I took a small tape recorder with me to the Wadsworth and when Pacino sat down in the back of the theater during a break in the action between Salome and John the Baptist I sat in the row in front of him, took out the recorder, and started asking him questions, as a cameraman pointed his camera at us.
“Put that away,” Pacino said.
“What do you mean? How can I ask you questions without recording your answers?” I said, now in character as a reporter, there to talk to the star and director.
“You don’t need it,” he said, pushing it aside.
“Of course I need it,” I said defiantly, obnoxiously.
“No, you don’t,” he said. “Because what we say is being recorded with that,” he indicated the camera.
I hesitated. Did he really want me to capitulate and put away my tape recorder or was he testing me on camera, seeing how far I’d be willing to play it out? Were we about to have a “scene” where he got angry and told me to leave? Was he just being playful?
I couldn’t tell. Pacino was a master of improvisation. He had an explosive personality and I often saw him “play act” with actors who came to his house to visit. He loved the give-and-take. But I wasn’t an actor. I was given one direction from him the day before and I was doing my best to both be myself and to be the reporter trying to interview him. If he took away my recorder—my instrument—how could I play the scene?
“No,” I said, “let’s just leave it on and see where it goes.”
“Don’t think so,” he said, and he took the tape recorder in his hand and pocketed it.
Well, I thought, I guess he really didn’t want me to use a tape recorder. But the camera was still rolling, so I did my best to continue playing the role of wounded reporter.
“Maybe this was a mistake,” Pacino said. “I might have given you too much direction. You’re obnoxious enough without having to play obnoxious.”