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


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

Initial reaction to the film seemed to confirm the industry’s nervousness about the new level of graphic extremes open to crime-themed entertainment. “Believe me, you didn’t want to be there for the premiere of scarface“recalls De Palma in Brian De Palma Split Screen: A Life in the Movies by Douglas Keesey. “People were outraged – you saw people running down the aisle. I remember opening night. I thought they were going to skin me alive.

The opinion was mirrored by critics. “Critics like Roger Ebert of Chicago and the eccentric Vincent Canby of The New York Times were very positive,” Stone writes in chase the light“but most were generally negative and sometimes cruel.”

In the new yorker, Pauline Kael titled her review “A Palma film for people who don’t like Palma films”. Renowned Rex Reed scarface an “unnecessary bloodbath” in The New York Post. Andrew Sarris declared the film “camp for the coke crowd”. But since Sarris wrote for The voice of the village, this could also be considered a positive evaluation. Indeed, that matched Stone’s reaction.

“I saw the movie for the first time to a packed house on Broadway with a paying, mostly Latino and black audience, which gave the movie credibility on the street, and there I knew it was a better movie than the movie crowd thought – and it would last,” Stone recalled in chase the light. “I knew it while riding the subways of New York. I knew it by hearing people talking in the street. I knew that from people screaming at the movie, repeating lines and laughing on playgrounds and in parks. These people knew it in their guts. The War on Drugs was bullshit from start to finish, a fraud that sent them to jail in droves.

Most of the bile aimed at scarface was specifically aimed at “that violent writer”, as Stone calls himself in chase the light. But he wasn’t wrong. The film presented an urban fantasy to the growing generation when strict drug convictions threatened what should have been an easy take-home pay while making it more violent. Sean Combs says he watched the film 63 times “for lessons”, in Scarface: the origins of a hip-hop classic.


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