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Scent of a Woman

SUMMARY

Colonel Frank Slade (Pacino) is a blind, cantankerous retired Army man who wants to spend one last big weekend living it up in New York City before killing himself. Charlie (Chris O'Donnell) is a young student from a local upscale boarding school trying to earn enough money to make it home until Christmas. Slade drags him along to NY for a wild weekend.

 

CAST / CREW

Directed by
Martin Brest

Writing credits (WGA)
Giovanni Arpino (novel)
Bo Goldman (screenplay)
Cast
Al Pacino .... Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade
Chris O'Donnell .... Charlie Simms
James Rebhorn .... Mr. Trask
Gabrielle Anwar .... Donna
Philip Seymour Hoffman .... George Willis, Jr. (as Philip S. Hoffman)
Richard Venture .... W.R. Slade
Bradley Whitford .... Randy
Rochelle Oliver .... Gretchen
Margaret Eginton .... Gail
Tom Riis Farrell .... Garry
Nicholas Sadler .... Harry Havemeyer
Todd Louiso .... Trent Potter
Matt Smith .... Jimmy Jameson
Gene Canfield .... Manny
Frances Conroy .... Christine Downes
  (more)

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ARTICLES

July 2nd 2000 - Vittorio Gassman, crowd in tears for the last acclamation

    (thanks Isabella for translating this article)
   Rome - American actor Al Pacino, Oscar winner in 1993 for "Scent of a woman", an american remake of "Profumo di donna" directed by Dino Risi, starring Vittorio Gassman, is deeply moved by the death of his colleague. He says: "When such a great actor dies, a guiding light is missing in the international community. I am catholic and I have italian origins: my mother Rose loved italian movies and theater, and she teached me to follow them."
    Pacino had a deep and sincere interest in Gassman both as an actor and as a man, and admits that, even if he's younger, there's a deep analogy between their careers: "… the way we were both looking for Shakespeare, the always renewed pleasure for literature and for the words of the classics, but even for every movies' genre." Al Pacino shows a wholehearted respect and love for our actor: "Vittorio Gassman has been a great and endless source of inspiration for any actor. He's been loved and respected for more than 50 years of work in theater and cinema, 'til his end. I've been very touched and saddened when I've been told of his death. I've always been one of his fans, as many others all over the world. Of course we will miss him, even if someone says that theater actors are writing on the sand. His aura, his deep inspiration will be with us forever."
    No, Pacino has never met Gassman personally, and before shooting "Scent of a woman", he didn't see the italian version directed by Risi. But, he says: "After the end of the shooting I saw it, and studied it, and I thought that my Oscar was for him too, because Martin Brest directed this movie taking inspiration from many other Gassman's movies. When in "Scent of a woman" I drive the Ferrari, it remainds me "Il sorpasso" (The overtaking) and the tango scene remainds me many other italian comedies. I saw many of his movies before shooting some of my charachters: the salesman in "Glengarry Glenn Ross", or Lefty Ruggero in "Donnie Brasco", for instance."
    What does the always busy and younger Al Pacino know about Gassman's career as a theater actor? He explains: "At the Actors Studio, as in many other experimental theater groups, Gassman has been and always will be an example to be followed: for the dedication he had in creating drama schools, and his own Workshop, for his amazing technique combined to a way of acting and playing meant as a kind of work in progress. I was 26 when I saw Gassman play a collection of italian theater at the Lincoln Center in NY. He made me fall in love with Luigi Pirandello and his "L'uomo dal fiore in bocca" (The man with a flower in his mouth). Later, while studying his work, I developed my ideas for "Looking for Richard": the great Elizabethan theater, the art of dressing up, the mixing of stage and real life. Gassman did all this."
    Did you know that Vittorio played Richard III in 1968 directed by Luca Ronconi? "Of course" he answers "and we studied the sets by Mario Ceroli, the script they used, based upon the version by Rodolfo J. Wilcock. In many drama schools we worked with "Affabulazione" (it means "plot" or "interrelationship of the main events in a play, movie etc.") by Pasolini, that Gassman played many times, and we both did a continuous research about these masterpieces."
    You came from a different country and a different culture, what do you share with Vittorio Gassman? "The hope that youth will reach their deep souls through the theater and the love for the words. I love to teach to young people just like Gassman did, and I strongly feel that life and theater are always meeting in a kind of playful puzzle, and it's important to show what's behind the screen or the stage, too. Gassman did many movies and plays mixing up his life and his work. I'm doing something like that, too."
    Al Pacino, as Gassman, sometimes has lost the peace with himself: is it so difficult being both a man and an actor? "Acting gives you some kind of exaltation, it deeply affects your soul, your thoughts, and maybe your body, too. Acting creates anguish and questions. You can't live with it, but you can't live without."

The Man Who Taught Pacino to Tango, by Susan Brenna

    (from Dancesport Studios, where Pacino studied for his big Tango scene.  Thanks Sarah Scott for this info.)
    (Not to Mention all those 9-to-5ers Trying to Follow in his Footsteps)
    Remember that episode of "The Honeymooners" where the suave neighbor in the satin shirt teaches Alice to mambo, and Ralph goes berserk with jealousy?
    If the neighbor had been Paul Pellicoro, The Man Who Taught Pacino to Tango, he would not have left that crummy Kramden kitchen until he had Ralph doing the mambo, too.
    "I’ve always taken great pride in being able to make anybody dance. Anybody," says Pellicoro, who, in his high-waisted Latin pants and rippling moussed ‘do, looks a lot more like the movie set Mambo King he might one day be than the Italian kid from Levittown he once was.
    About 250 people each night pass through the door of Pellicoro’s Broadway dance studio, DanceSport. Most initially can partner-dance about as gracefully as a pigeon can ski. Nonetheless, the atmosphere in these group dance classes—among them Salsa and Mambo, Argentine Tango, Rumba/Salsa and Pellicoro’s beloved Hustle—is gently accepting of clumsy foot-falls and cha-chas that are one cha too many.
    As the women rotate around the practice rooms form one male partner to the next, an unspoken contract of anonymous courtliness prevails.. to smirk or criticize would not only expose a stranger’s vulnerable awkwardness, it seems, but might well strip one’s own hot merengue of any shaky dignity.
    Standing in front of a wall of mirrors are Pellicoro and his international staff of dance instructors—sinuous salsa animal Ron Rosario, the torchy red-haired Aleksandra, one of a little flock of former Russian ballroom dance competitors who are learning both the hustle and how to say, "Nice footwork." Their job is to look cinematically dreamy and to pump out encouragement. "Ladies, remember what your pattern is because the men are having a hard time remembering theirs,"
    Pellicoro calls over the accordion glides to a Basic Tango group.
    In his mid-30s (he doesn’t like to be exact), the perfect line of his body in precision-pressed jade pleated trousers makes the other men, in their tired coming-from-work clothes, look like dancing sponges.
    Pausing to demonstrate a step pattern, he calls for his business partner: "Eleny?" Blasting through the practice room door comes 68 inches of cheekbones and sculpted muscle in salmon T-straps and a clinging crushed velvet tunic. Now in the presence of this flamingo, the female students transmute into a crowd of penguins.
    "Gentlemen," Pellicoro calls over her shoulder, "you want to look good and make the lady feel good as well."
    In an Intermediate Hustle class dominated by male students, among them financial analyst David MacDougall, Pellicoro preached more directly his philosophy of partner dancing. As MacDougall recalled, Pellicoro damned the limp lead: "you have to realize, guys, that when a beautiful woman dances with you, she should think you’re God."
   Viewers may have seen a bit of that in the film "Scent of a Woman" when Pacino, playing a blind man on a wild last tear, led a hesitant Gabrielle Anwar to the dance floor and tangoed the wind out of her sails.
    That’s exactly what Pellicoro did the first time Anwar, who is no dancer, walked into his studio. In fact, he did the same thing when he was auditioning to be the dance trainer and choreographer for the film. He led director Martin Brest’s startled secretary from her chair, put a guiding hand on her spine, pressed his palm to her palm and ocho’ed his way into film history footnote.

   "When it was over," he says of that first furious tango with Anwar, "it was like a roller coaster ride for her. She didn’t know what had happened. I swept her off of her feet. Not to flatter myself, but that’s one thing I can do in this life."
    The obsessive Pellicoro, a former Adelphi University dance major, gave his life over to partner dancing as a hustle club kid of the ‘70s. He and his little gang of Van McCoy fanatics would carpool around the tri-state area, "challenging" the locals. Eventually they decided that they were too good to dance with ordinary people, that their look would be dragged down by the missteps of mirror-watching dilettantes. "The hustle was taken away from the people," Pellicoro says. That’s when he decided that charity and grace would be the rule of any dance class he would teach.
    That does not apply, however, to his own dancing. He and his dance, love and business partner, Eleny Fotinos, are working toward their comeback in the competitive dancing world. Pellicoro met Fotinos, certainly one of the more remarkable flowers of Astoria, seven years ago when she was 16 and her mother was learning the hustle. Pellicoro and Fotinos danced in a Pro-Am tournament—he the pro, she the amateur—and they’re still each trying to get the other’s moves right. Pellicoro invited a guest to observe a practice session with the words, "Come in and watch us fight." Pellicoro, with this obsessiveness, and Pacino, with all his actorly intensity, go right into the groove. It was another successful fusion for a man who lives to partner. For two months Pellicoro and Fotinos worked with "Al" in those quiet afternoons before the after-work dance class rush hour. They’d tango for 20 minutes. They they’d take a 15-minute cappuccino break. "I like breaks," Pacino would say. "I’m big on breaks."
  
Actor awe was not a problem, since Pellicoro seems almost unconscious of life outside of dance, and the glamorous Fotinos, whose feet have hardly left the studio floorboards since she partnered up with Pellicoro, didn’t even know what the man looked like. "I don’t like bloody movies," is how she explains having missed the corpse-littered Pacino oeuvre. When the actor walked into the mirrored rooms above Columbus Circle with his shaggy hair and his baseball cap on backward, they kind of wondered if this guy could move. They couldn’t even tell if there was a working muscle in there. "He wears his pants five times too big," said Fotinos.
   They taught him basic principles of tango and how to stand and move like a dancer. Pellicoro and Fotinos would dance, and they he would stand and imitate Pellicoro’s commanding Ramon Navarro attitude. "He was really a natural but he wanted to be perfect," said Pellicoro. During breaks Pacino would grill them about their lives, "because he’s no longer a normal person," as Pellicoro says. He was fascinated by their schedule—how they’d bike or use Rollerblades to warm up in the morning, then practice their own competitive Latin routines for three or four sweaty hours. They train teachers, do business, teach two hours of group classes and then throw a two-hour dance party in the studio every night, where people drink coffee
and eat cookies and sweat like crazy in a salsa-spiked fever. Pacino couldn’t believe they could work so hard.

   As for his life, he told them how a bunch of friends had sort of taken over his Manhattan apartment for a 24-hour card game, so now he stayed somewhere else. "He was a sweetheart," said Fotinos.
   Then filming began. It was a new Al. He resisted learning his choreography, balked at practicing, kept insisting the editors would do wonders with cuts and splices. One day Fotinos ordered the cappuccino delivered three times, and three times the actor insisted it was freezing! He took a wad of bills form his pocket, threw them on the floor, and shouted, "There’s a hundred dollars in it for anyone who can get me a hot cup of coffee!"
   The tango team was in shock. It took them weeks to realize that Pacino had simply become his nightmare screen character. Filming or not filming, he embodied an impossible, crabby old man 24 hours a day. But as soon as filming ended, Sweetheart was back. Several times they’ve detected him in his big clothes cover on the street—"We know his body and his posture"—and he always greets them as if they were dear card-playing buddies.
   Pellicoro did not become, as his ads announce in capital letters, The Man Who Taught Pacino to Tango, until well after the movie had hit. That’s when the phone calls began peppering his West Side dance studio from people who would ask, "Can you teach me to tango?" Guess what had inspired them? And suddenly Pellicoro realized, hey, I could use this. The ads went into the paper, and he went agent-shopping. "Paul is anything but career-minded," says Eleanor Bergstein, ;the producer-writer of "Dirty Dancing." She has a writing studio on Central Park South within sight of DanceSport, and in the process of writing a new film about ballroom dancing, she’s spent months taking lessons and soaking up color there.
    She laughs about how she tentatively introduced herself to him, expecting him to bore right in on a possible film job, only to be asked by him four weeks later, "Now why did you want to hang around here?"
    While Bergstein’s new film will not be based specifically on DanceSport, the spirit of those 250 people struggling nightly to convert their limbs into liquid poetry will be in her movie. She says, "I really want you to feel that what is so beautiful to watch could be you, and this is how you do it."
    This is how you do it? As Fotinos and Pellicoro whirl around the practice studio, seat flying off their muscles in fat drops, they fling commands from clenched jaws.
    "You follow me—" he says to her.
    "I did."
    "No, I followed you this time, why don’t you try following me?"
    The lyrics invite, "Have fun, do the samba." Fotinos shrieks, "My RIBS!" They are a living warning not to take these dance classes too far.
    A movie set has got to be a break from this. Pellicoro is pursuing more film work, but it’s clear that it’s got to be on his terms, that it has to be real dancing and not just some fakey little shuffling. He is a purist. It’s got to look good, it’s got to be precise.
    At the end of one of each of his long practice battles with Fotinos, he retreats to an upstairs sanctum, showers and changes into another of his perfectly pressed outfits in colors by Gauguin. "It’s nighttime, it’s time to look good," he says, as he stands in the tiny studio lobby where bent-over Columbia grad students breathlessly swap their Doc Martens for satiny T-straps.
    By Pellicoro’s elbow, on the counter, is a little dish of peppermints. They are a subtle invitation for students to freshen their breath and check their look before drawing a partner close in a soft, twilight samba.
    This articles originally appeared in New York Newsday on Monday, June 14, 1993.(pp. 44-45)

 

 

QUOTES FROM THE MOVIE

COLONEL SLADE

Hoo ha!

If I were the man I was five years ago, I'd take a FLAME THROWER to this place.

Ut oh, we got a moron here, is that it?

When in doubt, fuck.

There is nothing like the sight of an amputated spirit. There is no prosthesis for that.

Why didn't you take him to your families for Thanksgiving?

I know exactly where your body is. What I'm lookin' for is some indication of a brain. Too much football without a helmet?

You sharp shootin' me punk? Is that what you're doin'?

All information will be given on a need to know basis.

Don't be sorry. How would you know? Been watchin' MTV all your life.

I can tell ya this, he won't sell anybody out to buy his FUTURE, and that, my friends, is called integrity - that's called courage- now that's the stuff leaders SHOULD be made of.

Now I have come to the crossroads in my life. I always knew what the right path was. Without exception, I knew, but I never took it. You know why? It was too damn hard. Now here's Charlie. He's come to the crossroads. He has chosen a path. It's the right path. It's a path made of principle that leads to character. Let him continue on his journey. You hold this boy's future in your hands committee. It's a valuable future. Believe me. Don't destroy it. Protect it. Embrace it. It's gonna make ya proud one day, I promise you

I'm in the dark here. You understand? I'm in the dark.

There are 2 kinds of people in this world, Charlie. The first group is the people that face the music; the second group are those who run for cover. Cover is better.

Women... what can you say? Who made em? God must have been a fuckin' genius. Hair... They say hair is everything you know? Have you ever buried your nose in a mountain of curls and just wanted to go to sleep forever? Or lips that when they touched yours were like that first swallow of wine after you just crossed the desert? Tits. Hoo-hah! Big ones, little ones. Nipples staring right out at ya, like secret searchlights. Legs. I don't care if they're Greek columns, or second-hand Steinways, but what's between them... passport to heaven.

Well, gentlemen, when the shit hits the fan, some guys run and some guys stay.

Out of order, I'll show you out of order! You don't know what out of order is Mr. Trask! I'd show you but I'm too old, I'm too tired, and I'm too fuckin' blind. If I were the man I was five years ago I'd take a flame-thrower to this place. Out of order, who the hell do you think you're talking to? I've been around you know? There was a time I could see. And I have seen, boys like these, younger than these, their arms torn out, their legs ripped off. But there isn't nothin' like the sight of an amputated spirit, there is no prosthetic for that. You think you're merely sending this splendid foot-soldier back home to Oregon with his tail between his legs but I say that you are executing his soul. And why? Because he's not a Baird man. Baird men, you hurt this boy, you're going to be Baird Bums, the lot of ya. And Harry, Jimmy, Trent, wherever you are out there, fuck you too.



TRIVIA

Al Pacino was helped by a school for the blind in his preparation for this role. He said that he made himself appear blind by not allowing his eyes to focus on anything. (IMD)

During the disciplinary meeting, the headmaster tells Slade "You are out of order!", a famous line told to another of Pacino's characters in ...And Justice for All (1979). (IMD)

Brest, Martin (the director) disowned the version shown on airlines and put the name Smithee, a common pseudonym for directors who don't want their name on a film. (IMD)

FROM AN ARTICLE ON CHRIS O'DONNELL

O'Donnell was still in Pampers when The Godfather came out, and though he knew who costar Al Pacino was, it seems he didn't really know.Scent of a Woman director Martin Brest remembers finding O'Donnell one day, thumbing through an Italian film magazine. "They were doing a career retrospective on Pacino," says Brest. "Chris looked at me and said, 'Holy mackerel! Did you know how many movies this guy's been in?' "

O'Donnell, who never had any formal acting training, was schooled by Pacino in a series of volatile face-offs. Brest remembers a scene in which the colonel (Pacino) interviews O'Donnell's Charlie Simms for a job as his assistant. "What do you want?," the colonel asks, and the nervous student's line is "I want a job." With the camera fixed on O'Donnell's face, Pacino broke from the script, trying to get the young actor appropriately rattled.

"Al starts bellowing like a hellhound: 'No, Chris, what do you want?,' " Brest recalls. "Chris stayed perfectly in character: 'I-I-I want a job.' Al said, 'No, Chris, don't give me that fucking line! I'm talking to you! What do you want?' Al really tore into him. The whole crew started to sweat, but Chris stayed right on his mark. It produced wonderful stuff."

Pacino and company actually did film at the Waldorf Astoria, and you can see Al arrive there, and in the lobby (filming was done in the middle of the night in the lobby). (The hotel room, however, was a film set).

The scenes at the Oak Room in New York's Plaza Hotel are real too.

The tango scenes were taped at the ballroom in the Pierre Hotel on Fifth Avenue, right down the block from The Plaza. (It took 4 days to film that sequence in the Pierre's ballroom).

Paul Pellicoro, who was one of the people who taught Al the tango, has his studio just blocks from Al's westside office. Al visited the studio for his lessons. (Pellicoro once remarked; "I had never seen Al in person before, but now that I know him, I often see him walking up and down Broadway past the studio. You never forget the way he walks"). Pellicoro's studio is open to the public, so you too can take dance lessons from the man who taught Al how to tango.

Al went to the "Lighthouse" (on 59th St., up by Bloomingdales) to learn "how it feels to be a blind person." He met with over a dozen clients of the Lighthouse (all who once had the ability to see, but then lost it). Al didn't want to know how to "act" like a blind person. He wanted to know what it "feels" like to have once had sight, but then to have lost it. Al asked each person to go through the whole "progression" of becoming blind (from their initial loss of sight, to the depression that followed, to the day when they came to terms with what happened to them.

PACINO TO GUEST IN GIGLI

VARIETY reports Al Pacino will make a cameo appearance in director Martin Brest's GIGLI. The film stars Ben Affleck as a hit man who kidnaps the mentally-challenged brother of the attorney general to stop the prosecution of a mob boss.

Pacino Inks for 'Gigli' Cameo
(thanks Lisa Wollney for this info)

By David Bloom

    HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - Al Pacino has signed to reunite withhis Scent of a Woman director Martin Martin Brest for a cameo rolein ``Gigli,'' a caper picture now shooting in Los Angeles.
    The movie, set for a 2003 release via Columbia, stars BenAffleck and Jennifer Lopez. The story follows a bungling hitman who kidnaps the mentally challenged brother of the attorneygeneral to stop the prosecution of a mob boss.
    Pacino is currently shooting the Roger Donaldson spythriller The Farm and his ``Gigli'' gig is conditional on theactor's finding time in his schedule.
    Brest directed Pacino to an Oscar in 1992's
Scent of a Woman, and Pacino will do the ``Gigli'' cameo in part as a favorfor Brest.


CONTINUITY

When Slade and Simms get ready to leave for NY, Slade's tie changes from straight to crooked and back again. (IMD)

Level of whisky in Slade's glass and in the bottle. (IMD)

In the tango scene, Donna's earrings are missing at different points in the dance. (IMD)

 

 

DVD INFO


Buy at Amazon.com
Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
Color, Closed-captioned, Dolby
Production notes
Widescreen anamorphic format,  1.85 : 1 ratio
Languages: English, Spanish, French

 

 

A Page on Scent of a Woman with music from the tango scene
(13k)
Tango (music only)
(153k) "I can tell ya this, he won't sell anybody out to buy his FUTURE, and that, my friends, is called integrity - that's called courage- now that's the stuff leaders SHOULD be made of"
(477k) (it's worth the wait!) "Now I have come to the crossroads in my life. I always knew what the right path was. Without exception, I knew, but I never took it. You know why? It was too damn hard. Now here's Charlie. He's come to the crossroads. He has chosen a path. It's the right path. It's a path made of principle that leads to character. Let him continue on his journey. You hold this boy's future in your hands committee. It's a valuable future. Believe me. Don't destroy it. Protect it. Embrace it. It's gonna make ya proud one day, I promise you"
(16k) Hoo hah!

 

DVD INFO

Buy it at Amazon.com
Encoding: Region 1 
Format: Color, Closed-captioned, Dolby, Widescreen
Rated: R Not for sale to persons under age 18.
Studio: Universal Studios
DVD Release Date: May 6, 2003

DVD Features:
Production notes
Widescreen anamorphic format
 

 

GALLERY    LINKS

Internet Movie Database
Dancesport Studios, where Pacino studied for his big Tango scene
A Page on Scent of a Woman, some pictures and the music from the tango scene
Another short page on SOW with links to video clips

Gabrielle Anwar fan page by Steven Lake
Darcy's Phillip Seymour Hoffman Page