Al Pacino is making two trips up the red carpet at the Venice Film Festival on Saturday, with a pair of movies about aging, regret, giving up and letting go.
But fear not — the actor says he's not about to lower the curtain on his own career.
Pacino plays a small-town Texas locksmith with a key for everything except his own unhappiness in David Gordon Green's "Manglehorn," one of 20 films competing for the festival's Golden Lion prize. And he's an aging actor who has lost his mojo, and his grip on reality, in Barry Levinson's "The Humbling," screening out-of-competition at the festival.
U.S. & World
In both films, the 74-year-old actor looks a wreck — shambling, disheveled and drawn. But speaking to journalists before Saturday's dual premieres he was black-clad, sharply coiffed and sporting ice-blue mirrored sunglasses — every bit the movie star.
He said he could relate to his "Humbling" character's desire to pack in the rigors of acting — but hadn't lost his own appetite for the job.
"I feel very lucky, I have to say," Pacino said. "When I think of my life and my background, where I came from — like all of us I had issues as a youngster and had to overcome things, and I found something in life that I love to do.
"I've been riding it a long time and so far the plane is not landing yet.
"I don't like that metaphor," he admonished himself, "but it's all I've got right now."
Four decades after he burst to fame as the wiry young star of "The Panic in Needle Park" and "The Godfather," Pacino pours his skill and soul into these two meaty autumn-years parts.
The title character of "Manglehorn" is an emotionally stunted grump who sends countless letters to a long-lost love, all of which come back marked "return to sender." He reserves his affection for his granddaughter and his cat, rebuffing tentative romantic overtures from a sweet-natured bank teller (Holly Hunter).
"This is a man who has trouble letting go of something, basically, and it leads him to a very strange and closed life," Pacino said.
"He finally learns he has to let that go."
In "The Humbling," waning actor Simon Axler rattles around his half-empty mansion like a Connecticut King Lear, pinning his misguided hopes of love and redemption on a much younger lesbian, played by Greta Gerwig.
Pacino said he was drawn to a character "going through this tragic fall" and struck by the story's juxtaposition of comedy and darkness.
"He's a person who feels that he had a life filled with missed opportunities," Pacino said.
"He's getting older and the feelings he has for his work are dissipating or becoming less available to him."
He said that any actor could relate to the film, which explores the way the demands of performing, the distractions of drinking and drugs and the pressures of fame "intellectually and emotionally get you to stray somewhat."
In "The Humbling," Axler must choose between Shakespeare — "King Lear," naturally — and a commercial for a hair-loss cure.
Pacino said it wasn't an art-or-money choice he'd ever had to make. He's done few commercials, and relatively few big Hollywood movies.
He prefers to work with directors he knows and respects, like veteran Levinson ("Diner, "Rain Man") or Green, whose work ranges from stoner comedy "Pineapple Express" to tough Nicholas Cage drama "Joe."
"I don't know, and I never did know, what Hollywood was," Pacino said.
"I'm not an expert. I never went there as a young actor. I did movies with (Sidney) Lumet out of New York, with (Francis Ford) Coppola. My association with (Hollywood) was not unfriendly, it just wasn't really clear. And it still isn't."
But that's not to say he doesn't enjoy its products.
"They do some great stuff, great films," Pacino said. "I just saw — 'Guardians of the Galaxy,' is it, a Marvel thing? It was amazing. I saw it with my young children. I must say, I wouldn't have gone naturally.
"(It was) entertaining, inventive, beautiful, full of rich stuff. So I'm not anti-that at all."