Al Pacino’s Public Service Announcement

December 8, 2010 at 1:14 pm 3 comments

Cover of "Dog Day Afternoon"

Cover of Dog Day Afternoon

CNN has posted a video of Al Pacino talking with Larry King. King asks Pacino about his alcoholism, and Pacino admits that he’s not sober. Pacino is definitely sober in the interview, or at least he’s not a slurring lunatic. His hair is curled and flipped and bouffanted as if he were a stately actress of his age, rather than an actor.

He talks about almost turning down Dog Day Afternoon. He says that his mentor Charlie Long talked him into an abstinence from alcohol. His agent or manager also worked on him until he agreed to quit drinking. He quit drinking for two days, read the movie script and managed to get back the part that he had turned down.

King asks him when he quit drinking, and he hems and haws and doesn’t answer the question. He says it’s a gradual thing and a gradation, and that quitting drinking is “unscrambling the brains.” Well, I think I can relate to that.

Pacino says that the reason that alcoholism is currently such a vilified disease is solely due to drunk driving. He quotes Laurence Olivier and generally makes being an alcoholic seem like a cool thing or like it’s an essential thing for a career in the arts.

I just have to say that I have very little respect for Al Pacino. For one thing, alcohol abuse affects the health and finances and relationships and family dynamics of millions of people who aren’t millionaire actors. To give them the impression that as long as they don’t drink and drive, it’s not so bad is pretty irresponsible. The message I took from his interview is that sobriety is not something that’s required and that alcoholism is a time honored tradition that makes you a hep cat. Yep, I used the phrase hep cat. Al Pacino in an old lady bouffant calls the phrase to mind.

Well, sobriety’s not required if you can drink sensibly. If you can drink sensibly, then you probably aren’t an alcoholic. You can stop with one or two. But can you?


Entry filed under: Alcoholism/Substance Abuse, Art, Celebrity, Television. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. popsdumonde  |  December 8, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    I totally agree with you. Alcoholism definitely affects more than ones driving skills. Perhaps it won’t be long and we’ll hear the truth about the effects and the destruction in his life.

  • 2. funandfiber  |  December 9, 2010 at 1:06 am

    aaarrrgghhh! Would it be too much if I write the entire comment in capital letters? As someone who is a recovering alcoholic, previously married to an alcoholic and the off spring of several generations of lushes, can I just say “AAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!” While drinking and driving can lead to the most horrendous and dramatic conclusions of an alcoholics career, what about the small daily deaths of trust, expectations and that odd little word, “normal”? My ex husband never had a license or a car, yet he cut such a swath of destruction through peoples lives that he was compared with the devil on more than one occasion. Alcohol lowers your inhibitions, creating scenarios of infidelity and fighting that make marriage hell. There is a saying in some circles that alcoholics don’t have relationships, they take hostages. Ask any child of an alcoholic how bad it can be. Maybe Al isn’t that big of a jerk when he drinks, but maybe he is just rationalizing. Denial, not just a river anymore.

  • 3. Em (@emily040282)  |  October 24, 2013 at 5:34 am

    I realize your post is almost three years old now, but I still feel the need to say something here. I happened upon your blog when I was searching for the transcript for the interview you are referencing and I think your post is pretty one sided and ignores a lot of other things that were said during the interview.

    I have no idea what your views are surrounding addiction, but I am guessing you, like many people (addicts or not), subscribe to the 12 step ideas of addiction and how to overcome it. Long story short, it was why I was searching for the transcript to begin with. AA works for some and for others, it doesn’t. I won’t go into more details, but given that I found your post the way I did, I thought I should say something, given that I stopped drinking in a non-traditional manner and I’m a big fan of Pacino’s, and because maybe someone else will happen on it the way I did. Anyway…

    Al Pacino has always been intensely private about his personal life. He has seldom answered any questions about his life straight on. This is a prime example. He dodged personal questions about many things during this interview in the same way. You took the “I’m not sober, I don’t want to be sober” out of context. The real quote is “I’m not sober, I don’t want to be sober, I just don’t drink”. Sober has more than one definition. For instance, “having or showing a very serious attitude or quality”. So, of course he wasn’t slurring words in the interview. He doesn’t drink.

    There are plenty of support groups for people who focus on cutting back on alcohol to the point of stopping or at least consuming less, but they are trumped by AA. Slowly cutting back, a gradation, isn’t unheard of. Check out HAMS (Harm Reduction for Alcohol) for a place to start on that theory.

    Lastly, he used DUI as an example of how alcoholism is thought of and viewed in modern times. He was born in 1940. Habitual drinking was far more socially acceptable then. He even said drinking and driving was “not permissible”…”But aside from that, people drink and — it’s a different world today because of the scrutiny and the attention being paid to it”. He quoted Lawrence Olivier to illustrate that point. “As they used to say to Lawrence Olivier — Sir Lawrence Olivier, what’s your favorite part of acting? He’d say the drink after the show”.

    By the way, it is Charlie Laughton, not Charlie Long. Although, the official CNN transcript had that wrong, too (they called him Charlie Lawton), so I guess I can’t fault you for that. As for the rest, don’t take quotes out of context. You may be doing someone who is searching for a different way to stop drinking a huge disservice.


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