RECALLS PACINO'S KINDNESS - "HE WENT OUT OF HIS WAY TO MAKE SURE I WAS TAKEN CARE OF"
In a video interview to promote the new movie Replicas, John Ortiz is asked by Collider's Steve 'Frosty' Weintraub about Ortiz' first film, Brian De Palma's Carlito's Way:
Frosty: You’re someone who, I’ve admired your work for a very long time. I believe it goes back to Carlito’s Way. So, I want to definitely jump back in time… what do you remember about making that one? Because to me, every time it comes on HBO or whatever, I’m, like, hooked.
Ortiz: Yeah, that was my first movie. Ever. And what I remember was, a kid… a kid in a candy shop. I was working with Al Pacino. And Sean Penn. And Viggo Mortensen. And Brian De Palma. And I was just… whenever you saw me smile in that movie? That was real. [Laughs out loud.] I was like, [laughs and grins] This is great!
Frosty: I would imagine working with that level of talent has to rub off a little on just the way you present, the way you work in future gigs. Just learning from masters like that.
Frosty: Do you remember what you took away from that experience that you said, “I need to be like this in the future.”
Ortiz: Yeah, you know, the one big—I learned a lot. A lot of stuff. The one big thing that to this day I’ll never forget, is Al Pacino’s kindness towards me. Like he went out of his way to make sure I was taken care of. And he would run lines with me, he would ask me how I was doing, when things weren’t quite working out on set, he would make sure that I was aware of certain things, and that I was protected. And he didn’t have to do that, he was nominated for two Oscars that year. And he was Al Pacino.
And yeah, there was one incident where I was almost cut out of a scene, because I couldn’t keep my eyes closed. And they were blinking from too much caffeine. And it was messing up the shot. And so Brian was going to kind of just skim over me, onto him. And it was my death scene. It was my moment. And Pacino knew that. And I was up for 23 hours straight, so I was on espresso the whole time. So I was literally shaking. You know, I couldn’t stop it. And that’s what was causing my eyes to flicker. And De Palma said, “Okay, we’ll just go over,” [motions imaginary camera panning] and Al needed to take a flight to L.A., for the Academy Awards. And it was like, you know, an hour before his flight or something. And he (De Palma) was like, “No, I’ll just skim over and we’ll just get the shot.” And he (Pacino) cleared the room, kept me there, and he said, “I want everyone out.” And I was like, about to leave, and he was [come-back motions with his hands] “No, stay, stay, I’m just going to have an espresso. I just needed everyone out of the room.” And I’m like, [worried face, inner thoughts] “All right. What the hell am I doing here, then?” He’s like, “Do you want an espresso?” [Laughter with Frosty] And I was like, “Yeah! Yeah, sure.” I did not want an espresso, you know, but you’re never going to turn down Al Pacino’s espresso. So I had an espresso with him. I don’t know what we talked about, but it seemed like hours went by. And he called everyone back in, did the scene, and my eyes didn’t flicker. And he left. And yeah—that’s the lesson I take away from that movie.
Frosty: That’s an amazing story, and I say thank you for sharing. Seriously.
Ortiz: That’s the first time I’ve said this story on camera. I’ve told friends this story, but… it took me like ten years to tell that story to anyone, just because I held it so close to my heart.