We Swear, Al Pacino Used to Be Very Picky

Some of the most memorable movies ever once didn't meet his standards

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Is there anything Al Pacino won't do for a paycheck these days? He just signed on for a supporting role in the creepy, officially-sanctioned John Gotti biopic with John Travolta and Lindsay Lohan, but he's not above taking his show on the road. On June 2nd and 3rd, for example, he's headlining "An Evening With Al Pacino" at the Fallsview Casino and Resort in upstate New York. For $90, you too can participate in a "candid interview and Q&A session...that will highlight [Pacino's] extraordinary career and life."

We won't be attending, but we encourage those who do to ask him if this recent torrid pace might be a way of making up for lost time. It's hard to fathom now, but Pacino was once one of Hollywood's pickiest actors. After Scarface, he waited six years before returning to the screen in Sea of Love. He also turned down roles in some of the most iconic movies of the past 35 years. Among the notable passes:

Lenny (1974)

Pacino told Larry King last year Lenny Bruce is the only role he regrets turning down. "I don't want to embarrass anybody," he says, presumably in reference to Dustin Hoffman, who ended up playing the comedian (Hoffman also got Kramer vs. Kramer when Pacino passed), but it's clear he thinks he could have done a better job.

Star Wars (1977)

Al Pacino as Han Solo? It almost happened. Harrison Ford only got the roll after Pacino, Burt Reynolds, Christopher Walken, Nick Nolte, and James Caan passed.

Apocalypse Now (1979)

Considering the film's disastrous shoot, this might have been a good decision. Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola wanted him to play Martin Sheen's role. Pacino turned the offer down with the legendary reply, "I know what this is going to be like. You're going to be up there in a helicopter telling me what to do, and I'm gonna be down there in a swamp for five months." The shoot actually lasted 16 months.

Goodfellas (1990)

Pacino was offered the role of the mobster in two of 1990's biggest releases, Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas and Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy. He chose to play Big Boy Caprice for Beatty, and got an Best Supporting Actor nomination for his trouble. Robert De Niro played Jimmy Conway for Scorsese and wasn't nominated for anything. But how often do you hear people talk about Dick Tracy?

Pretty Woman (1990)

Would the movie have worked with Pacino wooing Julia Roberts? Probably. But Pacino didn't think there was a place for him in one of the most successful screen romances ever. He explained his decision to drop out to Larry King: "Sometimes it's just not the right role for you and you don't feel you belong in that part."

The Usual Suspects (1995)

Pacino faced the same dilemma he had in 1990 when he had offers to play cops in Heat and The Usual Suspects. He took Heat, leaving one of the great reveals in film history to Chazz Palminteri.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.