Scarface is a loose adaptation of the 1932 movie which is also about the rise and fall of an American immigrant gangster updated from the original setting of Chicago during prohibition to Miami, with the tale brought up to date through the eyes of the “new immigrants” during the most greed ridden decade, the overindulgent 80s.
In the city of Miami there was a huge controversy during production because the film showed Miami’s latest Cuban immigrants as gangsters and drug dealers. Remember this was before the TV series “Miami Vice”. Cuban Americans protested and the production had to eventually be moved to Los Angeles.
When Castro allowed the Cuban Nationals to join their families in the United States in May 1980, he also released the dregs of Cuba’s jails and 25,000 of the 125,000 refugees had criminal records and this is where the film begins.
The writer Oliver Stone found the Cuban gangsters at the center of his research were called “marielitos” and they had gained a lot of publicity for their open brazenness.
He spent months in South Florida and South America doing research. Police officials opened up case files with graphic photos of the carnage and casualties of drug empire battles. Interviewing people on both sides of the law for research, “it got hairy” during the process.
Stone wanted to do a sun drenched tropical third world gangster, cigar, sexy Miami film. Stone was in touch with the enemy that raged larger than life rawness and tragedy that was the underbelly and danger of the Florida drug ranks.
Unfortunately, Stone was dealing with his own cocaine habit which gave him an insight into what the drug can do to users. While trying to kick his habit he finally moved his family to France to write the script sober.
He was paid $300,000 to write the screenplay which at that time made him the highest paid screenwriter in Hollywood.
Al Pacino as Tony Montana gave one of the best performances of his career. He was involved with the producers from the beginning, and he put his heart, soul and rage into the role.
Steven Bauer as Manny, Pacino’s best friend and partner didn’t even have to audition for the role, because he fit the character so well. Michelle Pfeiffer as the addicted wife and trophy girl and Mary Elizabeth Maestro Antonio the vulnerable little sister we’re also terrific.
Director Brian Depalma’s trademark excessiveness turns up in the form of a number of brutal shootings and an especially “Tarantino like” chainsaw murder.
In the wildly excessive finale, Pacino has dug his own grave, destroyed his business and either killed or alienated all of his friends and family. Sitting alone in his huge mansion snorting from a pile of cocaine on his desk, a small army invades and executes his staff. He must battle them alone and during the bloody massacre, Pacino’s body is so pumped full of drugs that he doesn’t notice the bullets.
The film’s most famous line is here “say hello to my little friend” as he introduces his M16 with a M203 mm grenade launcher attached to the barrel to the intruders.
By the way the cocaine used on the film was powdered milk which created problems for Pacino’s nasal passages, “for years I’ve had things up there”.
Scarface features 226 uses of the F-bomb which was the most of any movie in history at that time. The language and the violence got the film an X-rating all three times it was submitted to the MPAA. Finally, through much deliberation, the first cut of the film was given an R rating.
The film was in production for 24 weeks, from November 22nd, 1982, through May of 1983.
With a production budget of $25 million the film went on to a $65 million worldwide gross.
Forty years ago it was released in a thousand theaters on December 9th 1983.
David Garland FL Miami Beach Jun 14, 2023 Movies Nostalgia