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Remembering: Scarface

Remembering: Scarface
American crime drama directed by Brian De Palma

Starring Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer,
Steven Bauer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
Released December 9, 1983
by Lisa McDonald
Live Music Head


It was by watching the bonus features on the dvd that I learned it was Martin Bregman (the producer) who brought in Oliver Stone to write the screenplay, and that it was based upon the original Scarface of 1932, starring Paul Muni and George Raft. And it was the film maker Sidney Lumet who suggested to Stone that the story be changed to a Cuban refugee in Miami who becomes a kingpin of a drug cartel during the cocaine boom of the '80s, as opposed to gangsters in Chicago bootlegging during Prohibition, the setting of the original film.

Stone, in his research traveled to Ecuador, and Bolivia where he found himself in a dangerous situation. When Stone (admittedly a user of cocaine himself) realized he was in the real-life company of the kind of characters that are depicted in the film; real-life characters who didn’t truly believe he was a screenwriter conducting research… he got scared. And it was the same kind of fear that he recalled experiencing as a soldier who fought in the Vietnam war; a fear which is the essence of Scarface… that you don’t know what’s coming next, and violence can happen at any time. “The movie was supposed to be shocking. It’s a shocking world. These gangsters are the likes of which you’d never seen before.” ~ Brian DePalma

As for Al Pacino, can you get a more larger-than-life presence on the big screen? The violence depicted here is extreme and over-the-top, certainly not for the faint-of-heart, but for those who are not may find Pacino’s presence as captivating as I. Tony Montana, the character he plays, is despicable no doubt. But he wasn’t a complete rogue. He did have integrity, for he ultimately could not and would not kill a mother and her two children, a decision which led directly to his demise.

In 1994, Scarface was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

The trailer for Scarface…

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