In 1974, when Paramount released The Godfather: Part II, the studio had to see if the formula would work a second time without Marlon Brando. After dying off in the first Godfather, Brando picked up his second Oscar (well, sort of) and moved on to his next role (Last Tango in Paris).
Taking his place was Robert De Niro, playing Brando’s character (Vito Corleone) as a young man. At that point, De Niro was mostly known for his roles in Bang the Drum Slowly and Mean Streets. He didn’t quite have the name of Al Pacino, who starred as Michael Corleone in the first Godfather.
But that would soon change. After The Godfather: Part II racked up 11 Oscar nominations — including nods for both Pacino and De Niro, who won Best Supporting Actor — the two New York-born actors would often be mentioned in the same breath.
It makes sense: Both hail from New York, both are Italian-American, and both rose to the top of the acting profession at the same time. Yet they only appeared in a few movies together in the following five decades. Here’s a look at the only films starring both Pacino and De Niro.
From ‘The Godfather II’ to ‘Heat’ ‘Righteous Kill’
You only see De Niro and Pacino together for a few seconds in The Godfather sequel. As the story shifts back to the earlier generation, the shot dissolves from a grown Michael Corleone to a young Vito in Little Italy. There’s no way to get the two into the same frame.
It would stay that way through the ’70s and ’80s. In fact, the first time the two shared star billing ended up being Michael Mann’s Heat (1995). By then, De Niro had won his second Oscar (for 1980’s Raging Bull) and Pacino his first (for 1992’s Scent of a Woman).
Even then, you didn’t actually see the two screen legends in the same shot during their face-off in the diner. The first time fans got that privilege came in 2008, when Pacino and De Niro co-starred in Righteous Kill.
Most fans would agree that cop picture didn’t do justice to the talents of these Oscar winners. (Both were nominated for Worst Actor awards, and they won one together.) Here’s to hoping that will change when they appear in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman later this year.
‘The Irishman,’ coming later in 2019, makes 4 for De Niro and Pacino.
Later in 2019, fans of the screen titans get another shot, and it may be the last. The Irishman, Scorsese’s latest, tells the tale of the man who claims he killed Jimmy Hoffa. Alongside these two, fans will get another look at Harvey Keitel and Joe Pesci, who’s been out of the game for some time.
Anna Paquin, Bobby Cannavale, Ray Romano, and Jesse Plemons also worked on the film, which is now in post-production. Scorsese produced and directed the film for Netflix. (De Niro also has producer’s credit on the picture.)
While fans shouldn’t expect the next Goodfellas, Scorsese proved with Silence that he still has a lot left in the tank. Fans of De Niro (75) and Pacino (79) will get to see what these two greats have on their ends. Needless to say, it will be worth the price of admission (or a Netflix subscription).
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