With “Scarface” hitting Blu-ray (Tony Montana was born for 1080p!) we thought we’d get in touch with one of the big guy’s ‘little friends’, one ‘Manny’. Here’s my chat with “Scarface” star and ’80s legend Steven Bauer.
Steven, how are you?
I am well. Thank you very much. Thanks. I understand you saw the film. You saw it. Did you get to see it in the theater?
I didn’t get to see it in the theater, no. I would have been about 8 years old at the time I think. But I remember the time because my mother was working at the cinema and I remember it was one of the films that was on around at that time. But VHS, I discovered Scarface, I believe. And I am glad it was VHS and not television.
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And have you seen the Blu-ray?
I have. I have. It looks brilliant, plays brilliant, and great extras.
Right, the extras are really cool. You’ve seen the… You watched the whole documentary?
I did. I did. It was just great.
It’s really fun, huh?
It is… Some real insight into the film. I actually didn’t know that Robert De Niro was originally penciled in to play Tony.
[chuckle] Well, there is a lot of stories. There is a lot of history there. I’m just really grateful and amazed that all the elements came together the way did because if one of them was missing, it wouldn’t have been… It wouldn’t have been the movie we know now.
It would not have been, no. How did you get involved initially?
Okay. Well, you know, I was a young actor. I had already done a lot of theater. And I was in… I had been in California and Hollywood doing some television work. But I wasn’t really getting the roles I wanted to, that I saw myself doing. I really… Because I was really sort of… I was a follower of De Niro and Al Pacino. And that’s the way I wanted to go. I didn’t really just want to work in movies or in television. I wanted to be… I wanted to work with the great actors. And… So I started… I took a summer course with Stella Adler who was… She was… Among others, she was Marlon Brando’s teacher.
She worked with Marlon in New York in the 40s. And when I met her, she was 80 years old, but she was amazing. She was stunning. First of all, she was a statuesque beauty. I mean she was… Blonde hair, blue eyes, and she was just this regal woman and absolutely beautiful. And she worked really well with men. And she loved men. And she really took the liking to me and convinced me to move to New York and study with her. So I did. I left Hollywood and I left television, and I said, okay, I’m going to work with Stella and… I’m going to work with Stella and then eventually I’ll get into some good theater in New York, and then a really good movie. And so I did. I went. I went through there for a year. At the end of that year, I got an audition. I got a meeting set to go in for a film they were casting starring Al Pacino. But it also happened to be… The theme of it was… It had Al Pacino as a Cuban immigrant, as a Cuban exile. And his best friend is the second role in the picture. And his best friend is a tall, nice looking Cuban boy. And so I got an appointment on day one.
Day one. So first person the casting director saw for that role was me.
And from that moment on, I was the first choice. For her, for De Palma… She sent me over to meet Brian De Palma on that same day and he also thought… He also felt the same. I went to Los Angeles and met the producer, Marty Bregman, and Bregman told me… When he met me, he said, “You’re going to do this movie. Are you really Cuban?” And I said, “Yeah. I was born in Cuba and speak perfect Spanish”. Then he said, “Okay. Then you are the guy. You are the one that we’re looking for”.
I wasn’t as jaded as I am now, but I was being ingenious that I basically believed them. Of course, in the face of all the other, all the nay sayers that… In my life at that time were saying, “You know what? You’re really naive. If you believe that you’re going to do this movie, you’re stupid. And you’re dreaming.” Because everybody knew, everybody thought it that it would be some other named actor at that time, who would be right for the role. Anybody who is physically right for that role could be opposite Al Pacino. It’s a pretty substantial role.
Very much, yeah.
And so people… Nobody believed they would cast a nobody, as it were. So but, when the dust settled, they had me meet Al and it was instant chemistry. And he approved me right away. And we started working. You know, that’s how I got the part.
It’s such a tense movie. What was the set like at times? Was it a full on set? Was is easy to wind down at the end of the day? Or…
Yeah, yeah. It was tense where we… Here’s the deal. Him and I spend a lot of time together. Al Pacino would take me into his trailer. I spent every single day that I was working… Basically, I worked everyday with him. And so he and I were together off screen. Together. A lot of time just playing. Just playing around, just laughing, making fun of people. It was our world and every body was excluded. The deal was when we’d walk on the set, we came for business. We came on there and it was usually… It was very tense. But the set was very, very prepared for him, for us to come in and do our thing. And we did it. And we would do it, and then we would do it, and then we do it again, and then we do it again, and then we do other angles because Brian is shooting many, many angles. And between the different, the style of the cinematography between John Alonso and Brian De Palma and then the number of takes that Al required or wanted… You know, he wasn’t happy until he really felt… And we really felt because he’d check with me always. He would say, “Did we get it? Are you… Do you think we’ve got it? Do you feel like we’d like… ” Like Brian would ask him, “Okay you’ve done 15, 17 takes. I think we’ve got it. How do you feel?” And Al would look at me and he’d say, “I don’t know. How do you feel?” He’d say like that, “I think we got it.” And then we’re through and then we’d walk away. And that would be that shot, that scene.
But it’s really great because what we did was he had a lot of options. We gave them a lot of a lot of material. God bless the… Both the editors, the great editors; Jerry Greenberg and David Ray. Fantastic editing. If you watch the movie now, you watch it now, and you watch it and you watch it again, and it’s just the pace of it, it’s so great. It’s so, so beautiful. It’s hypnotic. It really is. And you know I say that, being in it. I could say that. But I’m a film fan. I’m a connoisseur of film. And I’m in this goddamn movie and I’ve watched it and watched it and watched it and I’m hard pressed to find missteps. I mean there are moments that are cheesy. There might be a cheesy moment here or there’s, a choice of something or… It is a funny… Sometimes… Brian does some funny stuff too. Brian De Palma has made some funny choices. But it turns out to be just right. It works with the thing. When they say like he’ll do things real obvious, like when we’re walk in after we get the money and the thing and the stuff, we first meet Frank, Bob Loggia, we first walk in, and he goes, “Yeah, and Omar says you did a good job with the… On that Emilio Rebenga hit”, and Al goes “Yeah. Yeah, Omar is okay. Yeah. Oh, Omar is okay. Yeah, Omar”. And then he puts the camera on F. Murray Abraham and he’s got this stupid expression on his face. [chuckle] Because he knows that he’s trying to fuck him over. If you try to fuck him over. He already tried that. He knows he just is squeaking by, being sleazy.
And that’s the cool shot, but it’s also cheesy. Almost okay. There’s funny things like that. There’s also really weird things with the… There’s a really weird choice that they make. Somebody made and I haven’t got to the bottom of it yet. With Octavio, in the restaurant, in the entrance in the club with Al’s there and Al’s really, really like stoned. He’s really stoned and he’s sitting by himself and he’s watching the show. And that weird guy comes out with that weird puppet head and weird big stomach and doing ‘Strangers in the Night’. He was singing ‘Strangers in the Night’ I mean, like why? Richard Belzer, the comedian, who does the intro, right? He does the little dance. And then, he introduces “Hot from the jungles of Bolivia or something.” It’s like really, really weird. It’s like, what the hell does that mean? I’ve never ever, ever in my years in Miami ever seen any kind of entertainment even remotely close to that. I don’t know if anybody else that’s Miami has ever seen it. They’ll ever seen anything in a nightclub like that. Who the hell dreamed that up? But it almost worked because Al is so stoned in that. You can see him. He’s really fucked-up. And it provides the perfect setup for the hitters, for the hit men, to try to assassinate him. So, again all that shit works. It’s amazing.
And your relationship with Brian De Palma has lasted the years, is that right? Because you’re in “Raising Cain” I remember too, weren’t you?
Yeah. He casted me in “Raising Cain”, which was really a great, great… A great gig. It was a really cool shoot. That was him in his element. And I really appreciated that he looked… He really looked after me in that film. He dressed me beau… He made sure that I looked really good. He had the wardrobe, the costume people dress me like beautiful, beautiful clothes always. I was always well-groomed. He was insisting that I was impeccable. And obviously. So his, the reasons of his… The way he tells his stories are very… Sometimes a little heavy-handed, but it’s his style. It’s stylized. He wanted them… He wanted it… He absolutely, without a doubt, that I was this impeccable guy, and then. I was a viable choice for her; a better choice than who she lived with. [chuckle]
You’re producing your own films now?
Yes, absolutely. I’ve actually got… I’ve got three that I’m really, really excited about. I don’t have all the financing in place yet, but that’s what I’m doing like these days. Besides everything else. I’m also acting. And I’m going… I’m going… I’m going to… I’m going to Romania for a film, to do a film. So, I’m going to do a film for Universal, actually. You’ll hear about it soon. It’s an untitled werewolf project.
What I could say is that Stephen Rea is already casted. The great Irish English actor, Stephen Rea is in the film. And another American who’s maybe… Another American, Ed Quinn is in it too.
So, I’ll go up in Romania in a few days. I’m leaving for five weeks in Romania. I don’t know the director quite yet, because they’re sending him this week. And it’s a Universal project, and it’s kind of hush-hush right now. So, what I do know is that I’m going. [chuckle] I’m going and I know my role. [chuckle]
That’s good. That’s good. You’re not the werewolf…
So, I play a hunter. I don’t’ play a werewolf. I don’t play werewolf. So, that’s good to know.
I’ve also got a band, that I didn’t tell you about it. You’ll be hearing about it because I talked to some people, some promoters and some people in Australia who want to… Are talking about bringing is over at some point. Bringing us to do a little tour… A tour of some sort… Tour the continent of Australia. And it’s called… It’s really cool music. It’s very American music. A little bit… Kind of a mix of country and rock and roll. There’s all kinds of comparisons come up, like Johnny Cash meets Bob Dylan, meets the Rolling Stone.
Yeah. That sounds great.
Meets Austin, Texas. So, it’s really cool music, a lot of mandolin, a lot of harmonica. And it’s really strong vocal. Melody’s very strong, melodies I sing. And there are some strong harmonies, too. A lot of harmony, because my partner Gleen Goss and I have been working together for 25 years. So, we sing really, really well together. So, if you can picture it, really, really beautiful harmonies and great sing-able songs with acoustic guitars and mandolin, that’s the sound. Underground Junction.
That’s good. It sounds great.
Steven Bauer’s Underground Junction.
Listen, look out for American film. I don’t know how this will go in Australia, but we do… We are getting a limited release. And it’s just one day, but we just got a best picture and best actor. I won the best actor award at the new… It’s a fledgling festival in Times Square in Manhattan. It’s called the New York City International Film Festival, and the movie’s called “The Last Gamble”. “The Last Gamble” and I play as a man who in the throes of gambling addiction. And it’s really strong. So, look out for that. Hopefully, we’ll get a foreign distributor.
That sounds, that sounds great.
“The Last Gamble”
Hopefully one day we’ll see you and Pacino back on the screen together too.
Oh, absolutely. You know we were on stage recently a couple weeks ago here at the reunion in a theater and answering questions and everybody said “Dear God. It’s just like, why aren’t you guys paired up? Why hasn’t someone paired you guys together again? You know it begs the question.” Absolutely. So maybe, maybe somebody will come down the pipe with a script and it’s just perfect for us. It won’t be an imitation of anything, it will just be really good roles for both of us.
I’m trying to get that going myself. Trying to bring him something that he’ll chew on. That he’ll jump on.
“Scarface” is now available on Blu-ray