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Al Pacino on performing with cats in Venice

Al Pacino may be one of the greatest actors of all time, but he confessed on Saturday (Aug 30) that he was helped in his latest films by performing alongside a cat and throwing his acting skills out of the window.

VENICE: Al Pacino may be one of the greatest actors of all time, but he confessed on Saturday (Aug 30) that he was helped in his latest films by performing alongside a cat and throwing his acting skills out of the window.

Sporting a pair of reflective sunglasses, a spiky haircut and a cheeky grin, "The Godfather" star told journalists his performance in David Gordon Green's "Manglehorn", which is in the running for the Golden Lion, was helped by his feline co-star. The 74-year-old plays an ageing locksmith unable to get over the lost love of his life, who shuts himself off from the world, has a frustrated relationship with his wealthy son and whose only real friend is his cat.

"I was trying to be tender. The cat is a wonderful construct, it helps shape my character, it sheds light on who he is and his relationship to the world," the Oscar-winner said. "I have both cats and dogs and love animals, maybe that's what came through in the film.”

Scenes in which Pacino's character Manglehorn wallows in loneliness or loses himself in violent outbursts are offset by the hope inspired by his growing fondness for a bank clerk, played by fellow Academy Award winner Holly Hunter. During one of their weekly encounters a man enters the bank with a bunch of flowers and begins belting out a love song to the amazement of the onlookers, eliciting a reaction in Manglehorn which drew praise from critics in Venice.

"When the guy came in a started singing, I just stood there and let it move in on me. To be honest I didn't know I was doing anything - which I guess is as good a form of acting as any if you don't know what you're doing," he quipped. "It's what you learn early on. Don't try to play it, it's playing itself."

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The skill was one he picked up during the early stages of his career, when he was part of The Actors Studio, founded in New York in 1947, where actors, playwrights and directors came together to work between jobs or try out new methods.

"It was a place for actors to go to experiment with their talent. And it was all free. I stress this because we forget that. It was given to us," he said. "As a 25-year-old, with no money, I remember getting my rent there once. I had a 50 dollar a month place I couldn't afford. They gave us shoes as well!"

It's a double bill for Pacino in Venice, with the premier as well of Barry Levinson's "The Humbling", an adaption of a novel by Philip Roth, in which he plays a renowned theatrical actor suffering from anxiety and hallucinations.

Asked if his latest characters, in the twilight of their lives, reflect in any way his own ageing process or possible exit from the silver screen, Pacino joked "I felt like quitting this morning! … No seriously, I have three children, who have been a real source of enlightenment for me. The relationships I've had, the people I've met in work and play, have made for an amazing experience so far and I have been lucky to do something I love.

"The plane of my career is not landing yet," he said.

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