Thursday, March 22, 2012

For Al Pacino, The (Wilde) Play Is The Thing

Al Pacino during an interview on the Castro Theatre red carpet in San Francisco yesterday evening. 
Omar P.L. Moore


Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Thursday, March 22
, 2012

One hundred and thirty years after Oscar Wilde visited San Francisco, Al Pacino brought his documentary "Wilde Salomé" to the City By The Bay at the Castro Theatre for its U.S. premiere last night.

Mr. Pacino loves Oscar Wilde and his fascination with the Irish playwright goes back many years.  He played King Herod in Mr. Wilde's "Salomé" on Broadway in 2003 and in 2006 in Los Angeles at the Wadsworth Theater. 

The 2006 production is the subject of the New York stage actor's ambitious docudrama, in which he films the play and tries to make the film he shoots of the play theatrical in and of itself.  Mr. Pacino also investigates Mr. Wilde's play, its history, the logistics of filming while rehearsing it and the background of the esteemed playwright and dramatist.  Estelle Parsons directs the theater edition, and "Wilde Salomé" features both Mr. Pacino and Ms. Parsons butting heads over creative issues and staging and film versus play direction in full view of the rehearsing cast, which includes Jessica Chastain as Salomé.

"Wilde Salomé" is equal parts documentary, rumination piece, comedy, adventure, education and theatre, in much the same vein as Mr. Pacino's "Looking For Richard", which had a limited U.S. theatrical release in 1996.

Last night before a packed audience, and just after throngs of San Franciscans had besieged the 71-year-old on the red carpet to the Castro Theatre, Mr. Pacino danced a little Fred Astaire dance on stage.  He collected a proclamation from the city's mayor Ed Lee for "Wilde Salomé Day".  Mr. Pacino thanked San Francisco for giving him a mock Oscar during the time of his "Scarface" portrayal, when he did not receive an Oscar nomination for his work as Tony Montana.

"The people of San Francisco made an Oscar for me, about this high," he said, gesturing with his hands a foot apart.  "And I will never forget that."  As cheers erupted from the capacity crowd he added, "It sits in my trophy room in my house in New York."

"Wilde Salomé" producer Barry Nevidi with the film's star and director Al Pacino last night on the red carpet at the Castro Theatre.  Omar P.L. Moore

"I've done about four or five of these," Mr. Pacino said, referring to films he's directed, specifically those about famous plays that have caught his interest.  "I did one called 'Chinese Coffee'.  Some of them haven't seen the light of day, except 'Looking For Richard', which some of you may have heard of."

Some applause rang out.  "Wilde Salomé" is my exploration of obsession and when I first saw the play "Salomé" and as I read his work I thought that this man spoke to me.  I could feel something in this man.  I wanted to meet him.  When I found out that it was Oscar Wilde who did these works I said, 'oh well, no such hope in that happening.'"

Mr. Wilde, who passed away in 1900 at the age of 46, was a revolutionary and controversial figure in the eyes of some.  He was jailed in Reading, England for breaking "laws against nature".  Mr. Wilde had married, had children, and later had an affair and relationship with a younger man.  The British government however, used his homosexual relationship to imprison him, even though the ideas expressed in his work was at the heart of their fear of him.

Mr. Pacino, a man of the stage above all other artistic pursuits, a stage that he said he  "loved", spoke with passion about Mr. Wilde, and heralded "an actress Jessica Chastain, that when you see her, she does an amazing job as Salomé.  You may know her," the actor noted casually, as applause rang out for the Northern California-born actress.

The award-winning playwright Tony Kushner was supposed to join Mr. Pacino on stage at the Castro Theatre last night for the "Salomé" event, billed as "An Evening With Al Pacino".  Event producer Mark Rhoades began the evening with sad news: Mr. Kushner's father had passed away several days ago, he said, and would not be in attendance.  Mr. Kushner is seen in Mr. Pacino's documentary.  Dita Von Teese and Jean-Paul Gaultier were among numerous celebrity figures in attendance last night, as was one of the film's producers, Barry Nevidi, who is spotlighted in "Wilde Salomé".

The night's event organizer, Jessica Engholm, had brought Mr. Pacino to the stage in the darkness of the Castro Theatre, amidst an atmosphere tailored for rock stars.  The actor bounded to the stage with vigor, and left it in the same way, to more cheers.

"An Evening With Al Pacino" was held to raise money for the GLBT Historical Society, which houses one of the world's largest museums of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender art, history and artifacts.  It is the first stand-alone museum of its kind in the U.S.

Note: This story can read here at San Francisco Indie Movie Examiner on (includes a 25-picture photo gallery)

Al Pacino speaking on stage at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco yesterday evening.  Omar P.L. Moore

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