Broadway's Glengarry Glen Ross Star Bobby Cannavale Talks Process, Past and Pacino

By Stuart Miller
16 Oct 2012

Bobby Cannavale and Al Pacino
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

"I'm a bit overwhelmed when I'm doing three things at once," he says, "but I'm an in-the-moment person, so when I'm done with one of these roles I'm done and ready to move on."

Still, he's busy. This fall he's carving out time to take his son Jake to look at colleges. And after Glengarry he's back on Broadway in Clifford Odets' The Big Knife, which he has spent 15 years trying to bring to life since he saw Joanne Woodward direct it in Williamstown. "I've been obsessed with it and showed it to everyone," he says, "but couldn't even get a reading of it to save my life" — until director Doug Hughes got Todd Haimes of Roundabout Theatre Company interested.

But first comes Glengarry.

This is a dream come true for Cannavale. For years, he'd motivate himself backstage by saying that Al Pacino was going to be in the audience that night. (He idolized Pacino. "He's a beast," he says.) During an Off-Broadway run of David Rabe's Hurlyburly, his co-stars would tease him because celebrities came every night, but never Pacino. Then, on the last night of Motherf**ker, Pacino not only showed, he came backstage. Soon after, Pacino, who starred as Roma in the 1992 Glengarry film, took on the role of Shelly Levene for Broadway. "And he played a big part in my getting this role," Cannavale says.

That's quite a long way from Cannavale's early days as a raw, untrained hopeful, who would move furniture or do any other task at small theatres hoping for a break. Since then his career on stage and screen has taken off. "I don't think I can give career advice," he says. "My journey has been unusual. I feel lucky. I couldn't have written it any better."

(This feature appears in the October 2012 issue of Playbill magazine.)

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Al Pacino and Bobby Cannavale
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN