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Ocean's Thirteen - Al Pacino interview

Al Pacino in Ocean's Thirteen

Compiled by Jack Foley

AL PACINO talks about the challenges he faced on Ocean’s Thirteen and offers us an insight into his character, Willy Bank.

He also reveals why working with director Steven Soderbergh was such a pleasure for him and how he also got a buzz from working alongside Messrs Pitt, Clooney, Damon and co…

Q: Were you a fan of the first two movies?
Al Pacino: I was a fan of Ocean’s Eleven but I never got to see Twelve, which I’m looking forward to seeing.

Q: Why do you think it worked?
Al Pacino: Well, it was a good story and they played it really well. All the boys and the director, Steven Soderbergh, just got into it and had fun with it. That was infectious.

Q: What did you think of Brian and David’s script on this one?
Al Pacino: That’s the reason I did it, because it was a good script. Not that I was surprised; it was just that you don’t expect something that good in a film that is part of a franchise.

Q: Can you describe your character, Willy Bank?
Al Pacino: Well, he’s a sort of megalomaniac-type guy. Everything is his work; everything is the hotel, to the point where it has blinded him to everything else that’s going on around him. So, eventually, it’s that one track that is his undoing. I like playing someone that puts the blinders on. That was fun to play.

He, in his own way, is pushing the envelope to his own destruction. He almost sees his fate and has this crazy dance with it. What is his final outing going to be? Steven and I both talked about a character who is, at the same time, almost clownish in some ways, but also a formidable power. That is the whole idea of the game – to take on someone who is not easy.

Q: Does he know Danny Ocean’s world just as well as the gang knows it?
Al Pacino: Oh, yeah. He knows his adversary. And in some perverse way, it’s fun for him to engage in this kind of thing, except he’s a little bit caught up with the pomp of everything. He enjoys this boss status he has acquired. But I’ve met some of these guys and they’re intense. I talked to someone who has 42,000 employees, and brilliant isn’t the word to describe this guy. I mean, he answered questions that I would have asked before I asked them. He was way ahead of everything.

Q: What is his obsession with the Five Star Diamond award?
Al Pacino: That’s his Oscar, and either you have an obsession for an Oscar or you don’t. I think in a lot of ways the Five Star Diamond thing is his way of avoiding life and real connection with people. He gets connected to a Five Star Diamond award instead. I mean, that becomes his reason for being, which is pathetic, actually. It’s fun to talk about, though, and fun to play.

Q: Have you worked with producer Jerry Weintraub before?
Al Pacino: Yes, I have. He’s a great producer. Jerry is a producer who’s present. He’s really into it. He likes doing it, and you can feel it, so everybody goes with it. You know where he stands on things. That’s good to be around.

Q: What is it like to work with Steven Soderbergh as a director?
Al Pacino: He’s a great director. I had heard how great he was and, of course, saw his great movies. It was one of the great experiences, being around him and working with him. He makes scenes come alive in such a way for you and at the same time you never feel as though you’re in a movie. It’s just so easy. To the manner born, as they say, and that’s him.

He creates this ambience, which is one of the great things directors do, and feel that place of comfort, which frees you up as an actor. You know that he’s watching. I never worked with him before, but I met him and talked to him a little bit, and knew he was a sensitive person. But to work with him was a real treat.

Q: I got to ask you just a question about your sidekick, Abigail Sponder, played by Ellen Barkin. Who is she to him?
Al Pacino: Well, she’s someone who for some reason is enamored with Willy, because this guy does have certain gifts. Anyone who gets this far has gifts and I think she respects those gifts. I think she’s also someone who has a certain look which she appreciates for business because everything is for business with these people. I don’t think he knows much about her personal life or anything. I don’t think he could tell you the colour of her eyes, but she’s there and he knows somehow that she looks good in a dress because people have told him. She gets the job done, though. Other people sort of don’t exist for him, really.

Q: Was it fun to be part of this cast, which has worked together on the past films?
Al Pacino: Oh, yeah. When you’re around people who do this the way they do it and they want you in, it immediately makes you comfortable. I did know some of these guys from before but it’s just a warm, wonderful feeling they have. I’ve met Julie a couple of times, Brad and having met Matt, he’s just a great guy, Don Cheadle, and all of them. It’s wonderful. Elliot Gould is a friend of mine. He’s a card playing buddy, Elliot.

Q: Do you consider Willy Bank the villain of the piece?
Al Pacino: Oh, no. I think he is an unconscionable person, the things that he does, yeah. But when you play a part like this you try to at least find that balance where you can see some of his foibles. I’m not talking about his humanity; it’s not that kind of picture. But at the same time, you want to give a slant on it. He could go both ways, and there’s something about him that is vulnerable even though he’s not.

Read our review of the movie