Matthew Lewis Talks Al Pacino
Harry Potter star Matt Lewis on Al Pacino
Matt Lewis, who plays Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter films, explains how his favourite Hollywood star became an inspiration during a challenging period in his acting career.
Al Pacino is one of those actors who are so charismatic that they don’t even have to say anything. Watching him, you’re just drawn to every single thing he does.
I saw him for the first time probably in Scarface, which is a good film, but then I saw Carlito’s Way and just absolutely fell in love with it. After that, I went back and watched everything I could – Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, the Godfather films. I thought he was absolutely wicked.
After the Potter films, I was doing a stage play [Agatha Christie’s Verdict] and really struggling with it, thinking, “I don’t know if I can do this.” So I started watching Dog Day Afternoon, and when I was watching it for the fifth time, the director came in and I told him: “I’m just trying to draw something, anything from his performance. I know it’s not what my character is, nothing to do with it, but I’m trying to get some inspiration from the big man.”
I absolutely hated stage acting to begin with, but Mr Pacino got me through those first few months.
It’s all about the way he moves, that stare, that intensity. It’s hard to put your finger on what it is about his technique, but you watch it and go: “I want to do that. How can I find that spirit and do that?”
He’s into the Method, which is something I’d love to do, even though it’s so hard, an incredible commitment. I’ve never had any professional training, so I might try it one day – but not with the character I’m playing at the moment [in the forthcoming BBC drama The Syndicate] because he’s such an idiot.
It’s mad to think that Francis Ford Coppola had to fight to cast Pacino in The Godfather. It’s all about the journey that he takes in those movies, going from a mild-mannered serviceman with no interest in the family business to a ruthless mob boss.
It was nothing like on the same scale, but, in the Potter films, my character took a sort of journey, too. I was lucky because I had 10 years to do it, every year developing the character of Neville a bit more, changing him slightly while keeping the essential character. Which is the hard bit, not losing sight of who he is. Pacino had a helluva shorter time as Michael Corleone. But, looking back on it, you can’t imagine anyone else doing it.
Is he the greatest film actor alive? I think so. Obviously, there’s also De Niro – and I’ve watched a lot of his stuff, too – but in the end it has to be Pacino. He’s always so believable. He’s so good that he ceases to be an actor playing somebody.