By GregMo Roberts
Each month, killerreviews.com
will be focusing on a specific film title of the past and providing
detailed information regarding all aspects of the release from pre-production
and casting right through to what the actors and filmmakers have done
since the film’s release.
This month, our film choice for retrospective is : Scarface.
“Say hallo to my little friend”
That’s just one of the countless memorable quotes from 1983’s
gangster film, Scarface. The film starred Al Pacino in the role of Tony
Montana, a Cuban immigrant living in Miami, Florida who turns to a life
of crime in hopes of fulfilling the American Dream. Tony gets offered
an opportunity to run some drugs for a local drug dealer – played
effectively by a non-menacing Robert Loggia. When the deal goes bad
(chainsaw bad) and persons on both sides of the drop are killed, Montana
stands out when he gets away with both the money and the yeyo (cocaine).
This then puts him on a fast track that will lead to murder, drug deals,
more murder, a bad marriage and a gun fight at the conclusion of the
movie that stands up even now, twenty five years later.
Brian De Palma was coming off directing the 1981 John Travolta thriller,
Blow Out when he opted to helm a film abandoned by Sidney Lumet. That
meant bowing out of Flashdance which was then handed to director Adrian
Lyne. The screenplay for Scarface was written by one Oliver Stone. Stone,
who has admitted to a cocaine problem during this period, had written
Midnight Express (which won him an Oscar) and Conan the Barbarian when
he polished off Scarface, an update of the Paul Muni gangster film of
De Palma originally wanted Robert De Niro to play the Tony Montana,
but De Niro turned down the role, opening the door to Pacino. Pacino
was in need of a hit. After all the fame and fortune that followed him
through the Godfather I and II movies, he appeared in two box office
flops in 1980’s Cruising and 1982’s Arthur! Arthur! so he
needed something to jump start his stalling yet promising career.
With his lead actor now signed, De Palma faced shooting roadblocks
when the city of Miami waned on having the film shot on their city streets.
City officials believed that the subject matter of the film would not
show the city in a light that would attract tourism and De Palma had
to fight hard to get shooting permits throughout the city. Eventually,
he moved production to California and had Los Angeles sub for the city
Casting became another De Palma nightmare. Countless actors and actresses
were considered or auditioned for various supporting roles. John Travolta
was considered for the role of Manny, Tony’s close friend and
confidant. The role instead went to Steven Bauer who had small walk
on roles on various television shows, but had yet to break into the
motion picture business.
Casting the role of Elvira Hancock was even tougher. Brooke Shields
was offered the role, but a domineering mother/agent forced her to turn
in down. Some of the credible names that auditioned for the role were
Sharon Stone, Carrie Fisher, Geena Davis and Kristy McNicol. Producer
Martin Bergman admitted that Glenn Close was the original choice, but
she turned down the role on grounds that it was too shallow of a character.
Many other actresses turned down the role including Jodie Foster, Melanie
Griffith, Kim Basinger and Kathleen Turner. The role of Elvira Hancock/Montana
was ultimately given to Michelle Pheiffer whom was a relative unknown
as her starring role in Grease 2 had yet to be released at the time
of Scarface casting.
Another unknown by the name of Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio was cast
as Gina Montana, Tony’s sister and Manny’s love interest.
Mastrantonio had yet to act on television or in film prior to her casting,
but De Palma thought she fit perfectly into the role of the woman who
would eventually bring Tony into a mental state that would result in
Filming began in 1982 and no one in the young cast knew that what they
were creating would be a gangster film that would rank as one of the
best of the genre.
But getting to the big screen wasn’t going to be easy. De Palma
was faced with an ‘X-Rating’ when he originally submitted
the print to the MPAA. They cut the film three separate times and each
submission to the board kept garnishing the film the unmarketable X-Rating.
Eventually, De Palma met with the MPAA and brought cops and narcotic
officers along with him to speak on the films realism and its importance
in portraying the characters and the drug world as not without consequence.
From the chainsawed associate of Tony’s to the then unprecedented
rate of 1.32 ‘fucks’ per minute on average, Scarface had
became a classic. But in 1983, it was hardly considered anything but
average. With a production budget of $25 million, it opened in December
raking in only $4.5 million in domestic receipts. Scarface went on to
make a total of $45 million dollars, but it thrived on VHS and DVD where
it has since made double its theatrical haul.
Thanks to the film being studied in Universities around the world and
the DVD commentaries, features and countless books written on the title,
we have learned some interesting and downright fascinating tidbits about
the film. How Steven Spielberg directed a scene in the film. How the
character was actually named after Joe Montana, the San Francisco 49’er
quarterback who was one of Oliver Stone’s favorites. And how the
film is now the favorite of many famous rappers include Sean P. Diddy
Today, Scarface stands on a pedestal in the eyes of many film historians.
Violent and vulgar, Scarface has given us pop culture references and
lines that can be recalled by memory by anyone over the age of 30. “In
this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the
money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get
the women.”, and “I kill a communist for fun, but for a
green card, I gonna carve him up real nice”.
Many of those attached with the production went on to varying degrees
of successes and failures. Pacino followed up his Tony Montana role
with the lead in Revolution. That film was panned by critics so harshly
that Pacino quit acting for four years before reappearing again in 1989’s
Sea of Love.
Steven Bauer received a Golden Globe nomination for his role as MannyRibera
and was married to Melanie Griffith. Steven has over 111 titles to his
acting credit, but nothing came close to being as memorable as his supporting
role in Scarface.
Mastrantonio used Scarface to launch her career and next starred alongside
Tom Cruise and Paul Newman in The Color of Money. And Michelle Pfeiffer
eventually landed roles in The Witches of Eastwick and Tequilla Sunrise.
Brian De Palma went on direct Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible and
Kevin Costner in The Untouchables. But it was his direction of Scarface
that stands alongside Carrie as his masterpieces.
The World is Yours
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