Why Filmmakers Thought Al Pacino’s Scarface Should Never Be Made


“By the expectations of the industry, [Scarface] was more of a flop than a success,” Stone concludes in his guide, Chasing the Light: Writing, Directing, and Surviving Platoon, Midnight Express, Scarface, Salvador, and The Movie Game.

Initial response to the movie appeared to verify the business’s skittishness to the brand new stage of graphic extremes being opened to criminal-themed leisure. “Believe me, you didn’t want to be around for the preview of Scarface,” De Palma remembered in Brian De Palma’s Split-Screen: A Life in Film by Douglas Keesey. “People were outraged—you saw people running up the aisle. I remember the opening night party. I thought they were going to skin me alive.”

The opinion was mirrored by the critics. “Reviewers like Roger Ebert out of Chicago, and the quirky Vincent Canby of The New York Times were very positive,” Stone writes in Chasing the Light, “but most were generally negative and sometimes cruel.”

In The New Yorker, Pauline Kael titled her evaluate “A De Palma Movie for People Who Don’t Like De Palma Movies.” Rex Reed deemed Scarface a “pointless bloodbath” in The New York Post. Andrew Sarris declared the movie “camp for the coke crowd.” But since Sarris wrote for The Village Voice, that may be taken as a optimistic evaluation. Indeed, it aligned with Stone’s response.

“I saw the film for the first time in a packed theater on Broadway with a paying audience, mostly Latino and Black, which gave the film street cred, and right there I knew it was a better movie than the film crowd thought—and that it would last,” Stone remembers in Chasing the Light. “I knew it from riding the New York subways. I knew it from hearing people talk on the street. I knew it from the people who shouted back at the film, who’d repeat the lines and laugh on the playgrounds and in the parks. These people knew it in their gut. The War on Drugs was bullshit from beginning to end, a fraud sending them to prison in massive numbers.”

Most of the bile geared toward Scarface was directed particularly at “that violent writer,” as Stone calls himself in Chasing the Light. But he wasn’t improper. The movie introduced an city fantasy to the technology rising up when strict drug sentencing threatened what ought to have been straightforward take-home pay whereas additionally making it extra violent. Sean Combs says he watched the movie 63 instances “for the lessons,” in Scarface: Origins of a Hip Hop Classic.


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