Tony Montana (AL PACINO) arrives in the United States.in 1980, a refugee of the Mariel Harbor boatlift which brought thousands of Cubans to American shores. He and his friend Manny Ribera (STEVEN BAUER) are processed through immigration in Miami and sent to a detention center. They each have a past criminal record which they try to hide from the authorities.
Tony and Manny want to get out on the street where the action is. Manny finds a way to get Green Cards quickly. They have to kill a former Castro aid, Rebenga.
The killing takes place during a major riot at the camp. Tony and his friend Angel (PEPE SERNA) ambush Rebenga. Tony stabs him. Manny’s friend comes through and the boys are processed out.
Tony and Manny find themselves in Little Havana (Miami) washing dishes in a sleazy lunchstand, waiting for their big
They meet Omar, “El Mono,” (F. MURRAY ABRAHAM) who offers them $5,000 to conclude a drug deal at a local motel. Omar works for a major cocaine dealer.
Tony and his gang suspect a set up when things go wrong at the motel. Tony wants to deliver the cocaine directly to the boss, Frank Lopez (ROBERT LOGGIA). Lopez thanks them for killing Rebenga and for retrieving the cocaine. They are invited to dinner where Tony meets the beautiful Elvira (MICHELE PFEIFFER), Lopez’s woman.
At dinner, Lopez asks Tony to work for him even though he sees Tony’s roving eye on Elvira.
As Tony begins to move up in the drug world, he visits his mother (MIRIAM COLON) and sister Gina (MARY ELIZABETH MASTRANTONIO) whom he has not seen in several years. His mother rebuffs the gifts and money he brings, but Gina is
thrilled to see her big brother whom she adores. Mama throws him out, but Gina runs after him and then meets Manny, who is immediately attracted to her. Tony warns him to stay away.
Tony and Lopez fight over a business deal which forces him to leave the Lopez operation. Tony surprises Elvira at Lopez’s condo and proposes marriage. She can’t believe he’s so presumptuous. .
Tony is moving up fast now. As time passes, he begins to consolidate his empire. He now owns a mansion and has bodyguards. He marries Elvira. He opens a beauty salon for Gina, who has fallen for Manny. The more his empire builds the more he begins to get paranoid. Federal agents are watching him.
Everything begins to unravel. Elvira is a hopeless addict and leaves him. Tony holes himself up in his mansion fighting to keep control. Gina and Manny, the two people he thought he could trust, are less frequently at his side. Very soon the final betrayal sets in.
A Martin Bregman Production of a Brian De Palma Film, Al Pacino is “Scarf ace,” which alo stars Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mary Elizabeth Mastantonio and Robert Loggia. A Universal Picture, it is produced by Martin Bregman and directed by Brian De Palma from a screenplay by Oliver Stone. The director of photography is John A. Alonzo, A.S.C., and the music is by Giorgio Moroder. Louis A. Stroller is the executive producer.
In May, 1980, Fidel Castro opened the harbor at Mariel, Cuba, to let some of his people join their families in the United States.
Most of the 125,000 “.Marielitos” who streamed into Florida were honest, hard-working people — eager for a new life in a free land.
But not all. Castro seized the opportunity to play samaritan while exporting Cuba’s crime rate ,to the United States. Hidden among the newcomers were the dregs of the island’s jails, criminals considered beyond redemption.
They, too, saw America as a land of opportunity.
Among the most ambitious was Tony Montana, the one called “Caracortada”…Scarface.
A Martin Bregman Production of A Brian De Palma Film, Al Pacino is “Scarface,” which also stars Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer; Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Robert Loggia. A Universal Picture, it is produced by Martin Bregman and directed by Brian De Palma from a screenplay by Qliver Stone.- The director of photography is John A. Alonzo, A.S.C., and the music is by .Giorgio Moroder. Louis A. Stroller is the executive producer.
“Scarface” marks a reunion, for Pacino and Bregman, whose previous alliances gave the actor two of his strongest roles in “Dog Day Afternoon” and “Serpico.”
Their third project together began three years ago when Bregman was watching late night television and the gangster movie “Scarface” was being shown. He immediately knew the next film he wanted to do — an updated version of the 1932 Howard Hawks classic and he saw it as a chance for Pacino “to create a kind of character he’d never played before…one which hasn’t been seen on screen since Jimmy Cagney did ‘White Heat.
Bregman did not, however, regard “Scarface” as a remake. “The underworld, like everything else, has changed radically since the Capone days of speakeasies and bootleggers,” he points out. “The traffic in cocaine has become a thriving industry — and a proving ground for gangsters.
– “There are obscene amounts of money to be made, bringing drugs in from Central and South America, if someone is smart, ruthless and hungry enough. Someone like Tony Montana.”
Armed with that approach, screenwriter Oliver Stone who probed a different corner of the drug trade in “Midnight Express” — began two intensive months of research. It took him deep into the Latin underworld of South Florida, with its unique lifestyle, code of honor and jargon.
Stone interviewed federal agents (including members of the FBI), narcotics investigators, homicide detectives with the Miami Police Department and members of the Organized Crime Division of Florida’s Dade and Broward County Sheriff’s Departments.
On the other side of the law, he met with some of the young “bandidos” hired to unload contraband from freighters anchored off the Florida Keys, street hustlers who cut and peddled the “goods” and “businessmen” who funded drug deals and siphoned off the profits.
On the island of Bimini — one of several Caribbean links in the drug chain — he expanded research he’d previously conducted in Columbian Ecuador and Peru.
Throughout the period, Stone admits, “I,felt my life was on the line. Most of my work, for obvious reasons, was done between midnight and dawn. That’s not the safest time to be out alone when you’re dealing with people who might decide —
on second thought — that they had told you too much.”
The experience, he adds, was “overwhelming.” But out of it came a screenplay which Bregman promptly sent to director Brian De Palma. Having written or co-written many of his past projects, De Palma now felt that he wanted to work with someone else’s material.
As preproduction got underway, Pacino made his own foray into Miami. Taking up temporary residence there, he came to know the customs, values and speech patterns of the community.
The distinctive Cuban dialect was vitally important to him and once having mastered it, he continued to speak the patois both on and off the set.
He was now ready to take up Tony Montana’s perverse pursuit of the American dream.
When first encountered Tony is on the outskirts of that dream, an unpolished, young thug in ragged clothes and cardboard shoes — with a scar down the side of his sallow fade which he continually touches in a tic-like, reflex gesture.
Assigned to a refugee camp with his compadre, Manny Rivera (STEVEN BAUER), he agrees to perform a small service for a wealthy Cuban businessman — the murder of an ex-Castro agent — in exchange for their freedom.
A riot in the refugee compound provides him the opportunity.
In creating the sequence, director De Palma and visual consultant Ferdinando Scarfiotti hewed close to actual events.
In 1980, the newly arrived Marielitos were housed in an internment camp, hastily constructed beneath a Miami freeway.
For the movie, the camp was erected in Los Angeles, beneath the intersection of the Santa Monica and Harbor freeways.
It was then reduced to fiery rubble during a scene in which frustrated refugees hurled beds, chairs, tables and themselves at a phalanx of national guardsmen and state police, putting the torch to their makeshift barracks.
The sequence called not only for the skills of some forty stuntmen but linguistic agility as well. Many of the six- hundred extras spoke no English — only Spanish. Safety required careful translation prior to each setup.
From the demolished camp, the story moved to Miami’s crowded, bustling Little Havana. Were Tony and Manny earn their first (and last) honest dollars, washing dishes at a shabby lunch stand, the El Paraiso.
Here, too, the sight of well-heeled Cuban emigrants strolling with their flashy chiquitas confirms what they came to America to find — money and sex respectively.
Once again, California doubled for Florida. Sections of Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles were converted to Little Havana, complete with storefronts and billboards in Spanish, an ingenious mural of the Miami skyline and a towering, tantalizing neon sign proclaiming “The World is Yours.”
Only the California weathermen refused to cooperate as Los Angeles shivered through an unseasonal cold-snap.
“On the radio, they were talking about the threat to the orange crop,” recalls Steven Bauer, who plays Manny. “Meanwhile, we were shooting at night, dressed for the tropics.”
For Ferdinando Scarf iotti, the challenge of these scenes, and others throughout the film, was to visually reflect Tony Montana’s rise to power. Settings like the El Paraiso lunch stand and the Sun Ray Motel — where Tony literally escapes • being butchered by Columbian drug dealers — are. “bleak and sordid,” says Scarfiotti.
“Later, as he moves up through the criminal hierarchy, the atmosphere becomes bright, brittle, glaring. There is a sense of insane wealth. We are among people who amass such incredible sums of cash that they have to keep finding new ways to spend it.
“It goes on their walls, on the backs of their women and into the playgrounds where they spend their time.”
The most sumptuous of those sets was the Babylon Club, a bizarre mixture of Greek, Roman and renaissance decor.
Built on one of Hollywood’s largest sound stages, the multilevel complex featured black laquered tables, a gleaming onyx dance floor, ankle-deep purple carpeting, erotic Greek statuary, dancing fountains, pink and blue neon lighting and a dazzling profusion of mirrors.
To cinematographer John Alonzo, the mirrors were both a pleasure and a challenge. -“They gave us fantastic dimension,” he explains, “but made it almost impossible to shoot without catching the reflection of a camera or a technician.”
Like the internment camp, the Babylon set was built to be wrecked.
At first, the club signifies Tony’s acceptance into the criminal hierarchy. It is here that he meets Elvira (MICHELLE PFEIFFER), the sultry, strung-out ex-debutante, worn — like a diamond pinky ring — by his boss, Frank Lopez (ROBERT LOGGIA).
It is also here that he acquires a taste for the product he peddles, shared to his dismay by his kid sister, Gina (MARY ELIZABETH MASTRANTONIO), who idolizes him.
Finally, it is at the Babylon that he is set up by a team of hit men, dispatched by Lopez to teach Tony a permanent lesson in the perils of ambition.
That shoot-out, counterpointed by the tragicomic performance of a white-faced mime, was complicated by the wraparound mirrors. Special effects men Ken Pepiot and Stan Parks had to puzzle out a way to hit them with bursts of machine gun fire
without showering the principals (and some 300 extras) with shattered glass.
Fifty-two mirrored panels were mounted on soft, spongy “solitex” board, then covered with clear plastic. “When we fired plastic pellets into the mirrors, the glass exploded without flying out,” says Pepiot.
The result was not only realistic and safe, he adds, “but there was another advantage; the crew didn’t have to sweep up broken glass after every take.”
Following two weeks at the Club Babylon, the “Scarface” unit moved on to Montecito in Santa Barbara County. The resort city provided two magnificent villas, a few miles apart in actuality, but halfway around the world from each other in story terms.
One would serve as the palatial estate of Alejandro Sosa, Tony’s Bolivian “connection.” The other would become the fortress-like Xanadu where Tony weds Elvira, stocks a private zoo with rare animals including a prowling Bengal tiger, and descends into drug-induced paranoia.
Both may seem familiar to students of rococo architecture.
The “Bolivian villa” is one of architect Addison Mizener’s masterpieces, a 32-room Spanish halFienda, nestled against snow-tipped mountains, surrounded by 13 acres of rose gardens, ornamental fountains and rolling green lawns.
The second home — seen as Tony’s Coral Gables mansion — has an even more exotic history. The work of Bertram Goodhue, it was conceived in 1906 as a steel and concrete version of a neo-classic Roman villa — containing one vast bedroom (which various owners would later remodel to suit their whims and needs) — on a 35-acre plot.
Its original owner was a gentleman named Gillespie, whose other properties ironically included the palace in Havana which Castro later assumed as his headquarters.
Among the features of the estate were an artesian water system which fed a network of lagoons and lakes, one of which boasted an Egyptian barge for private parties, and the world’s largest collection of palm trees, many of which were transplanted in the early 1950s to become the “Jungle Ride” at Disneyland.
Previous residents included author Thomas Mann, who entertained such houseguests there as Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill. And when director De Palma staged the. wedding of Tony and Elvira on the lavish grounds, he could refer to a previous, equally celebrated ceremony on the same site, in which Charlie Chaplin and Dona O’Neill were united.
The pleasure of these surroundings was somewhat diminished by another blow from the weather. The crucial wedding sequence was postponed when the California coast was hit by record breaking storms which wreaked millions of dollars in damages in Santa Barbara County alone.
Daily reports were phoned back from Montecito to Los Angeles, assuring De Palma and Scarfiotti that the villa — and the luxurious amenities the film crew had added — were still intact.
Meanwhile, key interiors were taking shape on the sound stages at Universal, including the newlyweds’ round cream and gold bedroom, complete with private sunken Jacuzzi, and Tony’s “office,” a pagan sanctum of black marble walls and gold fixtures.
Perhaps the most intriguing touches, however, were technological.
Having created a cocaine empire, Tony now sees it crumbling at the edges. Young, aggressive hoods — as hungry as he once was — are gunning for their piece of the action. Federal investigators are closing in.
Bankers are demanding exorbitant fees to launder Tony’s cash. (The same banks, he points out nostalgically,. that “we used to knock over.”)
Manny and Gina, the only two people he thought he could trust, are together more often,, less frequently at his side. Elvira’s sex appeal has evaporated in powdery dust.
Protection is all-important. The mansion is now rigged with sophisticated security and surveillance systems, including enough TV monitors to equip a network control center. For these soenes, cinematographpr Alonzo called on Panavision’s video system, Pancam, which uses lenses and accessories adaptable to motion picture cameras.
“Several scenes were shot twice, once on film, then on videotape,” explains Alonzo-. “Thus, when Tony holes up in his mansion, fighting to keep control — and stay out of prison you sometimes have two simultaneous images. What is
actually happening. And what Tony sees through the television. monitors.”
What he sees — eventually — are silhouettes of visitor’s. The opening of locked doors. Flashes of gunfire. Bullet-strafed bodies. The final betrayal.
Outside, a tantalizing message still blinks on and off.
“-THE WORLD IS YOURS.”