Book Excerpt: The World is Yours: The Story of Scarface by Glenn Kenny | Features

Once the shooting started, there was little reason to celebrate. While Pfeiffer felt a predictable kind of intimidation, she stresses that none of her collaborators actually tried to lord it over her. “Obviously starting with Al, who’s iconic, and then the rest of the cast, who had such amazing bodies of work. I was young. I was twenty-three years old, and I was terrified. I was terrified. I was just terrified every single day that I was going to fail. Because I had failed so miserably before. But Al was very kind and nice and patient with me, very supportive, as was Brian and Marty and everyone around me. It was just my own baggage really getting in my way, and my lack of experience and confidence.”

In the Hawks film, Poppy, played by Karen Morley, is a relatively straightforward woman on the make. Pfeiffer hadn’t seen the original picture until after she’d been cast, and she remembers thinking of Stone’s script, “Well, this is a real departure from the original.” Because there, Poppy is a simple opportunist. In the world of Scarface, the cocaine adds some complications. “Primarily, she’s an addict,” Pfeiffer says of Elvira. “And she likes pretty clothes, and she’s well taken care of and protected. And I think underneath all of her bravado is a very scared, damaged individual. But somebody who has lived a life. She’s smart and she knows how to survive and even leaves when she starts to really go downhill.”

This intuition gave Pfeiffer a base on which to build the character, and to maintain it over the course of a shoot that continued at least a couple of months past what she’d thought it would be. “It was really long. And I was starving myself because I was playing a cocaine addict, and by the end of filming, the crew members were bringing me bagels. Everybody was really concerned about me. Like you said, I hadn’t done a lot of films, so I didn’t really know that this was maybe out of the ordinary. I don’t really know what the original shooting schedule was. I can’t remember, but I know that we went way, way, way over schedule. It’s like building a house. You don’t want to start building if you don’t have really well-drawn-out and thought-through blueprints, plans. Otherwise, you know what’s going to happen? It’s going to go twice as long and cost twice as much money. And making a film is the same way. I’ve since been through other films where we’ve started without a finished script and you figure, ‘You’ll figure it out as you go along. And it’s just going to take longer.’ And you end up re-shooting things and you end up spending a lot of time working things out on the set. And that’s just kind of how it went here. Although in spite of the fact that Brian was very well-prepared.” A significant factor in this was Pacino pulling Tony Montana this way and that. It’s not something he ever gave up. Working with Pacino for a second time in 1991’s Frankie and Johnny, Pfeiffer observed that while the overall atmosphere of the set was more relaxed, Pacino would work more or less the same way. “That’s his creative process. And honestly, if you can get away with it, it’s a lot more creative, to be able to continue to discover. And that is how creative brains work. And as frustrating as it can be for those around you… I think that he’s always very in the moment, and not all actors work that way, but that is how he works. And if you’re going to let him get away with it, he’s going to do it. And by the way, a lot of us would love to be able to get away with that.” Pfeiffer then gave me a couple of off-the-record demonstrations of how “I change my own mind all the time.” She went on, “And I, like him, have really liked to do multiple takes, and even before working with him, I’m always wanting to do one more. But at a certain point when the director says, ‘We really have it.’ I’m like, ‘Okay.’ But I always want to do one more.”