Alfredo James “Al” Pacino was born April 25, 1940 in East Harlem, New York City to Italian American parents. He was raised by his mother, Rose, and maternal grandparents.
Al (‘Sonny’, as he was known to his friends) attended the School of Performing Arts in New York, but he flunked nearly all of his classes and dropped out at 17. After a disagreement with his mother about it, he left home, working a string of low-paying jobs, including messenger boy, busboy, janitor, and postal clerk, in order to finance his acting studies. But he was frequently unemployed and homeless, and sometimes had to sleep on the street, in theaters or at friends’ houses.
Pacino acted in some basement plays and then joined the Herbert Berghof Studio (HB Studio), where he met acting teacher Charlie Laughton, who became his mentor and best friend. In 1966, after many previous unsuccessful attempts, Al successfully auditioned at the Actors Studio in New York City. He studied “method acting” under acting coach Lee Strasberg. Pacino later said: “The Actors Studio meant so much to me in my life. Lee Strasberg hasn’t been given the credit he deserves … Next to Charlie, it sort of launched me. It really did. That was a remarkable turning point in my life. It was directly responsible for getting me to quit all those jobs and just stay acting.” and “It was exciting to work for [Lee Strasberg] because he was so interesting when he talked about a scene or talked about people. One would just want to hear him talk, because things he would say, you’d never heard before … He had such a great understanding … he loved actors so much.” (Al Pacino is currently co-president of the Actors Studio)
He made his feature film debut in the 1969 film Me, Natalie in a minor supporting role, before playing the leading role in the 1971 drama The Panic in Needle Park. Al made his major breakthrough when he was given the role of Michael Corleone in The Godfather in 1972, which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
In addition to a career in film, Pacino has also enjoyed a successful career on stage, picking up Tony Awards for Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie? and The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel.
In 1996 Al Pacino directed his first film, Looking for Richard, a part documentary on the play Richard III.
He has received numerous awards.
Although he has never married, Pacino has had several relationships with actresses and has three children.