Iconic Spotlight : Bobby Deerfield, by Eva Sereny

Al Pacino
Al Pacino

I am so fortunate to have worked with some of the greatest directors of the 20th century, including Bertolucci, Visconti, Fellini, Truffaut, Nichols, Herzog, Spielberg–oh, the list goes on. And now again I’m about to add to my list of great directors– Sydney Pollack. Bobby Deerfield was being shot in Tuscany with Al Pacino starring in the role of a racing driver. When I arrived on the set I met up with Al Pacino and Sydney Pollack for the first time. I discovered that Pollack really enjoyed the mechanics of filmmaking. I worked with him a few more times after this on The Electric Horseman and Absence of Malice. What stood out in Sydney’s character–at least to me–was how serious and sensitive he was and of course his love and interest in the technical side of filming. When the opportunity arose, you would always see him looking through the camera.

Many years later when I happened to bump into him on the Paramount lot–he stopped for a moment and we greeted each other–Harrison Ford joined us–and Pollack turns to Harrison; "You know Eva’s shot the best image of me ever taken." I thought it was a bit of an exaggeration when I realised which image he was referring to–it was Pollack with a handheld camera to his eye. You do develop relationships with actors when you work with them. Like in any sort of job, they are people you just connect with and you can become life-long friends. In my case, this happened when I met people like Jacqueline Bisset, Charlotte Rampling, Liv Ullman, Frank Marshall and his wife, Kathy Kennedy. These were people I just bonded with. I didn’t bond very well with [Al] Pacino.

In this film, Bobby Deerfield, Pacino plays a race car driver. Naturally, it’s a stunt man who races. However, a whispered secret went around the set that Pacino doesn’t or couldn’t drive when it was even the case of a normal convertible car driving up to a front door. It had to be attached to a pickup truck with a rope while Pacino sitting in the car with his hands on the steering wheel pretending to drive. Probably, being very much a New Yorker–he had a good excuse as I suppose in the big city you don’t need to drive.   When I saw Pacino sitting on the grass with his back against a tree trunk during a pause in shooting I went up to him and asked him politely "Do you mind if I take some photos? He replied with indifference shrugging his shoulders, ‘That’s what you do– isn’t it?” with a slight sarcastic tone! I was dumbstruck. I walked away a few meters taking pictures of him from a good distance with my long lens. Luckily, I did get some very good shots– definitely not with his help.

Extract taken from 'Through Her Lens' by Eva Sereny. Available to purchase online at ACC Art Books.

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