TV Week (Aus), January 3, 1998
"Keanu worshipped Al"
There were rumors of Pacino getting angry with Reeves for flaffing his lines. But The Devil's Advocate director has a different story...
by Jenny Cooney
AL PACINO has had some tough acting challenges over the years. But playing the devil scared the hell out of him.
"It was a struggle to do the part." he says of his latest role in The Devil's Advocate, opposite Keanu Reeves.
"I turned it down several times. But there was the hope, from director Taylor Hackford, that we would give it an irony and satire that would make it fun too."
Al has been nominated for an Academy Award eight times, and received the Best Actor Oscar for his role in Scent Of A Woman, with Chris O'Donnell. He also starred in such classics as The Godfather, Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico and Scarface and his most recent Mob drama, Donnie Brasco, opposite Johnny Depp.
In The Devil's Advocate, he pairs with another of the new generation of stars, Keanu Reeves. But he avoids choosing favorites among the new screen idols.
"It was great to see Chris O'Donnell every day because he was the most pleasant person to be around," he says, "These three guys all have a great sense of humor. Johnny Depp was so funny and made me laugh.
"Keanu is an intense actor. He works hard on his part and is devoted to it and I admired him for that."
The usually monosyllabic Keanu - who, according to the director, "worshipped Al" - was surprisingly wordy in his praise for his co-star.
"There's not enough I can say about his acting, He's the man," Keanu says.
But what of the rumors that Al lost his patience with Keanu for fluffing lines?
"There were moments where I would say, 'Wow, I'm letting you down. It's not happening'," he says.
"One scene was hard for me and that might have been a night my ears were ringing, but after a while I think we were good together."
In the film, Keanu plays Kevin Lomax, a Florida defence lawyer who has never lost a case, no matter how guilty the defendant. He and his wife, Mary Ann (Charlize Theron), are lured to New York, where a top law firm has offered Kevin a home and a huge salary.
The charismatic head of the firm, John Milton (Pacino), entices Kevin to try the dark side of life, leading him to the gates of hell.
Director Taylor Hackford says: "Al Pacino was the first actor I thought of for the role, because he brings his own ideas and a vision to make it blossom. And Keanu has a different, perhaps stronger presence in this film than the one we're used to seeing from him."
But, Al still had one problem. How do you research the devil?
"That was the dilemma," he says. "I was brought up Catholic and the devil was something you avoided. As I got older, I saw it more as a metaphor for what's going on in our lives today.
"This devil has a philosophy of pure evil, but I tried to find stuff that was funny, too
"The idea of being able to go from sincere to flamboyant to coquettish to enraged was a lot of fun."
Al did his homework, watching the 1941 film Devil And Webster, Jack Nicholson's Daryl Van Horne in The Witches Of Eastwick and Robert De Niro's sinister Louis Cyphre in Angel Heart.
"I also read things about the devil," he adds. "I'd never read Milton's Paradise Lost (who inspired his character's name), and I'm glad I finally did. As with Dante's Inferno, it helped me set a tone and find my own devil."
Although he is tight-lipped about his personal life - including the end of his longtime relationship with Aussie Lyndall Hobbs for a romance with Beverly D'Angelo - Al says he still believes love triumphs over evil.
"I like what Shakespeare says about love," says Al, who directed, produced and starred in the documentary, Looking For Richard, about Shakespeare's Richard III.
Not surprisingly, Keanu - who played Shakespeare in a production of Hamlet several years ago - says he couldn't compete with Al when it came to quoting Will.
"We spoke about Hamlet, but I couldn't recall the lines the way he can," Keanu says. I got him a book about Shakespeare for Christmas, which I felt dumb about later because that's probably all he gets - 'Oh, more Shakespeare, thanks a lot!'"