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The World is Yours: The Making of Scarface

Posted September 6, 2011 01:10 AM by Robert Siegel


Note: We invite you to discuss this and other Silver Screen columns on the new Silver Screen forum Here

In 1983 Scarface was released starring Al Pacino. Despite mostly negative critical feedback, the film turned a profit at the boxoffice. But Universal (or the critics who cut down the film) had no idea that the film would become one of most popular gangster/drug films in screen history. The film was mainly criticized for its language and intense violence, and it was indeed that for the period in which it was released. Now for the first time the film is available on Blu-ray in high-definition, and in celebration of this, we take a look behind the scenes at the stars, production and release of this now-timeless film that has become even more popular today than when it was first released.



1932 Version

Scarface originated as a 1932 gangster movie that starred Paul Muni and George Raft. It was produced by Howard Hughes and directed by Howard Hawks and Richard Rosson, based on the novel Scarface written by Ben Hecht. The story of this Scarface was about rival gangs fighting to take control of a city and about how the police attempted to intercede. The film was loosely based on the story of Al Capone, whose nickname was Scarface. Shot completely in the Los Angeles area, the film would take three months to shoot. The movie was hampered with problems, one actor lost an eye on the set when accidentally shot, Raft had a head injury due to hitting a door frame during shooting of his death scene, and the budget kept creeping higher. Shooting completed in September of 1931 but was not released until a year later due to the censors demanding that there be less glorification of gangsters. Hughes took the New York censors to court. In 1994 the film was added to the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.



Posters for the 1932 version of Scarface


Brian De Palma, Director

"Like most directors I'm a voyeur at heart," said Brian De Palma. "I love involving the audience in the psychodrama of a situation." That situation, in De Palma's film Scarface is the rise to power of an underworld figure, fueled by fumes of cocaine. Al Pacino stars in the title role of the Universal Pictures release, written by Oscar-winner Oliver Stone (Midnight Express). Although it marked one of the few times he had worked from someone else's screenplay, De Palma felt that Scarface was a "great character story" which appealed to his fondness for both dazzling visuals and complex suspenseful action.

A Martin Bregman Production, the Brian De Palma Film follows the story of Scarface Tony Montana as he flees Castro's jails during the famous 1980 "Marielito" boat-lift, and settles in Miami to pursue "The American Dream." Montana's version of it, however, consists of riding the monkey on every drug addicts back as he clawed his way to the top of the city's murderously rich — and powerful — underworld. He does anything he has to do to make it, and anything he has to do to keep it. In the end, isolated in his Coral Gables estate, sick of his "U.S. Prime" wife turned junkie, and threatened with extinction by longtime rivals, Tony Montana knows he is once again a prisoner, this time in a jail of his own making. The taut tale is told against a background just behind the headlines in the early 80's, in a subculture just emerging as a recognized force in the U.S. For filmmaker De Palma, it was an irresistible opportunity.


Brian De Palma Scarface publicity still


Perhaps best known as the writer-director of such inventive chillers as Dressed To Kill and Carrie, De Palma began his career making amateur short films while still a physics major at Columbia University. Although his father was a successful orthopedic surgeon in Philadelphia and his older brother a physicist, De Palma finally gave up on a career in science and enrolled at Sarah Lawrence College to earn a master's degree in theater arts. After graduating, he made documentaries for the Treasury Department and the NAACP while putting together his first feature film. Titled The Wedding Party, it starred Jill Clayburgh and Robert De Niro, then relative unknowns. Trying his hand at satirical comedy, De Palma wrote and directed Greetings (which won a Silver Bear award at the 1969 Berlin Film Festival), and Hi Mom, both starring De Niro, then moved to Hollywood for Get to Know Your Rabbit, with Tommy Smothers. De Palma credits the influence of radical French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard for the quick-cutting, improvisatory tone which brought a "you-are-there" sense to these early efforts.

Then came Sister in which, according to De Palma, "the audience becomes this girl peering through a psychological hole" and Phantom of the Paradise, his rock horror comedy which parodies both "Phantom of the Opera." Both films have become cult favorites. With Obsession, a compelling portrait of dual intensity much praised for its suspenseful plot twist, De Palma tasted his first success with the mass audience. Then came Carrie and world acceptance as a writer-director. Based on Stephen King's novel, the story of a psychic high school senior introduced John Travolta, Nancy Allen, Amy Irving and William Katt to the screen, and won Oscar nominations for Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie.

After The Fury, his first big budget film starring Kirk Douglas, De Palma decided to return to comedy. He wrote Home Movies, a semi-autobiographical spoof about a college student who wants to become something more than "an extra in his own life," and made it a class project for his students at Sarah Lawrence College. When Douglas offered his services for a future percentage, the project became a lesson in making the storied Hollywood "deal." "I divided the class into producers and creators," De Palma said in an interview with Esquire Magazine. "Meanwhile, other kids concentrated on raising the $350,000 we needed. "Those are the ones who probably got the most valuable experience of all," he points out with a grin. "In the end, if you can't hustle, you're not going to make it in this business."



Louis A. Stroller, executive producer

Louis A. Stroller served as the executive producer of Scarface. It was the sixth time the two men had worked together. Their five previous alliances were The Seduction of Joe Tynan," starring Alan Alda; Simon, starring Alan Arkin; The Four Seasons, again starring Alan Alda; Venom, with Klaus Kinski; and Eddie Macon's Run, which featured Kirk Douglas and John Schneider. Before partnering with Bregman, Stroller proved his expertise in various production capacities on dozens of movies. Born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Far Rockaway, Stroller attended Nichols College in Dudley, Massachusetts, majoring in business administration. He entered the film business in 1963. "I began sweeping floors and running for coffee in local studios," recalled Stroller. "I advanced to doing TV commercials and then I served as Unit Manager on Mel Brooks' The Producers. As a first assistant director, Stroller worked in Charly, starring Cliff Robertson; Woody Allen's Take the Money and Run; Lovers and Other Strangers, with Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna; They Might Be Giants, with George C. Scott and Joanne Woodward; Man on a Swing, with Joel Grey and Robertson again; and 92 in the Shade with Margot Kidder. Stroller was the production manager on Mortadella," which starred Sophia Loren; Brian De Palma's Sisters; Sweet Revenge and The Eyes of Laura Mars," with Faye Dunaway.


Louis A. Stroller on the set


He was associate producer of Badlands and De Palma's Carrie, both of which starred Sissy Spacek, and Telefon," with Lee Remick. As soon as his chores with Eddie Macon's Run were completed, Stroller began* preliminary location scouting for Scarface. His travels took him to South Florida, New York, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, all of which were subsequently used for filming. Working closely with producer Bregman, he was responsible for assembling the top-notch production crew for the film and handling the daily logistical details a project of Scarface magnitude demanded. "It's an exciting cast and a terrific project," Stroller said during production. "There are some faces in the cast that you've seen on screen for years, as well as some brand new faces you've never seen, who are very special."



Martin Bregman, Producer

During his brief, explosive career as a drug dealer, Tony Montana (Al Pacino) is a very different mobster from those portrayed on film during the Prohibition era of bootleggers, speakeasies and Al Capone. "The new film," pointed out its producer, Martin Bregman, "is relentlessly contemporary. Today's criminal hierarchy is involved with cocaine, a business in which incredible sums of money can be made...and for which incredible risks are taken. "The potential exists to become very powerful — or very dead. In painting that picture we pull no punches." Directed by Brian De Palma (Dressed to Kill) from a screenplay by Academy Award winner Oliver Stone (Midnight Express), the project began three years ago when Bregman was watching late night television and the gangster movie Scarface was being shown. He immediately knew the next film he wanted to do — an updated version of the 1932 Howard Hawks classic.

From the outset, he envisioned Al Pacino in the role, although it was a kind of character Pacino had never played before. "That's what intrigued me," says Bregman. "I knew that Pacino would invest Tony Montana with a unique personality, and that through him we would capture a lifestyle the movies had not yet touched." Scarface marked a reunion for Pacino and producer Bregman, whose previous teaming gave the actor two of his strongest roles — "Serpico" and Dog Day Afternoon. (The films also shared seven Oscar nominations, two of which went to Pacino as Best Actor.) The men first met when Bregman, then a leading New York personal manager, caught Pacino's award-winning performance in the off-Broadway drama, The Indian Wants the Bronx. Later, the actor would tell Playboy Magazine: "It was a very important relationship. Without it, I'm not sure where my career would have gone. He was not only an insulator., between myself and the business...but was directly responsible for five films in which I appeared." (Scarecrow, The Godfather 1 and 2, "Serpico" and Dog Day Afternoon). Pacino credits Bregman for helping him select his first starring role — "Panic in Needle Park" — and encouraging him to do The Godfather 1 and 2. "'Serpico,'" Pacino added, "was completely Marty's idea." As his first motion picture production, it also marked a turning point in Bregman's own career.


Martin Bregman and Brian De Palma


Born and raised in Manhattan, he attended Indiana University and then New York University. With his entry into motion pictures, Bregman became known as a producer who gets deeply involved with every aspect of a film's creation. After producing the hugely successful Pacino films, Bregman went on to produce the Sean Connery spy thriller, The Next Man, then joined forces with Alan Alda to produce the highly acclaimed hit, The Seduction of Joe Tynan, a taut tale of political maneuvering in the U.S. Senate and later Carlito's Way and The Bone Collector. Veering into offbeat comedy with Alan Arkin as a psychology professor in Simon — a brilliant travesty on mind manipulation — Bregman reunited with Alda, producing The Four Seasons," a reflective, witty look at friendship in our time...and once again, a box-office winner. Speaking of his longtime partnership with Bregman, Alda comments on the producer's "rare ability to bring an editor's eye to a waiter's work. When he reads a script, he visualizes what will happen on the screen, whether it will be real and convincing, or simply a mechanical trick to get from one scene to the next. "Ernest Hemingway once said that every writer has his hack moments," said Alda with his trademark grin, "and gave as an example the last third of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn.' I like to think that if Twain had listened to Marty Bregman, he'd have rewritten the last eight chapters."

Director De Palma matched Alda's evaluation. "Bregman," he said, "has an uncanny sense of logic and reality which he brings to the movie-making process. "He stays with you from the beginning to the end, forcing you to challenge yourself and rethink your choices. He's an invigorating collaborator." With Scarface, Bregman illustrates once more that he hasn't lost his eye for young talent. Tony Montana's companion Manny — a flashy, soft-eyed ladies' man who can turn cold-blooded killer anytime Scarface tells him to is played by newcomer Steven Bauer. Another Bregman find, the 26-year-old actor inspired his discoverer to say about him quite simply: "He's going to go through the roof."Those who have worked with Bregman took this as gospel truth.



Al Pacino

To prepare for the role of Tony Montana, Pacino spent time in South Florida, soaking up the unique customs, ethics and accent of the "Marielitos" (so dubbed because they had sailed from the Cuban port of Mariel). Immersing himself in what he had just learned, he insisted on speaking "in character" both on and off the set during the several months the picture was in production. Such thoroughness was typical of Pacino. "When I'm about to do a project," he admitted on the set, "I dream about the character all the time." Then he explains why: "Acting is hard work," he said. "At times, it's both energizing and enervating. It's childish, but it's also responsible. It's illuminating...joyful...bizarre...diabolical...exciting. Acting may be, as Eleanor Duse said, a horrible word, but it's an attempt to get at some truth, to show emotions and motivations which are both believable and natural. "The most important thing to learn in acting is how not to act." Pacino takes that lesson seriously. Nominated five times for Academy Awards before Scarface, his most memorable screen performances were linked only by the same inner intensity that consumes Tony Montana in Scarface. They are as Michael Corleone in The Godfather 1 and 2, the unpredictable street cop in Serpico, the sexually tortured bank robber in Dog Day Afternoon, and as the straightforward lawyer in ...And Justice for All. Pacino, in fact, nearly cornered the market on cinematic anti-heroes during the 1970s, starting with his first noteworthy role as a manipulative junkie in The Panic in Needle Park."


Al Pacino on the set


A dramatic look at the highs and lows of drug addiction, it contained shockingly realistic scenes for film-goers of 1971, But then Pacino, a product of the New York stage, was already disturbing theater audiences with his intense, brooding outsiders. Winner of an Obie Award for his performance as a drunken hood in the 1968 off-Broadway play,The Indian Wants the Bronx he also won coveted Tony, Drama Desk and Theater World awards for his Broadway debut as a psychotic drug addict in 1969's Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?. It was those plays which brought him to the attention of Martin Bregman (then one of New York's most respected personal managers), influencing both of their careers. Bregman subsequently produced both "Serpico" and Dog Day Afternoon. Such antisocial roles are in direct contrast to his tradition-bound upbringing in the Bronx. Born to Sicilian parents soon divorced, only-child Pacino was raised by his mother and grandparents with a careful, loving concern. (Forced to dress immaculately at all times, he was dubbed "The Little Dude" by neighborhood kids not known for their understanding.) Lonely, bright and bored, Pacino acted out the films he saw for his grandmother...and in school continued to fabricate, making up a colorful past and mysterious life for himself to impress his classmates.



Encouraged by his family and teachers to become an actor, Pacino went to Manhattan's High School of Performing Arts, then dropped out at seventeen to drift from job to job. He finally enrolled at the Herbert Berghof Studio, where the serious commitment required of his craft was hammered home. Pacino apprenticed at such avant-garde off-off-Broadway theaters as Elaine Stewart's Cafe La Mama and Julian Beck and Judith Malina's Living Theater, displaying a formidable bent for living each part he played. It was his acceptance into the Actors Studio in 1966, however, with its advocacy of director Lee Strasberg's "Method" that brought discipline and power to Pacino's total absorption into his roles. In 1972, after Pacino won not only the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor, but an Academy Award nomination and international renown for his chilling role in The The Godfather, he chose to return to the stage. Joining David Wheeler's Experimental Theatre Company of Boston, he starred in The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel, and later again played the role on Broadway. It brought him a second Tony Award.



"The theater is where I started as an actor and it's what I enjoy doing," commented Pacino, "I'm not loyal to it, but dedicated. It is what I should be doing. It's crazy that the stage and screen are in competition with one another. It's what I do as an actor, working both in films and on stage." Suiting action to words, Pacino has interspersed such films as Scarecrow and Bobby Deerfield with stage performances in The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Richard III, Camino Real, The Connection and Tiger at the Gates. In 1982, Pacino starred in the hit off-Broadway revival of David Mamet's American Buffalo, repeating the role again on Broadway in the latter part of 1983.

Michelle Pfeiffer (Elvira Hancock)

The first time Scarface Tony Montana sees her, on the arm of Miami's reigning drug king, he knows Elvira Hancock is the woman for him. Blond, fine-looking and confident in her nine-generation WASP heritage, she is the angel to top off his American dream. After she becomes his wife, however, the dream, along with the angel, bites the dust. Deep within the ornate isolation of their Coral Gables mansion, she turns into a full-time junkie, unable to hide her boredom, her contempt or her fading appeal. Michelle Pfeiffer is Elvira.

"She's a lady who knows how to get what she wants," explained actress Pfeiffer of what she considers her most important dramatic role. "Elvira has survived in a violent world of street-smart, unsentimental people, and she has done it by never going beneath the surface of her feelings, never letting anyone get really close to her. Her one saving grace is her awareness of her own shortfall. 'Too bad we never grew up,' she says to Tony in a farewell speech\of surprising honesty,' For Elvira, that says it all." For Pfeiffer, it was only the beginning. She was seen as the flamboyant Pink Lady Stephanie Zinone in Grease 2. She was born and raised in California's conservative Orange County, where her businessman-father taught her one basic rule If you want anything in life, work for it, and that includes an acting career. After graduating from Fountain Valley High School, where she first studied theatre, Pfeiffer clerked in a supermarket to pay for her acting lessons in Los Angeles, a long bus ride away. Her first break came when a friend entered her in a Miss Los Angeles County beauty pageant. Chagrined at first, Pfeiffer changed her mind when the incident brought her an agent.



Her first role followed, so small that "my character didn't even have a name; I was called 'The Bombshell'" in the television series, Delta House." Then a month later she was cast in her first motion picture, Falling in Love Again." Not wanting to lose either opportunity, she worked seven days a week, almost around the clock for two months. While her hard-working father would have approved, for 18-year-old Pfeiffer it meant performing on the series during the day, and on the movie nights and weekends. It paid off. Roles followed in both television and feature films. Then came her first chance to portray "a débutante," the rich, sheltered Cordelia Farrington III in Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen, a spoof which starred Peter Ustinov, Lee Grant and Roddy McDowell. Alternating with television movies, Pfeiffer appeared in Callie and Son, then co-starred in The Children That Nobody Wanted and Splendor in the Grass. Not one to sit around, she then tried her hand at live theater, appearing in a Los Angeles Equity waiver production of Playground in the Fall, before entering the nationwide talent search for Grease 2.

Winning that role encouraged Pfeiffer to pursue her next goal, playing Al Pacino's leading lady in Scarface. Convinced she understood Elvira and could "do justice to the characterization," she underwent three months of readings on both coasts and finally, after a screen test, won the coveted role. Although it's "something an actress dreams of," the pretty, persistent young beauty from Orange County admitted, "it took a lot for me to go beyond the fact that my leading man was Al Pacino." She got there, though. To no one's surprise but her own.



Robert Loggia (Frank Lopez)

When Cuban refugee Scarface, Tony Montana, gets sprung from a detention/holding camp, it's because he has just iced an inmate for wealthy Miamian Frank Lopez. A man with a sharp eye for talent, Lopez puts Scarface to work in his flourishing drug empire. But when the young hood's ambitions extend to Lopez' territory, and then to his beautiful wife, a blood feud begins. Robert Loggia plays Frank Lopez. For veteran actor Loggia, portraying a narcotics kingpin took him nearly full circle. He made his professional bow 28 years before Scarface as Frankie Machine in off-Broadway's The Man With the Golden Arm, the trailblazing play about drug addiction. In a career which has encompassed films, theater and television (which he has directed as well), Loggia also portrayed a psychiatrist in Universal's Psycho II and the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in the honored television special, A Woman Called Golda.

A native New Yorker, he earned a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and served in the Army during the Korean War before turning to acting. Studying first with Stella Adler, Loggia joined the Actors Studio in 1955 for their production of Three Sisters, and has been a member ever since. Other stage credits include starring roles in Lillian Hellman's Toys in the Attic, opposite Ruby Dee in Wedding Band, and opposite Madeline Kahn in In the Boom Boom Room. He also appeared in aid produced off-Broadway's Passing Through From Exotic Places. After making his film debut with Somebody Up There Likes Me, Loggia went on to appear in The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Revenge of the Pink Panther, S.O.B. and An Officer and a Gentleman.

His television credits include guest-starring roles on all networks, two series of his own (T.H.E. Cat and The Nine Lives of Elfego Baca), such 'Golden Age' live dramas as Studio One, Robert Montgomery Presents and Play of the Week, in which he gave noteworthy performances in Miss Julie and Legends of Lovers. In 1980, Loggia joined the ranks of the Directors Guild by guiding Jack Klugman through an episode of Quincy, for which he received an NAACP nomination as Director of the Year. Since then, he has also directed an episode of Hart to Hart and segments of Magnum, P.I.



Steven Bauer (Manny)

If ever an actor seemed destined for a role, Cuban-born, Miami-reared Steven Bauer was born to play Manny Rivera in Scarface. Right beside Tony Montana (Pacino) from Day One, funny, flashy, faithful as a Doberman and just as quick to go for the throat, is Manny. The role marked Bauer's motion picture debut. Although his surname belies it, he is the son of a Cuban Airlines pilot who, with his schoolteacher wife and three-year-old son, fled Castro's regime in 1959, leaving all possessions behind to avert suspicion. It was to be another 21 years before the "Marielitos" came, but young Bauer saw firsthand the changes in Miami over the period, as more and more of his countrymen turned against Castro and opted for America. "We were part of a large faction of Cuban society which moved to Miami," he notes, recalling as well the culture shock of being immigrants. "Movies, especially musicals, were an important part of our lives during those years."



By then bilingual but shy, Bauer came home one day from seeing Yankee Doodle Dandy and sang all the film's songs for his parents. They promptly encouraged him to study guitar and tappet, and join both his high school choir and the Foreign Study League, whose student members spent their summers in Europe. It was at Miami Dade Junior College, however, that Bauer became interested in acting. Cast in a small role in Summer and Smoke, he soon enrolled in any courses he could connected with theater: drama, ballet, voice and modern dance. His commitment deepened when he won a role as one of the Jets in the University of Miami production of West Side Story. Impressed with his potential, the school's drama department helped cut the red tape to enroll him as a full-time student. Studying with Actors Studio alumnus Robert Lowery brought Bauer his first formal training and his first leading role as Lenny in a "standing-ovation-every-night" production of Of Mice and Men. (It was incredible," he recalls, "a highly emotional moment for me.) Roles in the university production of Oklahoma followed, and led to his breakthrough — a continuing role in the 18-episode series for public television Que Pasa U.S.A. "I played the bilingual son in a three-generation household which is typical of Cuban-American families," he explained. "The grandparents don't speak any English, the parents are working class people caught in between, and the son and daughter are Americanized high school kids held back and forced to speak Spanish at home.



"The clash of cultures and ambition created huge problems between the generations," he went on. "In 'Scarface,' when Manny and Tony bumped into the same kind of thing, it took me right back to my own childhood, and the days of Que Pasa." The unusual Miami-based television show caught the eye of Hollywood, and Bauer soon found himself signed with Columbia Television. Moving to California, he made his network bow on The Rockford Files then guest-starred on Doctors' Private Lives and spent six months as a series regular opposite William De-vane in From Here to Eternity After amassing more credits in the hit series Hill Street Blues and One Day at a Time, and starring in the television films She's in the Army Now, Nichols and Dymes and An Innocent Love, Bauer spent a year in New York studying with famed drama coach Stella Adler.

While there he also returned briefly to the stage, appearing off-Broadway in Waiting for Lefty and Mozart and Salieri. Still basically introverted except when acting, Bauer went for his direct opposite in depicting Manny in Scarface, "Manny stands out in a crowd," he explained. "He dresses to be noticed. He can be a hot-eyed ladies' man and the next moment a cold-blooded killer. "Because of his rebelliousness he was probably a reject within Cuba's Socialist system, which demands strict conformity." He ran with the underground crime element, landed in jail, and learned the hard way that only the strong survive. "So Manny is a survivor, doing whatever he has to do. His only mistake is an inbred loyalty to his compadre Tony Montana." Bauer explained that at the time he was honored to be working scenes with Al Pacino, something he actually had hoped for for many years.



Miriam Colon (Tony's Mother)

As Tony Montana's mother, Miriam Colon doesn't even know her son is out of jail, or out of Cuba, until he turns up on her Miami doorstep with some expensive peace offerings. She doesn't want them. Nor does she want Tony's sister, still in her teens, to fall under his insidious influence. For actress Colon, the role of Al Pacino's mother may seem to place her in an older age group. But the Puerto Rican-born New Yorker has played many nationalities and nearly every adult age group, from a young madam in Martin Ritt's Back Roads to the ancient Queen of Hawaii in a PBS special.


Miriam Colon at the studio


Spotted as a serious talent while she was a drama student at the University of Puerto Rico, Colon was admitted to New York's prestigious Actors Studio on her first audition. After studying under Lee Strasberg and Elia Kazan, she appeared on Broadway in Summer House, The Innkeepers, The Wrong Way Light Bulb and The Oxcart, which brought her rave reviews for the role of the ill-fated Juanita. First in New York, then in Hollywood, Colon guest-starred in more than 100 television shows, including The DuPont Show of the Week, The Defenders, The Dick Van Dyke Show and Gunsmoke. Although she has appeared in such major films as One-Eyed Jack and The Appaloosa opposite Marlon Brando, Colon has devoted most of her time to New York's Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, which she established 16 years ago. A significant training ground for young theater talent, its success has brought Colon awards in both Los Angeles (the Golden Eagle from Nosotros) and New York (A City Hall Festival tribute from Mayor Koch).

Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Gina)

"Gina Montana is a little spicier than anything I generally get to play," said screen newcomer Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio in Photoplay of her role. In true macho fashion, Montana views his sister as someone to be protected, put on a pedestal and big-brothered within an inch of her life. Gina has other ideas. "She adores Tony," explained actress Mastrantonio. "He's the one who has always brought enjoyment into her life. But because of him, their family goes from being dirt poor to very rich, with all the power and freedom that money can buy." "When she sees Tony doing dope, she wants to try it, too. 'After all,' she says to herself, 'if it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me.'" It isn't, of course. In Tony's mind it's a threat to her innocence — as is her ripening romance with his best (and only) friend, Manny. Tony deals with the first so abruptly and the second so brutally that Gina's hero-worship crumbles in one of the film's most shocking scenes. Playing a young woman who is both passive and passionate was an admitted challenge for Mastrantonio. Seen on Broadway in the hit Amadeus, the young Chicago suburbanite had an impressive list of credits in the musical theater, as the ingénue in most of them. (She found playing Gina "the one with the makeup and the razzle-dazzle and the spice" a welcome change.)


Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio publicity still


The fifth of six sisters, Mastrantonio began her musical theater training at Oak Park-River Forest High School, where its three theaters and 4,500 students had as many as nine productions going at one time." Enrolling next at the University of Illinois, she polished her skills still further by majoring in music and voice and appearing in student musical productions. After making her professional bow during summers with Nashville's Opryland productions of Showboat and For Me and My Gal, Mastrantonio joined the Lincolnshire Marriott Theater for a season of five Equity musicals, including Camelot, The Sound of Music, Cabaret and Rodgers and Hart: A Musical Celebration. She made her Broadway debut as the the understudy for Maria in the revival of West Side Story , Mastrantonio remained to appear in Copperfield (as Dora).



It was in 1982 that Mastrantonio was cast in her first non-musical theatrical role in Broadway's West Side Story Amadeus, which starred Frank Langella. With the show for six months, she first played Katerina, then the co-starring role of Costanza. "It was the perfect opportunity for me to break into a non-musical," she recalled. "At first, I was the understudy and got a workout. That way you learn a lot because you don't have the pressure of having to create that role and to be critiqued for it." Such was not the case, however, with Scarface, for which she was cast one week after the reading. Not only was she the first actress to play Gina (Hancock) Montana, she was also performing in front of a camera for the first time. How did she feel? "Liberated," she said, "It's strange. There*s this feeling that nothing can touch you. People are hanging lights and holding microphones right over your head, which is very unnatural, yet there is something comforting in it. "The camera seems to put up a fourth wall between you and the rest of the world."



Music Score: Giorgio Moroder

In 1982 and 1983, the songs that were topping the charts included "Maniac" by Michael Sembello, Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger." Olivia Newton John's "Physical," "Don't you Want me" by the Human League, "Pac Man Fever" by Buckner and Garcia, "Abracadabra" by the Steve Miller Band, "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell, "Flashdance" by Irene Cara, and the "Chariots of Fire" theme. All of these hits had something in common, an electronic Euro dance beat that had become popular beginning in the late 1970's in dance clubs all over Europe, where it was called "Hi-NRG (High Energy). The music took a bit longer to come to US soil, but was played in clubs and on radio stations across the United States by the early 1980's. All of this music would influence Giorgio Moroder when writing his score.


Giorgio Moroder


Giorgio Moroder was born in 1940 in Italy and was always fascinated by music. In the 1970's, after having lived in the United States for some time, created his own record label called Oasis records, which later was owned by Casablanca records, a very successful dance label that was home to Donna Summer and The Village People. He loved to work with synthesizers and created techno, house, new wave and electronic compositions both for release and many at home that were just "personal play time." He produced music for The Three Degrees, Sparks, Madleen Kane and Blondie before becoming individually popular withScarface, Flashdance and Electric Dreams.


Scarface song artists: (l-r) Paul Engemann (Push it to the Limit); Beth Anderson (Dance Dance Dance); Deborah Harry (Rush Rush); Elizabeth Daily (Shake it Up, I'm Hot Tonight); Maria Conchita (Vamos A Bailar)


Giorgio Moroder had already composed music for Midnight Express in 1978 which had won him an Academy Award and Brian De Palma took notice. Since some of the scenes would take place inside nightclubs in Miami, and De Palma was already a fan of Moroder because of his admiration for the film Midnight Express, which Moroder scored (and Oliver Stone wrote), it was already in the cards that Moroder would compose songs and the underscore. Indeed, Scarface wouldn't be Scarface without the musical score it contains. Several chart hits came from the soundtrack, which was certified gold and was also played in dance clubs around the world. The biggest hit that would come from the film was "Push it to the Limit" by Paul Engemann, though Debbie Harry's "Rush Rush," "Turn out the Night" and "She's on Fire" by Amy Holland were playing in dance clubs everywhere.


Some of Giorgio Moroder's record releases


Production

In May, 1980, Fidel Castro opened the harbor at Mariel, Cuba, to let some of his people join their families in the United States. Most of the 125,000 "Marielitos" who streamed into Florida were honest, hard-working people eager for a new life in a free land. But not all. Castro seized the opportunity to play Samaritan while exporting Cuba's crime rate to the United States. Hidden among the newcomers were the dregs of the island's jails, criminals considered beyond redemption. They, too, saw America as a land of opportunity. Among the most ambitious was Tony Montana, the one called "Caracortada"...Scarface.

Scarface marks a reunion for Pacino and Bregman, whose previous alliances gave the actor two of his strongest roles: in Dog Day Afternoon and "Serpico." Their third project together began three years ago when Bregman was watching late night television and the gangster movie Scarface was being shown. He immediately knew the next film he wanted to do: an updated version of the 1932 Howard Hawks classic — and he saw it as a chance for Pacino "to create a kind of character he'd never played before,..one which hasn't been seen on screen since Jimmy Cagney did White Heat. Bregman did not, however, regard Scarface as a remake. "The underworld, like everything else, has changed radically since the Capone days of speakeasies and bootleggers," he pointed out. "The traffic in cocaine has become a thriving industry and a proving ground for gangsters. "There are obscene amounts of money to be made, bringing drugs in from Central and South America, if someone is smart, ruthless and hungry enough. Someone like Tony Montana."



Armed with that approach, screenwriter Oliver Stone, who probed a different corner of the drug trade in Midnight Express, began two intensive months of research. It took him deep into the Latin underworld of South Florida, with its unique lifestyle, code of honor and jargon. Stone interviewed federal agents (including members of the FBI), narcotics investigators, homicide detectives with the Miami Police Department and members of the Organized Crime Division of Florida's Dade and Broward County Sheriff's Departments. On the other side of the law, he met with some of the young "bandidos" hired to unload contraband from freighters anchored off the Florida Keys, street hustlers who cut and peddled the "goods" and "businessmen" who funded drug deals and siphoned off the profits. On the island of Bimini, one of several Caribbean links in the drug chain, he expanded research he'd previously conducted in Columbian Ecuador and Peru. Throughout the period, Stone admits, "I felt my life was on the line. Most of my work, for obvious reasons, was done between midnight and dawn. That's not the safest time to be out alone when you're dealing with people who might decide on second thought that they had told you too much." The experience, he added, was "overwhelming." But out of it came a screenplay which Bregman promptly sent to director Brian De Palma. Having written or co-written many of his past projects, De Palma now felt that he wanted to work with someone else's material. As preproduction got underway, Pacino made his own foray into Miami. Taking up temporary residence there, he came to know the customs, values and speech patterns of the community The distinctive Cuban dialect was vitally important to him and once having mastered it, he continued to speak the patois, both on and off the set. He was now ready to take up Tony Montana's perverse pursuit of the American dream.



When first encountered, Tony is on the outskirts of that dream, an unpolished, young thug in ragged clothes and cardboard shoes with a scar down the side of his sallow face which he continually touched in a tic-like, reflex gesture. Assigned to a refugee camp with his compadre, Manny Rivera (Steven Bauer) he agrees to perform a small service for a wealthy Cuban businessman: the murder of an ex-Castro agent in exchange for their freedom. A riot in the refugee compound provides him the opportunity. In creating the sequence, director De Palma and visual consultant Ferdinando Scarfiotti hewed close to actual events, in 1980, the newly arrived Marielitos were housed in an internment camp, hastily constructed beneath a Miami freeway. For the movie, the camp was erected in Los Angeles, beneath the intersection of the Santa Monica and Harbor freeways. It was then reduced to fiery rubble during a scene in which frustrated refugees hurled beds, chairs, tables and them selves at a phalanx of national guardsmen and state police, putting the torch to their makeshift barracks.



The sequence called not only for the skills of some forty stunt men but linguistic agility as well. Many of the six-hundred extras spoke no English, only Spanish. Safety required careful translation prior to each setup. From the demolished camp, the story moved to Miami's crowded, bustling Little Havana. Here, Tony and Manny earn their first (and last) honest dollars, washing dishes at a shabby lunch stand, the El Paraiso. Here, too, the sight of well-heeled Cuban emigrants strolling with their flashy chiquitas confirms what they came to America to find: money and sex respectively. Once again, California doubled for Florida. Sections of Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles were converted to Little Havana, complete with storefronts and billboards in Spanish, an ingenious mural of the Miami skyline and a towering, tantalizing neon sign proclaiming "The World is Yours." Only the California weathermen refuse to cooperate as Los Angeles shivered through an unseasonal cold snap.

"On the radio, they were talking about the threat to the orange crop," recalls Steven Bauer, who plays Manny. "Meanwhile, we were shooting at night, dressed for the tropics." For Ferdinando Scarfiotti, the challenge of these scenes, and others throughout the film, was to visually reflect Tony Montana's rise to power. Settings like the El Paraiso lunch stand and the Sun Ray Motel, where Tony literally escapes being butchered by Columbian drug dealers, are "bleak and sordid," said Scarfiotti. "Later, as he moves up through the criminal hierarchy, the atmosphere becomes bright, brittle, glaring. There is a sense of insane wealth. We are among people who amass such incredible sums of cash that they have to keep finding new ways to spend it. "It goes on their walls, on the backs of their women and into the playgrounds where they spend their time."



The most sumptuous of those sets was the Babylon Club, a bizarre mixture of Greek, Roman and renaissance decor. Built on one of Hollywood's largest sound stages, the multilevel complex featured black lacquered tables, a gleaming onyx dance floor, ankle-deep purple carpeting, erotic Greek statuary, dancing fountains, pink and blue neon lighting and a dazzling profusion of mirrors. To cinematographer John Alonzo, the mirrors were both a pleasure and a challenge. "They gave us fantastic dimension," he explained, "but made it almost impossible to shoot without catching the reflection of a camera or a technician." Like the internment camp, the Babylon set was built to be wrecked.



At first, the club signifies Tony's acceptance into the criminal hierarchy. It is here that he meets Elvira (Michelle Pfeiffer), the sultry, strung-out ex-débutante, worn, like a diamond Qinky ring, by his boss, Frank Lopez (Robert Loggia). It is also here that he acquires a taste for the product he peddles, shared to his dismay by his kid sister, Gina (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), who idolizes him. Finally, it is at the Babylon that he is set up by a team of hit men, dispatched by Lopez to teach Tony a permanent lesson in the perils of ambition. That shoot-out, counterpointed by the tragicomic performance of a white-faced mime, was complicated by the wraparound mirrors. Special effects men Ken Pepiot and Stan Parks had to puzzle out a way to hit them with bursts of machine gun fire without showering the principals (and some 300 extras) with shattered glass. Fifty-two mirrored panels were mounted on soft, spongy "solitex" board, then covered with clear plastic. "When we fired plastic pellets into the mirrors,the glass exploded without flying out," said Pepiot. The result was not only realistic and safe, he added, "but there was another advantage; the crew didn't have to sweep up broken glass after every take."



Following two weeks at the Club Babylon, the Scarface unit moved on to Montecito in Santa Barbara County. The resort city provided two magnificent villas, a few miles apart in actuality, but halfway around the world from each other in story terms. One would serve as the palatial estate of Alejandro Sosa, Tony's Bolivian "connection." The other would become the fortress-like Xanadu where Tony weds Elvira, stocks a private zoo with rare animals including a prowling Bengal tiger, and descends into drug-induced paranoia. Both may seem familiar to students of rococo architecture. The "Bolivian villa" is one of architect Addison Mizener's masterpieces, a 32-room Spanish hacienda, nestled against snow-tipped mountains, surrounded by 13 acres of rose gardens, ornamental fountains and rolling green lawns. The second home, seen as Tony's Coral Gables mansion, has an even more exotic history. The work of Bertram Goodhue, it was conceived in 1906 as a steel and concrete version of a neo-classic Roman villa containing one vast bedroom (which various owners would later remodel to suit their whims and needs) on a 35-acre plot. Its original owner was a gentleman named Gillespie, whose other properties ironically included the palace in Havana which Castro later assumed as his headquarters. Among the features of the estate were an artesian water system which fed a network of lagoons and lakes, one of which boasted an Egyptian barge for private parties, and the world's largest collection of palm trees, many of which were transplanted in the early 1950s to become the "Jungle Ride" at Disneyland. Previous residents included author Thomas Mann, who entertained savvy house guests there as Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill. And when director De Palma staged the wedding of Tony and Elvira on the lavish grounds, he could, refer to a previous, equally celebrated ceremony on the same site, in which Charlie Chaplin and Oona O'Neill were united.

The pleasure of these surroundings was somewhat diminished by another blow from the weather. The crucial wedding sequence was postponed when the California coast was hit by record-breaking storms which wreaked millions of dollars in damages in Santa Barbara County alone. Daily reports were phoned back from Montecito to Los Angeles, assuring De Palma and Scarfiotti that the villa and the luxurious amenities the film crew had added were still intact. Meanwhile, key interiors were taking shape on the sound stages at Universal, including the newlyweds round cream and gold bedroom, complete with private sunken Jacuzzi, and Tony's "office," a pagan sanctum of black marble walls and gold fixtures. Perhaps the most intriguing touches, however, were technological. Having created a cocaine empire, Tony now sees it crumbling at the edges. Young, aggressive hoods, as hungry as he once was, are gunning for their piece of the action. Federal investigators are closing in. Bankers are demanding exorbitant fees to launder Tony's cash. (The same banks, he points out nostalgically, that "we used to knock over.")



Manny and Gina, the only two people he thought he could trust, are together more often, less frequently at his side. Elvira's sex appeal has evaporated in powdery dust. Protection is all-important. The mansion is now rigged with sophisticated security and surveillance systems, including enough TV monitors to equip a network control center. For these scenes, cinematographer Alonzo called on Panavision's video system, Pancam, which uses lenses and accessories adaptable to motion picture cameras. "Several scenes were shot twice, once on film, then on videotape," explains Alonzo. "Thus, when Tony holes up in his mansion, fighting to keep control and stay out of prison, sometimes we have two simultaneous images. What is actually happening. And what Tony sees through the television monitors."

Filming was scheduled to take place completely in Miami, but the director among others received "threats" from unknowns (probably those in the mob or with drug cartel connections). Others were afraid the film would hurt the city of Miami. So the decision was made to film the movie in Hollywood, with only about 2 weeks shooting in Miami, in which bodyguards were hired to protect the cast and crew. These dangers were very real, according to the Producer and Director, who directly received threats, one sent to the studio.




Brian DePalma decided to shoot the film in the Cinemascope 2:35:1 aspect ratio in Panavision to cover the views of the city. He stated that this was perfect for what he had in mind because it allowed for wide-shot chases, and atmospheric shots of Miami. Also important to De Palma was having the film released in stereophonic sound, due to what he considered a "genius-of-a-score" from Moroder and also the fact that he felt the shooting scenes and general atmosphere would sound much more realistic, putting the viewer inside of the drama and the action. The finished negatives were sent to Technicolor in Hollywood to be processed and printed and post production was completed.


Film gansters had become popular in the 1970's and early 1980's


Release

Scarface was ridden with problems from the MPAA. It was given an "X" rating three times for extreme violence after three cuts were made (plus the language and hard drug usage). De Palma spent weeks seeking out a panel of experts, including narcotics officers, Time Magazine and others who told the MPAA that this was a very accurate portrayal of the drug scene in Miami, convincing the 20 members of the board to give it an "R" rating, also because it would also help show the dangers involved with drugs. De Palma released the uncut version to theaters later without a rating, knowing the studio executives wouldn't know the difference.

Scene that had to be edited
Another scene that obtained MPAA objections


Universal's original estimated budget for the film was around $20 million and De Palma came close bringing the film in at around $25 million. But near December 9, 1983 (release day), Universal would be disappointed when the opening weekend gross came in at $6.5 million. However, even though the film did not open to huge boxoffice in its 1005-theater opening, the film had lasting power and remained in the top ten for many weeks, eventually grossing $65 million in the United States and another $20 million overseas, giving Universal a major profit. Another estimated $20 million has been made over the years in various home video versions due to the film's popularity. The film was the 16th highest grosser in 1983. Today, the film ranks at #1345 on the all-time boxffice chart, but at the time, it was positioned at 138, a respectable position.


Universal licensed this money which was sold in packets or as a poster


The film had a gala sneak-preview premiere in New York on December 1, 1983 and a cavalcade of stars attended including Diane Lane, Joan Collins, Melanie Griffith, Raquel Welch, Eddie Murphy, Nick Nolte, Dustin Hoffman, Cher and Lucille Ball. Lucille Ball publicly put the movie down and said she hated it because of the language and graphic violence. It was said that Dustin Hoffman had fallen asleep. The other celebrities who attended thought the film was fantastic, especially Cher who made a public statement that "This film deserves big Oscar attention." Writer John Irving (The World According to Garp) walked out after the chainsaw scene. Martin Scorsese very much liked the film and said it was extremely well-made, but after the premiere, told its producers that they should expect a lot of negative reaction because of the violence. Very few major critics actually gave it rave reviews except for Vincent Canby of The New York Times. Roger Ebert also gave it four stars and later added it to his "greatest movie" list. Leonard Maltin, however, gave the film a negative review, only a half star out of four.



Awards and Television Airings

When awards time came around, the buzz in Hollywood was that Pacino would definitely be nominated for a Best Actor Oscar and the film a possible Best Picture Oscar nomination. Universal hit the trade magazines hard and campaigned for the film to be nominated in many categories but pushed the Best Actor Award for Al Pacino. But the members of the Academy didn't see bite, and the film did not receive a single Academy nomination. In fact, with 3 Golden Globe nominations (Best Actor, Pacino; Best Supporting Actor, Steven Bauer and Best Original Score, Giorgio Moroder), the film did not take home a single award. It was, however, nominated by the Razzie awards for worst direction-Brian De Palma. Today, with the exceptional following of this film, it is hard to look back and realize how ignored this film was upon its release. The trade papers (Variety and The Hollywood Reporter) both printed stories when the Academy released its nominations for the year, both exclaiming surprise that the film was overlooked, especially Al Pacino for Best Actor. Terms of Endearment won the Oscar for Best Picture that year while Scarface was not even nominated, and Robert Duvall took home the Best Actor Award for Tender Mercies, again no nomination for Pacino.


Scarface comic books


When the film was sold by Universal to television for the first airing, ABC deemed it necessary to cut 32 minutes from the running time, but did add some extra footage. This included an extended Freedom Town scene. Tony's first visit to his mother's house was slightly longer. Most of the chainsaw scene was cut. The film, however, did well for ABC in the ratings, landing in the top ten for the week. The American Film Institute rated Scarface number ten among its top gangster movies. The film would later become so popular, it was made into video games, and merchandisers released t-shirts, posters, and even toys and figures from the film which to this day continue to sell. Original posters on Ebay go for high prices, as well as other original memorabilia and dozens of reproduction posters have been issued.



2011 Reunion/Blu-ray Party

In 2011 on August 23 Universal Pictures hosted a party to celebrate the upcoming Blu-ray release of the film. Nearly the entire cast was on hand to celebrate, be interviewed and to see each other, some for the first time since 1983. The reunion was held at the Belasco theater in Los Angeles. Al Pacino told reports that it is a film "Very dear my my heart." He went on to say that "The mixing of Oliver Stoner and Brian De Palma was a scary thought to me, but it all blended out beautifully. "We didn't have the feeling it was going to be lasting, and it's pretty amazing," Pacino said. "As time went on, it just stayed there, and had this constant rebirth. It's a miracle, really. There's something in it that defies things, that's controversial in its nature. "It happens sometimes [with a film]. You get lucky," he added.


2011 Blu-ray release party


According to Universal president Craig Kornblau, who was present, "the studio has sold over six million copies of Scarface on DVD alone and the new remaster with its prestine picture and new audio shouldn't disappoint either. For the first tim, we've gone back to the original master recordings for the music, so we're very excited. It's one of our most special titles, and there are few films in our catalog that attract this type of consumer attention." Rap icon Ludacris performed at the event and Pacino was joined by fellow Scarface actors Steven Bauer (Manny Ribera), Robert Loggia (Frank Lopez) and F. Murray Abraham (Omar Suarez), along with producer Martin Bregman, in a lengthy and frank discussion about the film. Bregman said, "Scarface would be successful now. It's a perfect, perfect movie and I am so glad to see the film released in high resolution.


Nearly the entire cast was present


Scarface played August 21, 2011 in theaters across the country for one special showing, to mark its new release and first-time-on-Blu-ray-event. According to Universal, boxoffice receipts were very good for a reissue of an older film. This had been done previously with other films such as The Sound of Music, events allowing audiences to see these films on the big screen, if just for a one-show run.


Scarface was made into a successful Video game, Top Right: Van promoting the game.


Scarface was a risky film for its period due to the excessive violence and bloody content, and had its fair share of negative reviews and criticism from all areas of the press, but the film became more popular as time went by and is now considered one of the best films ever made about the drug trade and gangsters, and now famous is the best-remembered line from the film, "Say hello to my little friend."



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Source: Blu-ray.com | Permalink | United States [Country settings]

News comments (12 comments)



Lincoln6Echo
  Sep 06, 2011
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Say Hello to My Little Friend!!!
kikujirobill
  Sep 06, 2011
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Excellent article!

tru blu
  Sep 06, 2011
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As always. Great read.
calikid
  Sep 06, 2011
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Thanks for the excellent article. Say goodnight to the bad guy!

noodi
  Sep 07, 2011
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Such A Great Movie

Swearengen
  Sep 07, 2011
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Great article!!!
indiana
  Sep 07, 2011
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great

Caliope XTC
  Sep 07, 2011
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i like this movie
festivalcitydave
  Sep 08, 2011
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Absolutely LOVE this movie. Very saddened to read that Universal, once again, screwed up the transfer with DNR and EE. Considering Criterion's sensational release of BLOW OUT from the same era, the mishandling of SCARFACE is inexcusable. Why, Universal? Why?!!!

Screwface
  Sep 08, 2011
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Oliver Stoner?
rroeder
  Sep 09, 2011
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Nice read and great movie, got to see this on HDNET this past week and the picture was very nice. Doubt the picture is any better on Blu but good to have it for the next time I want to see this movie.
VoodooSamurai
  Sep 10, 2011
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Incredible, this was more informative than anything on the blu-ray.


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