on a 2009 restoration of the movie that changed the ending and restored a voiceover that was originally cut from the film at the demands of studio Warner Bros.
As with Michael Corleone in “The Godfather,” in “Revolution” Pacino’s character Tom Dobb undergoes a transformation. After his son is enrolled in the Continental Army, Dobb ends up a committed fighter against British forces.
But while “The Godfather” landed Pacino the first of eight acting Oscar nominations, “Revolution” — which was rush-released to be in contention for the 1986 Academy Awards — sank without trace, its only award recognition coming in the form of four Golden Raspberry Award (“Razzie” mock awards) nominations.
The New York-set Revolutionary War movie, which also features Donald Sutherland and Nastassja Kinski, drew fire for being filmed in England. Critics were also notoriously critical of Pacino’s New York accent.
“I got really slaughtered for the accent but you do the research,” Pacino said. “I wanted to get as close as I could to how New Yorkers spoke 200 years ago… I remember thinking, ‘I really worked on it.’ They didn’t say that about ‘Scarface’ when I did a Cuban accent!”
He added: “When I see the film I’m not critical of my accent. I’m critical of other things I do in the movie, of course, but at the same time the movie is really special.”
Pacino pushed himself on the set of “Revolution,” he said. “He got me to do things nobody could ever get me to do,” he said of director Hudson (“Chariots of Fire”). “I was on virgin turf, not even animals went near it. I had to go through things like swamps. I thought many times I was going to die and you’ll see it in the film.”
The actor was also sick throughout the first half of the shoot. “I always have pneumonia when I make a film,” Pacino said, “and that’s when I started. I just did two films and I stopped working because I was sick — and they still hire me! It’s crazy!”
“Revolution” was a personal movie for Pacino, who grew up in the South Bronx. “We used to go down to where the Dutch settled in South Bronx and where they used to have empty houses by the river.” He took its commercial and critical failure personally. ”Nobody saw this film,” he said, “but we love it and we hung in for the next 20 years and changed this movie a little.”
MarketWatch asked Pacino how much the failure of “Revolution” accounted for him taking four years away from acting during the second half of the 1980s.
“I think it was partially to do with this film because I didn’t want to do this anymore, frankly,” he said. “I got tired of it because I did ‘Scarface’ which was ridiculed and killed. In a couple of weeks ‘Scarface’ is going to have its 35th anniversary [at the Tribeca Film Festival.] It’s as big a film as it was when it first came out.”
“My point is that hit me and before that I did another movie and I was thinking, ‘What is this? What did I do?’ So I thought, ‘I’m not going to do this anymore.’”
“And I stopped and I don’t know that I would have gone back except I got broke. That was a big reason to continue with ‘Sea of Love’ anyway. I got back but I always knew I could go back. It’s one thing to say you stopped. I didn’t retire or anything like that. I just did little plays and made my own movies.”
Pacino continues to make movies. In addition to the Scorsese project, his films in the last 12 months have ranged from a Somali piracy movie to playing the late college football coach Joe Paterno in a new HBO biopic.
“Revolution” still proves a hard sell though. Even at the Quad Cinema, there were several walkouts from audience members who evidently didn’t appreciate its sparse dialogue and poetic sensibility. But that won’t stop Pacino taking any chance he can get to rehabilitate “Revolution.”
“He was an insular man, not prone to talking much,” he said of Tom Dobb. “He was a wonderful character to play.”