In the Amazon Prime's upcoming drama Hunters, Pacino plays the Nazi-killing Jewish grandfather you never knew you needed.

Hunters seems like a jazzed-up recreation of actual efforts to find and prosecute Nazis in the decades after World War II. In 1977 New York, young Jonah Heidelbaum discovers that hundreds of Nazis have infiltrated the city after they brutally murder his Holocaust survivor grandmother.

To halt the rise of a Fourth Reich, he joins a group of knife-wielding Nazi hunters led by Pacino, who plays Meyer Offerman while Logan Lerman plays Jonah. Jordan Peele is producing the series through his company Monkeypaw Productions. Hunters promises a bit of post-Holocaust magical thinking. There have been some objections about the casting of Pacino, whose ancestors are Sicilian, as a prominent Jew. But he already delivered the stellar Latino character of Scarface as proof of his versatility. 

Q: It seems that you are an expert at portraying different ethnicities in your acting?
A:  I don’t think that way, because if you’re limited to your ethnicity, you’re going to have a very narrow point of view of what you’re going to be playing. I have no problem with this. Maybe more in films because it’s more literal or more naturalistic, but if you play the oboe, you play the oboe. It doesn’t matter what you are, you’re in the orchestra, you’re doing the thing, you’re playing the music.

Q: You played a Cuban in Scarface. Did you learn Spanish?
A: At least enough to get the right accent. In that movie I was talking only in Spanish even during the times we were not shooting. I was in character all the time. I wanted my portrayal of Tony Montana to be as realistic as possible, and I asked the Director of Photography, John A Alonzo, to only speak to me in Spanish to help me to stay in role when the cameras weren’t shooting

Q: Do you have a favorite Spanish author?
A: Federico Garcia Lorca without a doubt. My good friend Andy Garcia shot the movie The Disappearance of Lorca and I was engaged. I think he is a phenomenal playwright. Truly enjoy his plays and would love to act in one of his plays.

Q: Are you an eccentric actor?
A: I play eccentric characters. They’ll catch you off guard, and you really can’t believe it. That’s really what appealed to me: that things are not what they seem.

Q:   What attracted you to your projects?
A: When you are in a film, you want to know the kind of world the character is in and the world the film is going to take place in and have a knowledge of that world. I had always been a big fan of any director that wants me and I don’t mean it that way, (laughter)  I mean, I am a fan, but when I am a fan and they want me in their picture because I believe when a director sees you in a role, that you know that you are going to get involved with something that they see and I know they will be supportive. That was The Godfather, Francis Coppola wanted me in The Godfather above everybody else, nobody else wanted me in it. 

Q:  If I have the numbers correct, you won your first Academy Award 21 years ago and that was 21 years after your first nomination.  So is it time for you to go back to that red carpet?
A: I thought they would do the Oscars in a theater.  I have been on so many red carpets, I have been to so many festivals, and I have two films in this festival, so I am always on a red carpet.  (laughter) I started to like it and just the other day I thought, hey, this ain’t bad, you can make friends on it, you can sort of meet different people, friends come together and do I think it’s time for me to get another Academy Award?  Of course. (laughter)  

Q:  How can you detach yourself from some of the depressed characters that you play and yet be so loving and light in real life?  Do you take your characters home?
A: Well when I was younger I think I did.  I sort of, they stayed with me, but as I got older, I just naturally detach easier, I can let them go easier, because I feel by letting them go, I can be revived when I go back that day and have some more energy, so it becomes something to get into, both in your head and your emotions and like getting into a costume, you are getting into that state and it’s sort of easier to do when you have been out of it.  And you get back into it and you get into it with more alacrity. 

Q:  Where do you draw your inspiration, how do you choose your roles?
A: I choose my roles, it varies throughout my life and now I was trying to go with the flow and I believe that we go through cycles and some people want to call it aging, but I don’t know quite what that means and I mean, changing, and aging is something else, and I guess there are times when it’s appropriate, and certainly it’s very clear if you are an athlete, you just, like I said, you run to first base and you are afraid to stop because you will fall, because you can’t just stop, you have to slow down, and get there.  And I think now, I would think the position somewhat, like luxurious position of being able to choose something that I want to do, and I have been in there for a while, and sometimes I haven’t taken access to it and I would rather have just went with what was there, and now I think I am more or less thinking about where I am at in my own cycle of things and I think that I could accommodate that script or what it is talking about or what this character is going through and I think I have a sense of that, and that’s one thing to have a sense of it and another thing to say well I want to express it.  So, I feel that I am in somewhat of a lucky place right now for that, and I hope I can continue to do it so that I am not doing things just to use the instrument, because there’s a certain amount of craft one needs to be able to deal with the inspiration and I think that’s very clear, but you don’t want to load up with too much craft, you want to keep that openness to things, and so that’s not a struggle once you understand that. It becomes more practical. 

Q:  How is it like portraying a common man? It seems sometimes Hollywood is just trying to make epic kinds of films, and you show in this film that it’s an enjoyment to portray these kinds of regular people.
A: I won’t make my answer long, but I am just not a good editor.  I think the idea of playing real people, people who have different lives than we do as actors, is I guess it’s just an opportunity to get to know and understand other things besides this world that we are in, fame and all this stuff that goes with it.  And it’s in a strange kind of way, it’s a relief to get into someone else and the issues they have and we find how similar they are to mine and that’s comforting in a way. So, I enjoy that. And you take, somebody says, oh, let’s make a movie about Picasso or this one or that one, and you say, I would love to but it’s not about that, it’s about the text and it’s about what the writers have got to say and that’s the arrangement, that’s the connection actors have to, there’s the word, the play's the thing.  Shakespeare said it.

Maria Estevez
Correspondent writer

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