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3.9 out of 5 stars
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3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 22 August 2006
Having avoided any previous book on Pacino - I was intrigued that this was the first one to have his full authorization. Notoriously press shy and as much an enigma as many of the varied characters he has immortalised on screen - this book is something of a gem. The writer - a long time friend and collaborator of Al - is candid and interested in the introduction which serves as a simple but definitive biography of the man's life and more deeply his career. After that the bulk of the book becomes more an 'in conversation with...' style as nearly 30 years of recorded interviews between the writer and subject are edited as themed conversations. For many this may not appeal, but as someone who likes the style it makes an incredibly easy and enjoyable read - very often showcasing a verbal wit and sardonic side to Pacino that escapes even his wittiest screen personas. As an avid admirer of Pacino the actor from stage to screen, I may be biased, but this 'authorized' biography offers a simple, interested, challenged and detailed look at the man behind Corleone. Recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 7 April 2016
First let me address something obvious - this book, Al Pacino: The Authorised Biography - is not a biography of Al Pacino; the author states this in the introduction: "This is not a biography of the man, or a memoir of my time spent with him." What this book is, is a collection of extended interviews with Pacino, conducted from 1979 through to 2005, by the journalist and personal friend of Pacino's, Lawrence Grobel.

Yes, the wide-ranging interviews do cover Pacino's childhood growing up poor in the Bronx and his relationship with his parents and in the introduction, the author does give us a brief overview of Pacino's amazing career but the real focus on this book is Pacino's relationship with the craft of acting itself and particularly, with his love of William Shakespeare and the theatre in general. As such, this book will not shine an awful lot of light on the many amazing films that most of us know so intimately.

There are many pages in this book on Pacino's personal projects, Chinese Coffee and The Local Stigmatic, two films he personally financed and were only released many years - decades even - after they were made. On one level, this is absolutely understandable: these films were Pacino's private passion for many years and he only ever screened them privately but conversely, most readers of this book will want his insight in to films such as The Godfather trilogy or Dog Day Afternoon. Pacino does discuss these films with Grobel (mostly The Godfather trilogy and in particular, what he sees as the flaws in The Godfather Part III) but certainly the balance seems out of kilter. Indeed, some of Pacino's roles get passed over in just a few sentences: Michael Mann's Heat (though Pacino does discuss his relationship with the actor he’s most often compared to, Robert De Niro) and The Insider, Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday and others like Donnie Brasco, Carlito's Way (though Brian De Palma’s Scarface, written by Oliver Stone, is given some deserved attention), Glengarry Glen Ross are given the most cursory discussion, even though these are some of Pacino's best work from the 1990s and 2000s.

It is to author Lawrence Grobel's credit that he has gotten Pacino to open up and to talk so forthrightly about how he feels and you can see why he's also written a book called The Art of the Interview: Lessons from a Master of the Craft. Pacino comes across as his usual engaging, passionate self but he also seems relaxed and at ease with his interlocutor - Pacino discusses which roles he would like to have played (Lenny Bruce in the 1974 biopic Lenny, portrayed by Dustin Hoffman), the ones he thinks were overrated (Randle McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, as acted by Jack Nicholson) and the ones he wishes he hadn't turned down (Die Hard(!)).

When Pacino is asked why he acts and do poor reviews discourage him, he recounts this anecdote: “You know the [trapeze artists] Flying Wallendas? The accident they had? He was up there and they said, “How can you go up again after that tragedy?” And he said, “Life’s on the wire. The rest is just waiting.” That’s where life is for me. That’s where it happens. And it does.”

Yet, despite these opinions that Grobel elicits, I still came away from this book thinking that Pacino was holding back, that he wasn't as forthcoming as he might have been: for all of Pacino's warm personality that shines through, his engaging manner, his seemingly open conversations and his verbosity of speech, I did feel that he was being rather elliptical, though perhaps not consciously evasive.

If you want the opportunity to effectively listen to one of the greatest actors of his generation talk about his chosen trade, then Lawrence Grobel’s book, Al Pacino: The Authorised Biography certainly delivers (despite its misleading subtitle). It is a rare opportunity to eavesdrop on a years’ long conversation betwixt two old friends, with interviewer and interviewee talking candidly, sometimes joking, sometimes in earnest. British director Christopher Nolan, who worked with Pacino on the film Insomnia (a remake and frankly a rather generic thriller, certainly not amongst Nolan’s or Pacino’s best films, yet given undue prominence in this book), aptly said of Pacino, "...you're a better actor than most people think, and that most people think you're the best."
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on 28 August 2006
Having followed Al Pacino's career so far, I was intrigued by the fact that he had given his authorisation to this book. I have read many books on Al Pacino, he is after all a very talented artistical styled actor, but not many went into real depth on the man, on his achievements, success's, failures. Until I read this book that is.

For the most part he bulk of the book becomes more conversational including many years of recorded interviews between the writer and Al. This may not be appealing to many. Usually I don't enjoy parts like these either but as an avid Al Pacino enthusiast, I saw through this and became quite interested in what he had to say. None the less, this biography is very enjoyable, simple, that will have you reading for hours. Who wouldn't want to learn about this man, after all, he paved the way for some of the great actors you see today. Highly Reccommended
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on 19 August 2008
I just finished reading this book, and I loved it! I'm so glad that Al Pacino allowed this book to go ahead. It was a revelation to me to find out how thoughtful, intuitive and smart this really fabulous actor is. Because the book is made up mostly of his words, you get a real sense of his personality. And how wonderful to read what HE actually thought of Michael Corleone, Tony Montana, Frank Serpico. If you want an insight into one of the major influences on film in the last 30 years, read this book.
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on 2 July 2013
Extended interviews with the great man himself over a 40 year period. Incisive, entertaining, thought-provoking, eloquent, subtle, stylish, challenging, sound
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on 8 August 2015
Very much a hagiography, somewhat dated now. The close relationship between author and subject is reflected in a gently proceeding, often repetitive sequence of unsearching questions and answers. It contains valuable observation and advice to intending actors. It is okay, but I am a fan of AP. Hardly a page turner.
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on 18 May 2013
I have read many biographies over the years inc. sports personalities, Film and TV personalities etc. This is by far the worst one I have read. Not so much a biography, but a TV interview on paper. It says a lot, but tells you absolutely nothing. A waste of money in my book (no pun intended).
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on 22 April 2016
Amazing book! Hours of enjoyment and what a pleasure seeing into Pacino's life on such a personal level. I hope one day I'll have the honour of meeting him. God bless you Lawrence Grobel and Pocket Books for this autobiography.
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on 8 February 2009
this book is more of a guarded interview than a story al pacino seems a very very private person
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on 7 January 2010
The first 20 pages told you everything you could want to know. The remainder of the interview was 'one to one' question and answer. It was like the interviewer had a list of questions, and not that much to do with Pacino himself but more like he was remembering different occasions. I never finished the book lost interest. Even though as a actor he's right near the top for me. The book was good value for money. The content rubbish !!!
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