Blu-ray Interview/Review: 'Scarface's' Steven Bauer - Career Interview Time!
If Tony Montana was the heavy of his illegal operation, then his right hand man Manny Ribera was most certainly the heart. Brought to life by then newbie actor Steven Bauer, Manny had both a danger and charisma that made him a perfect yin to Tony’s wild and unpredictable yang. So we here at Starpulse thought it only fitting that just in time for the tasty release of the "Scarface" Limited Edition Blu-ray hitting shelves Sept. 6 from Universal Home Video (check out the review below as well!), we wanted to get some movie geek insight about the flick from the bold Bauer himself. And while most know him as Pacino’s trusted confidant in "Scarface," the Stella Adler trained actor went on to build a career of amazing films ("Thief of Hearts" rules!) with dynamite actors (Richard Gere and early David Caruso to name a few!) and iconic directors (De Palma and Soderbergh – I can die now!) and still continues to wow audiences today – most recently in his memorable turn on the five-star AMC hit series "Breaking Bad." (Plus his latest film "The Last Gamble" has already earned Bauer best actor nods at multiple festivals including the New York City International Film Fest!) So we sat, chat and grilled the accommodating Bauer for one huge, massive and thorough career interview (sorry – the movie fan in me is long-winded!) that is chocked full of the most interesting, funny and refreshingly honest stories you’re ever gonna hear. From "Scarface" to "Raising Cain," "Thief of Hearts" to "Gleaming the Cube" and "Primal Fear" to "Traffic," here’s our one-on-one Starpulse chat with Manny himself...
ACTOR STEVEN BAUER!
Had you seen the original 1932 "Scarface" before shooting and what were your impressions the first time you saw it?
Steven Bauer: No, I didn’t! I may have seen clips, but the reality is that it wasn’t available on television for about forty years. They banned it from television and not until the late 70’s or early 80’s was a print even available again. That’s where Al saw it at a revival theater in LA. When I saw it was after we shot the film and then I understood why old timers used to say to me, ‘You’re playing what part?’ And I’d say, ‘I’m playing the buddy.’ And they’d go, ‘You’re playing the George Raft role! You’re always flipping the coin – are you gonna flip the coin?!’ And I’d say, ‘Uhhh…No!’ And they’d go, ‘Well, you’d better work on that!’ The funny thing about that movie is that he flips the coin, it’s a thing that he does and later he’s flipping the coin and he gets shot and the coin falls to the floor – it’s one of the things that’s really corny about the movie! But I could appreciate that the story was great – it was the rise and fall.
Since you were still early in your career, was there ever a point during the casting or even rehearsing of "Scarface" where you ever felt intimidated?
SB: No. Martin Bregman (producer, "Scarface") had already told me I was doing the movie, in other words pre-audition. So I had a lot of confidence - I was Bregman’s choice. I was walking around like I’m gonna do this. There was no reason to think that he was messing with me or had something else up his sleeve, but that’s what most people thought. Most people thought I was delusional and so incredibly disingenuous and naïve for believing a big Hollywood producer. The only time I ever had any kind of nerves was when I was going into the final auditions; I wanted to work really well with whoever was the girl that they wanted. I really wanted to help her and it was Mary Elizabeth – and that was really easy. They put us together and Bregman actually came out and he said, 'Steven come here. And you, Mary, come here.' And he said, 'You two – you’re gonna do this movie!' Then I get the role and I start hanging out with Al right away, so I never felt any sense of everything’s on the line or anything.
Pacino is known for having heavy method acting chops – did he maintain the character while shooting and how did that effect your on-screen relationship?
SB: The reality is that he’s not that heavy – when he’s heavy is when the cameras are rolling. And that’s basically the way I work too. We would spend a lot of time being a version of the characters when we were together. We were always together - I was always hanging out with him in his trailer. So in that way the language, the way we sounded and the accent was in practice all the time. And we’re talking like that all the time and joking all the time, doing a joke version of the scenes. So that’s a big surprise because people are like, ‘Well that must have been weird to be around Tony Montana,' but no because it was more like Tony Montana light! (Laughs) So before we’d go on we were having a good time and then we’d get ready for the scene. And he gets ready in a minute like me - I do the same thing. But literally the rest of the time we sounded like the characters, but we weren’t acting all crazy and stuff. It made it fun because we had our own bubble that nobody could penetrate.
The film is an early who’s who of great talents including you, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Loggia and F. Murray Abraham. Did you sense when making it that this group would go on to have such notable careers?
SB: Yes, I did because I knew that the roles were really great and so the actors they chose were shining in each role. The moment I saw what Bob Loggia was doing in that character, I said this guy is gonna be a big star. I mean he was already a very known actor, but this was a star-making role for him and from that point on he had a tremendous character actor career. And Michelle, the moment I saw her and the way she was in that role it was obvious – you could see that she would have tremendous opportunities. And Murray of course, he was not playing a likeable character, but I knew he would have a lot of stuff going on. Plus we already knew because when we started with Murray and he was doing those first scenes with us at that little sandwich shop in Miami – it was actually in LA downtown in Chinatown – he got the word that he had been chosen over all the great actors in the world to play Salieri in "Amadeus" by Milos Forman. And our jaws literally dropped! I can’t believe Omar is doing "Amadeus!" But he was great and fantastic and a very nice man and had a tremendous career after that. And Mary Elizabeth – take away the hair and she could be anything! I knew she would have a tremendous career because of the power of her performance – she had tremendous vulnerability and tremendous power. So I thought everybody is gonna be a star after this, but what I didn't count on was that the movie would be so maligned and so criticized and rudely attacked and condemned – that was hard to take.
But with the cult following and admiration for the flick – do you consider that a kind of vindication?
SB: That’s the rejoicing factor that it’s turned out to be like the revenge of "Scarface!" It was amazing that we were so shunned, but it’s also amazing that it came back to life with such a vengeance.
I’ve always wanted to know what De Palma is like as a director and specifically his filmmaking process when it come to working with the actors?
SB: Well, he was very, very hands off – he’s actually very trusting of the actors. He chooses great actors and let’s them do their thing. The most I ever saw him do was with Michelle. For us, he never said anything to us except ‘where are you walking in’ or ‘where do you want to do this’, you know? He let us play the scene and then he would move the camera. But with Michelle because she was so new, she was intimidated and it worked for the character and he kept her off balance I think. He wasn’t very nurturing and encouraging with her. She was having her issues of being the girl, the only girl, and us being in our own world and it worked for her. She explodes and she’s so angry and so done with Tony being such an ass and it was all about the boys. And that worked for her – she walked around like that. Really fragile and Brian didn't do anything to help that.
If screenplay writer Oliver Stone was on set a lot, were there any interesting discussions that came up between the two of you during shooting?
SB: Oliver was NOT on the set a lot – another news bulletin! Oliver was basically banned from the set after the second or third week out of seventeen weeks we shot. He was banned and the reason is because he had a lot to say about the scenes that he wrote and how they were played and what was said and everything. And once we started shooting it was like Oliver, please! Because he’d come around and he’d say, ‘What are you doing? What are you shooting today? What’s going on? What are you gonna do?’ And Brian would say, ‘Can you just relax and please let us do what we’re doing?’
Do you feel like it was that director side of Oliver coming to the surface?
SB: Absolutely! He was ready to go! He was ready to make his own movie! He couldn't help it! Put him on the set and he’s gonna tell you how to shoot the scene! It was just not a happy union - there was not a collaboration there at all. The collaboration was that he delivered this beautiful screenplay and we went to work with it. But his offerings were not welcome and eventually he was told in no uncertain terms that he was not welcome. And I think it really bugged the shit out of him – he was not a happy camper. One day he was standing outside the gates at Universal and I was pulling up and he called me over and he goes, ‘Hey, Steven! Steven!’ And I go, ‘What are you doing there?’ And he goes, ‘Well, they won’t let me on the set!’ So I said, ‘What?!’ And he goes, ‘Can you just tell me what your shooting today?’ (Laughs) And I remember this one moment – I can't tell you specifically, but the script was bigger then what we shot obviously and there were scenes we had to cut because they were to expensive. And I remember one day he found me and he goes, ‘Have you done the scene with the so and so...” and I said, ‘Uhhh...no, we’re not doing that scene.’ And he was like, ‘What do you mean you’re not doing that scene?’ And I’m like, ‘They cut it.’ And he goes, ‘Are you KIDDING me?!’ – like crazy! That’s another interesting thing that most people don't know.
I’ve always found it interesting that while the film is a cautionary tale of the corruption of power and money and the cost on one’s soul, Tony Montana is not only embraced but idolized by some especially in the hip-hop community – what’s your take on that whole Montana phenomenon?
SB: Here’s the thing – I think that everybody that comes from want can identify because he is so intense and so determined to get what’s his. And I think that it’s not that they don't recognize it, but that whole subculture and all the people in the world who really identify with that character, what they identity with is his determination and balls out approach to life and getting what he wants. But of course there’s the big warning of you get high on your own supply you die or go to jail or your gonna mess up. If you’re so blinded with greed that you’re not happy with what you’ve got, you’re gonna die and loose everything. But he’s still great. He’s still cool. He had it – he just lost it. He had it - he just went too far. But in terms of people who have it who we idolize, he’s near the top of go-getters. We’ll forgive the fact that he went too far! (Laughs) In terms of getting what you think is yours, he’s the best role model – you just got to avoid an ending like him!
Past Work – One of my favorite flicks "Thief of Hearts" was produced by a then early Simpson/Bruckheimer, so how heavy was their influence during the shooting of that film?
SB: It was very strong in the lead up to the film. They really took great pains to choose me and I was gonna be their next discovery. They both said, ‘You’re gonna be a big star.’ They even were talking to me about a movie they were conceiving about jet pilots!
SB: Yeah – "Top Gun!" They took me out to dinner, they took my manager out to dinner and said, ‘Listen, we have a movie that we’re gonna do after this one. Cause in this one, he’s gonna be a big star and we want him to do this movie where he plays this hot jet pilot. And it’s a cool movie and we got the pentagon on board and...’, but what happened? What happened was everything about the lead up was great, we even got Michael Kaplan who was an amazing costume designer. But there was a catch though –they weren’t really down with the writer/director. The writer/director had gotten himself a really good deal to direct this script that they liked a lot. If they had their choice, they would have had a hot, hot director. So they had the script and they had this guy who insisted on directing his own script. Douglas Day Stewart in his debut as a filmmaker – he wrote "The Blue Lagoon" and "An Officer and a Gentleman." And so they were not really happy about the outlook for their controlling the production, because he was already very hard headed about implementing his own taste and the way he wanted to shoot the film. So they were like, ‘Man, this guy is gonna be a pain in the ass.’ So they could fire him, but then they’d have to get someone else to come on board and re-shoot – it was after a few days. And right about the time when they had to make that decision, Eddie Murphy dropped into their laps for "Beverly Hills Cop." And they started having a ball with Eddie Murphy and the abandoned "Thief of Hearts" – bet you didn’t know that? They abandoned the movie. Consequently, why do you think the movie is not one of their movies? It’s like "Flashdance," then blah, blah, then "Beverly Hills Cop," then so and so and up and up – where’s "Thief of Hearts" in that film library? They disowned it because it wasn’t fun for them anymore – they couldn't have control. These things happen, but for this movie it was early enough for them to say, ‘We wash our hands of it, you make the movie and if it turns out well, we’ll claim it. If it doesn't, we’ll claim it was a mistake.’ Believe me, it was really, really hard and shattering for me because this was my movie – this was my starring role and literally it was being cast aside. So David Caruso and I worked on scenes together and tried helping the director gets scenes done daily – and we did it. We made the movie and finished it on schedule, but it’s a wonder the movie exists at all.
It’s definitely one of my favorites. But ultimately how was the working relationship between you and Douglas Day Stewart?
SB: It was a really good collaboration. He and I met in a weird way, but I was always his choice and he was fascinated by whatever it was that I had. He told me so – he was like, ‘You ARE "Thief of Hearts!" You’re gonna be what women want.’ And I think he saw himself in me, but he was kind of a swashbuckling guy. This navy pilot guy – he was "An Officer and a Gentleman." That was him, but he was also a dilatant and sort of a hippie. And he loves women, a kind of ladies man and a romantic at the same time, so he was really determined to choose the right guy and he chose me. But I felt like I had already a stronger understanding of story then he did. He had kind of a romantic take on story and I thought it was sometimes a little corny the direction he wanted to go. And so did David Caruso, who was very active and we were friends...
Speaking of David, I loved the chemistry between you and he in that film – what was he like to work with at such an early stage?
SB: David’s non-stop – he really was aggressive and ambitious and determined. He always had a better idea of how the scene should go or the dialogue, so we were always working on it. I actually helped him get the film because I brought him in. I was already chosen and I brought him to Don and Jerry and I said, ‘Look, before you see anybody else for that role, see my friend – we have good chemistry.’ We played a scene for them and they were like, ‘Oh, that’s it. This is the guy.’ He’s forgotten all about me, that’s okay – I’ll see him again.
Also the love scenes in "Thief of Hearts" with Barbara Williams are not only hot, but unforgettably vulnerable and real feeling – what were they like to shoot?
SB: We had great chemistry and had a nice working relationship. From day one – from the moment we met. And we met a few days before the final screen test; we actually had screen tests back in those days. They had to show that the girl worked with me. I mean I was their first choice, but there were other guys who were being pushed for that role. So it was like who’s gonna test with who? There were three actresses and she and I were paired together and the moment we were paired together I started working with her, like you can do this. She was this Canadian actress who was a little bit insecure, but it worked for her character – very strong actress. But shooting it was very difficult because again she was very insecure and the producers weren’t helping at all. She was very vulnerable and very nervous and very fragile and it was hard to just keep her spirits up and keep her mind on the ball and not thinking about what people think – I had to keep her locked in our relationship.
"Gleaming the Cube" has gone on to garner a huge cult following – did you ever feel like that picture with a focus on skateboarding would have that amount of legs?
SB: No, not at all. It was a good crime movie, but I didn't know that it, for what I saw as a fad, would become such a billion dollar popular activity for young people. So it became an industry – I really didn’t see that coming.
I remember reading something about you doing a cameo in De Palma’s "Body Double" – were you in that film?
SB: Yeah. It’s a moment, you could blink and you’ll miss it. I’m in the montage where Craig Wasson goes and looks for Holly Body and he walks into that scene with the song ‘Relax’ by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. He’s posing as an adult film actor and he’s gonna have a scene with her because he wants to meet her so badly and he needs to talk to her. So the scene starts and there’s all this stuff going on and suddenly you see me and then you hear, ‘Miss Body, five minutes. Five minutes, Miss Body.’ And she goes, ‘I’ll be right out.’ And I go, ‘No – WE have five minutes!’ And she turns to the camera and she goes, ‘Holly does Hollywood!’ (Laughs) It was just a cameo role that Brian put me in as a joke.
"Raising Cain" was you second acting collaboration with De Palma – can you tell me what was both similar and different from working with him when you did "Scarface" vs. "Raising Cain?"
SB: "Raising Cain" is much more his comfort zone I think. "Scarface" was a tremendous undertaking and I’m one of those who really feel that no one could have done it like Brian De Palma. In that case I’m a Brian De Palma supporter and the way the film was made, the way the film is directed, "Scarface" is brilliant. The rhythm, tone and editing of it is perfect and a lot of that is him. Now that being said, I was sort of a skeptic before I met him and worked with him because the films that he made before "Scarface" always left me really frustrated. I was impressed by his technical and cinematic style, but I also felt manipulated always and I don't like feeling that as an audience member. I don't like feeling the director manipulating. So I wasn’t a big fan let’s just say, but when you get to "Raising Cain" after "Scarface," I’m a big fan. One more time he had me – I loved what he did with that movie. Loved the way it’s done, love the way it works on the senses and the surprises and I loved the acting in it. John Lithgow is amazing – he’s just so weird and goofy and beautiful. And he directed me really well too and he got a performance out of me I didn’t expect to deliver. I really thought of myself as much more active and he kept me really restrained, even in my physical appearance. I had to do everything possible to not fight him on it because it was like he wanted my hair combed all the time, he wanted the overcoat and he wanted me in a 3-piece suit. I said, ‘Why a 3-piece – why do I have to wear a vest?’ He goes, ‘Because I want you to be absolutely beautiful and gorgeous and I want you to be absolutely groomed perfectly in every scene – that’s who you are!’ (Laughs) He has these precepts and concepts on film visually that he imposes on the story and he’ll make it work, or not! In that movie it really works.
Can you talk about working with Steven Soderbergh on "Traffic" – what kind of director is he?
SB: Fun, just fun. He’s really fun on the set and it’s all about trying different things and pushing yourself and working outside the box. It was just a great creative experience and he’s got a great sense of humor and it’s always there. There’s no judgment ever, you never feel pressure and it’s like, ‘What do you want to do? Do you’re thing and I’m gonna put the camera right here.’
I know your scenes were with Richard Gere, but did you ever hear anything from Richard or Director Gregory Hobilt about the work by early Ed Norton while filming "Primal Fear?"
SB: I did and I was very aware of it. I never got to see him do it, but I actually had drinks with him in the hotel and I got to meet him. What I saw was a very interesting guy who was confident, but unassuming. He wasn’t bragging or anything, but he had been chosen out of hundreds of actors. It was his first feature and he’s so good in it – it’s a great choice. But for my money, I love Richard in the movie. I think his performance is really strong and risky. I developed a really nice rapport with him, he was very sweet to me and complimentary – I would love to work with him again.
Recently you’ve been doing work on the amazing "Breaking Bad" – were you a fan of the show prior?
SB: I was a fan of the show absolutely. I wasn’t following it because I’m not one of those people who have cable all the time because I leave town and you don't have cable and I have been traveling a lot in the three years since "Breaking Bad" started. So I’m very hyper aware of "Breaking Bad" and what I didn’t know I started catching up on and I was blown away. And once I was in it, I couldn't believe I was gonna be part of this phenomenon. Because it is a phenomenon and it’s like being a part of "Scarface," like I’m gonna be a part of something that’s gonna last forever. I’m so proud and psyched to be able to contribute to that lore, to the reputation of "Breaking Bad."
So what’s next for you – what would you like to do?
SB: I’d like to make movies as a producer and a director. There’s a couple of films that I really want to produce - some that have roles for me and some that don’t – with stories that I want to tell. I’ve already started the process and that’s what I’m really excited about – and the future.
Want to know the skinny on the latest in "Scarface" Blu-ray – read below!
Title: "Scarface" (Limited Edition)
Cast: Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer
Director: Brian De Palma
Runtime: 170 minutes
Release Company: Universal Home Entertainment
The Flick: Stylistic and sprawling, Scarface is genius first and foremost due to a legendary pairing of two filmmaking giants – namely Director Brian “Blow Out” De Palma and Oliver “Platoon” Stone. The matching of a remade script with multitudes of clever lines and upgrades via Stone and majestic direction ala De Palma will go down in cinema history. But match that with an amazing array of up and coming talent like Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Robert Loggia and F. Murray Abraham all around one loud, brazen, coked-up and power drunk Pacino as Cuban madman Tony Montana and you’ve got a flick that won’t be ignored. (One star off for length – there can be too much of a good thing!)
Best Feature: Forget the new glossy 'Scarface Phenomenon' Featurette (who cares if Jillian Barberie-Reynolds is a fan?!) and instead machine gun right to the awesome trio of featurettes 'The Rebirth,' 'The Acting,' 'The Creating' which talks solely to the key players about all things "Scarface!"
Best Hidden Gem: Besides the inclusion of a DVD of the original 1932 B&W version of "Scarface" (actor Paul Muni could give Pacino a run for his money!), the must see is the cool 'U-Control Features' with cool on screen while you watch scorecards tallying f-bombs and shots fired (229 and 8509 respectively!) and also the fascinating 'Picture in Picture' with more interviews and comparisons to the 1932 original – this one has a ton of stuff for the Montana junkie!
Worth the Moola: You want the world and every Blu-ray feature in it? "Scarface" limited has all the product you can handle baby!