Monday, October 12, 2015

24 Hours: Dog Day Afternoon

After Steve Jobs over on the west side we trekked across town to Hollywood for our last night at The Egyptian Theatre for Beyond Fest. I was pleasantly surprised the commute didn't take too long on the early evening and we ended up catching a piece of matinee screening of 1925's The Phantom of the Opera starring Lon Chaney. This was really cool as it was a silent film with a small orchestra playing live. Out in the lobby was tons of Phantom memorabilia like posters and busts. It was over to favorite happy hour spot Boardner's for some dranks and grub where it got more crowded than I think I've ever seen it. Hot too as it was a real scorcher this weekend, my car's temperature gauge read 100 and 101 more than a few times. Back to the theatre where the sold out crowd was waiting in the courtyard since none other than Al Pacino was appearing to talk about Dog Day Afternoon. I'm a big fan of Pacino and director Sidney Lumet but I had actually never seen the flick even though I own a two-disk special edition of it. Christian and Grant got the audience going as usual with free giveaways, tee shirts being chucked and shot into the audience and free DVD's where one jerk off didn't pass it back to the winner. The audience booed and shamed him but I don't think he gave it up. What a douche..The night was being brought to us partially by Warner Brother who are just releasing it on special edition blu-ray. Moderator Bret Ratner produced a new documentary on co-star John Cazale that is included.

Dog Day Afternoon is based on a true story where Pacino plays Sonny, a not exactly seasoned bank robber who with partner Sal (Cazale) get caught up in a media frenzy when their heist goes wrong. We start to learn about Sonny and the pressures he's facing that lead him to try and rob a bank. By the end I was really wondering if they'd make it after everything they'd been through. Pacino is terrific as the frantic and funny Sonny while Cazale is quiet, odd and slightly menacing. The mainly female cast that make up the bank tellers are great and you get a young, serious and handsome Lance Henriksen as a mostly silent FBI agent. It's easy to see why the film was nominated for six Academy Awards in 1976, eventually taking home Best Original Screenplay for Frank Pierson. Lumet does a great job of making a talky drama resonate with personal relationships, defying authority and taking a shot when everything seems to be crumbling around you.

After the film, Bret Ratner introduced Mr. Al Pacino who looked randomly great with his big hair, suit and a shirt that exposed much of his smooth, tan chest. Pacino still has it; terrific energy, a real zeal for his craft and a sense of humor:

- Ratner is a huge Pacino fan, mother took him to see Buffalo 66 in New York where they sat in the front and got spit on by the star for two hours.
- Pacino was doing theater mostly before he fell into films, was coming off The Godfather, Serpico and The Godfather: Part II which is no small feat of now classic films.
- Had worked with Lumet on Serpico, also a true story, and quit Dog Day not once but twice.
- Lumet was an advocate of rehearsal so cast had several weeks to prep for Dog Day.
- Pacino pushed certain actors into the film, including Godfather I & II's John Cazale for Sal even though the character was written for an 18 year old.
- Cazale was a great friend of Pacino's and quite the ladies man, discovered Meryl Streep in a Shakespeare in the Park production in New York.
- The script was solid but during rehearsal cast started to build upon and improvise. One example is the phone call between Sonny and his lover Leon (Chris Sarandon). The two were originally supposed to have a scene face to face but Pacino felt the phone call would serve story better.
- Infamous Attica! scene came from assistant director who suggested Pacino use it during a scene where he's outside of the bank talking to police and surrounded by the crowd. Topic of bloody prison revolt was still a hot topic, when Pacino called out Attica to the extras, they responded enthusiastically and the classic scene built from there.
- Pacino has been acting since his early youth, doing plays, always performing and by the time he got famous and found success, it was difficult to go back to that early feeling of freedom and exploration.
- Didn't want to meet the real Sonny as the events had already happened and didn't want to caricature.
- Asked about never working with Martin Scorsese, Pacino hopes that a project including the director, himself, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Bobby Cannavale firms up, Ratner hopes to produce.

It was an awesome night and great to see a living legend in the flesh. Beyond Fest has outdone themselves again for a third year running. Sunday saw a tribute to Wes Craven featuring half a dozen distinguished guests and things wrap up tonight with the west coast premiere of martial arts extravaganza The Assassin. Can't wait to see what they have up their sleeves for next year.

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