We believe the following info is all legit. If it's bogus or you have additional info, please update us.
Wayne-o kindly wrote in to add: The film went through three reviews by the censorship board in order to avoid an X certificate. Director Brian DePalma felt that he couldn't cut any more from the film without it losing its impact and thus put in an appeal. The appeal was successful, and "Scarface" was given an R certificate, so DePalma felt that because all three "cuts" of his film were worthy of an X-rating, than it might as well be released in its original form. Therefore, no footage was left on the cutting room floor based on its graphic or confronting nature. (Source: "Making of Scarface" DVD featurette.)
The camera was rolled back smoothly on tracks by the Grips while the Focus Puller simultaneously adjusted both focus and zoom controls on the lens.
The effect is to collapse the background in an unnatural way, while changing the perspective to keep the foreground the same size. It's used to show the change in Tony's mood as he prepares to make his move on Elvira, and is a very difficult technique for a camera team to master.
It was first used by Alfred Hitchcock in 'Vertigo' and 'Marnie'. and famously by Steven Spielberg in 'Jaws'.
Director Of Photography John Alonzo was forced to use Back Projection in most instances, and the decline in quality is very apparent. Compare this with the one great in-car scene, where Tony is driven with his gang to the Sun Ray Hotel, which was done 'for real' with cameras attached to the hero car as it moved along Ocean Drive, and you can see the improvement: it looks real because it is real.
CGI techniques like 'Green Screen' would become mature around the Millennium, and in movies like 'The Bourne Supremacy' (2004) it's now very difficult to differentiate between live action shots and post production effects in the 'travelling' scenes.
But these behaviours may have been a smokescreen. The real reason for all the nervous distaste was probably that 'Scarface' was a thinly disguised allegory for the dysfunctional aspects of Hollywood, which in the 1980s was awash with drug culture, corruption, nepotism and exploitation.
Oliver Stone had written the screenplay in Paris, after undergoing a tough rehabilitation for his cocaine addiction, and had fallen seriously out of love with the LA studio system. Brian DePalma openly admitted that 'Scarface' was in many ways not only a cautionary tale for Miami, but should also make other sections of society think about their lifestyles.
The movie industry, particularly in the 1980s USA, was not generally seen as having a serious social agenda. That's changed today. In 'Scarface', and some other key movies, perhaps Hollywood looked in the mirror, and didn't like what it saw.
The main reason was that no-one, cast or crew, got highly paid. Brian DePalma had to plead to be allowed to direct, and his previous feature film 'Blow Out' hadn't been very profitable, so he was in no position to negotiate for a big payday.
Among the cast, only Al Pacino was well known at the time. For Michelle Pfeiffer, Steven Bauer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and many other actors, it was their first significant role. So they all worked for low rates.
The technical crew worked extremely long hours and improvised 'guerilla style' on the many locations, meaning that only three interior sets (the SunRay Hotel, the Babylon Club and the Montana Entrance Hall/Office) were needed. The passion of Oliver Stone (Screenwriter) and John Alonso (Director Of Photography) was infectious. Motivation on set was high, so the Producers got incredible quality and value for money.
Could 'Scarface' be done today? Yes, in principle, but studios are more conservative nowadays and would probably want more experienced (and expensive) talent in front of and behind the camera. They'd probably also ask for more extravagant set-pieces and some real foreign location shoots. So for 'Scarface 2020' a budget of $120 to $150 million would be likely. Sound far fetched? Chances are there's someone in Hollywood thinking of greenlighting that idea right now.
The 'Scarface' Art Department knew that 25 identical Plymouths were being used to make the other movie, and came up with the idea of quietly 'borrowing' one to make a guest appearance in Tony Montana's world. Maybe it would drive by fleetingly in the background of a scene, or be a subtle portent of doom by being parked 'innocently' in the Lopez Motors showroom. It would have been an intriguing Hollywood in-joke.
Cool idea, but it never happened. However, if you look at the background in the Lopez boardroom, just before Frank and Mel are iced, you'll see the nose of an anonymous 1950s classic car, strangely protruding through the wall, waiting, ready to pounce...
Freeze frame as the actor is running from left to right, and look at the perspective of the image. This can't have been filmed in the real top floor room at 728 Ocean Drive because the ceilings there are only about 9 feet high. In fact, analysis shows that the camera was about 25 feet above the floor. 'Room 9' was in California, on Soundstage 12 at Universal City.
There's another clue that this was a set. Check out the position of the air conditioning box in the window and compare it with the location shots which give Manny's POV from the car. They don't match: if the interior shots had been filmed in Miami, the AC unit would have been directly behind the TV.
'Scarface' was shot in a sequence largely decided by the Production Department at Universal, and the primary objective was - as always - cost effectiveness. Brian DePalma, and everyone below him, had to dance to this tune, whatever difficulties it caused them.
On 22nd November 1982 the cameras rolled for the first time, in an unseasonably cold California winter. Through Christmas and New Year the shivering team worked in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and at Universal City studios, and three-quarters of the film was 'in the can' by March 1983.
Then they were off to an equally cold and bleak New York: check out the backgrounds in the travelling shots there and you'll see that the leaves are only just beginning to appear on the trees. Meanwhile, Martin Bregman (Producer) had finally negotiated the rights to film in Miami, so the team headed that way hoping for sunshine and tequila.
In mid April twelve days of location shooting in Miami got under way: by now the crew was working totally in unison, the sun shone on them at last, and 'Scarface' production completed ('wrapped') on 6th May 1983.
This out-of-sequence working made things very tricky for the Director, but even tougher for the 'talent'. Consider this: as the Chevy Impala rolls down towards the SunRay Motel, all four actors in the car had already filmed their death scenes in California weeks or months before. Yet check out the body language, facial expressions and dialogue delivery in the car and it's all entirely believable: they're naive hoodlums on their first 'job', covering up fear with nervous bravado, believing they are immortal.
And above it all rises Al Pacino's blistering character arc as Tony Montana. When you realise the disjointed timeline within which he was forced to pull off this landmark performance, the fact that he did not get an Oscar is one of life's great mysteries.
But of course DePalma literally called the shots, and he showed his genius in many scenes with a 'less is more' approach. A good example occurs in the Babylon Club, where Mel Bernstein attempts to extort money from Tony Montana, and passes a slip of paper across the table receiving the response "That's a big number".
We never see the number, but in the script Stone said we would, and it would be $25,000. But Brian DePalma realised that was too obvious, "What a TV show would do", and we stay on the characters. Just a small detail, but one of many in 'Scarface' that make the film what it is.
Bauer was born in Havana, and when just four years old moved to Florida with his parents to escape the Castro Revolution of 1960. He grew up in Miami and attended university there, marrying the actress Melanie Griffith. 'Scarface' was not only his first credited screen role but arguably has become the one he is best known for. He was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance.
Al Pacino, Oliver Stone and Brian DePalma have all been effusive in their praise for Steven Bauer, stating that 'Scarface' would simply have not have been the same movie without his generous input throughout.
We're talking about "The Desk". There it sits, strikingly out of place, like the lovechild of a giant Gucci perfume bottle and the 'monolith' from '2001, A Space Odyssey'. It just keeps its silence, waiting for its big moment in the final shootout scene. And then things get kinda scary...
"The Desk" comes under fire from all directions. Gina is wildly blasting away with a handgun, a desperado comes in from the balcony hosing down the area with a submachine gun, and then, of course, Tony goes into 'Kill 'Em All' mode. Soon, with half of Bolivia storming up the stairs, all loaded for bear, things get really kinetic.
Yet throughout all this, "The Desk" doesn't even suffer a scratch. Not one. Granted, it does get plastered with Keys of cocaine powder, but that's easy to clean off with dish soap. So I'm told.
So was "The Desk" saving itself for another, higher purpose? None of the Art Department guys on the movie know where it came from, or where it went. Maybe somebody took it home for their own use, but it was over 9 feet long, you couldn't exactly tuck it under your arm, and Universal have very strict security on the front gate.
Scary theory? Okay, try this. The 'monolith' in '2001' appeared whenever a step change was about to happen to mankind. So if you hear a thump in the night, and go down for breakfast to find "The Desk" has appeared in your lounge, be afraid. Be very afraid.
The most tricky shot - which took a whole day - was the one on Ocean Drive that starts with a long shot of the approaching Impala, drops down to get dialogue from Tony and his gang, and then moves forward and upwards to follow Tony up the stairs of the SunRay Motel. Sounds simple, right?
It wasn't. As always, everything went wrong, usually in a random fashion, and tempers began to fray. But Director of Photography John Alonzo just kept at it, calmly putting the whole thing together again and again, seeking nothing less than perfection from his whole crew.
And in 1983, a crane shot meant a big crew. There were three 'Grips' pushing and pulling the rig, one guy working the lift/lower controls, a couple more to swing the arm from left to right, and up on top, with the massive Panavision camera, were the Camera Operator and Focus puller. It was coordinated like a military operation.
The main issue back then was that only the Camera Operator could see exactly what was in frame, whether something was out of place, and if focus was correct. These days, there is 'Video Assist', a TV camera looking through a prism into the same lens, which can give a real-time or playback image of exactly what went onto the film.
During all this, Brian DePalma let his technical crew do their jobs and concentrated on the actors. It's what Directors are there for, but many modern ones don't seem to understand that. Brian's main problem was getting the 'blocking' right: with four actors sitting closely together in the car, a couple of inches out of position could ruin the take.
As the sun began to go down, they decided they'd finally got the shot. Then they bit their fingernails until the 'rushes' were screened at midnight, and breathed a sigh of relief. A day's work well done by all.
That's the way NCO's in the US Army are trained to give orders. It allows your people some autonomy, while showing that you trust their ability to do the right thing in fluid circumstances. It builds self confidence and mutual respect. It's in complete contrast to the domineering/emotional/insolent behaviour of some other cultures, such as Soviet Bloc militaries.
A simple but telling example is how Tony carefully but concisely instructs his 'crew' outside the SunRay: you can find it in the 'Quotes' section of this website.
Because so much of the US film industry is concentrated in Los Angeles, almost all of the key people and businesses base themselves there. The city is also home to thousands of small firms that support the big studios. These range from costumiers, casting agents and car wranglers, to furniture makers, stunt arrangers and makeup experts.
'Scarface' eventually took 24 weeks to film, and 20 of those weeks were spent in California. Brian DePalma was however able to convince his audience that they were seeing a story almost entirely set in Florida.
Not much has changed in Hollywood studio thinking today. When 'CSI Miami' was shot from 2002 to 2012, over 90 percent of the filming took place in Long Beach, Redondo Beach, Marina Green Park and Rainbow Lagoon Park, all near Los Angeles. The canals, expensive boat docks and palm trees gave a Miami feel, as did the forests of new skyscrapers.
Shooting 'West Coast' instead of 'East Coast' does cause one insoluble problem. In California the sun sets into the ocean, while in Miami it rises there. For cinematographers, this creates issues with 'colour temperature', since a sunset is much more orange than a sunrise. It's all to do with atmospheric temperature gradients, and the fact that there's more dust in the evening air. Modern digital colour enhancements can help, but until Hollywood finds a way of moving the sun, it's a situation that will cause headaches.
They realised that, because a film camera shutter is a spinning disc with a segmental cutout, any flash that happened when the shutter was 'closed' simply wouldn't be recorded on the film. And the shutter has to be closed long enough for the next film frame to move into place - usually about a fiftieth of a second. In a normal Panavision camera, this means that about half the flashes will not appear on screen..
In a stroke of genius, the techies put an electrical connection inside each firearm and connected it to the camera electronics, to allow the weapon to fire only if the camera shutter was open. In effect, they synchronised the firearm to the camera. It took a lot of experimentation and prototyping, but they made it work perfectly.
The system was so reliable and effective that it was used for several other movies in the 80's and 90's, notably James Cameron's terrific 'Aliens' (1986). Today, CGI is almost always used to produce muzzle flashes. But filmmakers still haven't worked out how to make dummy weapons that have a realistic recoil.
In the SunRay and Mansion sets, 'bullet hits' were created by 'squibs', small explosive charges that were detonated electrically after being buried just below the surface of a sheetrock (plasterboard) panel. The effect is very convincing if set up properly, and creates a realistically random appearance to the 'hits'. However, this causes a problem of continuity.
Many retakes are often necessary for such scenes, often because actors go 'out of character' when things go bang. Another problem is that the pyrotechnics technicians, who are naturally cautious people, will always abort a scene if it looks to be getting dangerous for the 'talent' or the stunt players. Squibs may be small, but people have lost fingers and eyes in accidents on set.
In retakes, the pattern of damage will vary every time. In the editing room, the choice of which take to use is usually dictated by the actors' performance, not the background details. So 'goofs' fans can always have fun spotting mismatched bullet holes in walls.
Witnessing a 'reset' for a squib scene is quite something. An army of crew members move in to clear the debris, rewire the explosives, fill the holes with damp plaster, smooth it off, and paint over the damaged area. These people are good, and fast. They say they can do it "Before the Director finishes his gin and tonic" - at least, that is the polite version.
In the Babylon Club, a different strategy was necessary because of the wall mirrors. These were covered with transparent sheets of Plexiglas (Perspex) and shot at with high velocity pellet rifles, fired by very experienced marksmen. There were no injuries, but only a couple of retakes were possible because they soon ran out of mirrors.
Film making is more dangerous than studios like to accept. But the crew on 'Scarface' were very professional, and the bosses respected that. No-one was hurt during the production, with the well-known exception of Al Pacino, who burned his palm when he accidentally mishandled an M16 assault rifle while 'in character'. For a movie with so much firepower in evidence, it was a good result.
The difficult and potentially dangerous fall was performed by one of the legendary Hollywood stuntmen, Tom Elliot. It was done without any special effects or a 'Peter Pan Rig' (also called a 'Descender Wire') which would have made the 'gag' safer. There wasn't even any padding on the concrete floor of the pool. Elliot planned carefully, then did the stunt for real, relying on less than two feet of water to stop his 12 foot descent. Many of the crew on set had to turn their eyes away: they simply couldn't watch.
There were several risky aspects to the jump, notably the presence of the neon 'The World Is Yours' sculpture which could have caught in the stuntman's feet and cartwheeled him into the concrete. But if he jumped out too aggressively, he could have collided with the wall at the far end of the pool.
The technique Tom Elliot adopted was to use a posture similar to that used by skydivers and wingsuit fliers to reduce his acceleration through the air. But at the same time, his pose had to suit the action of the story, replicating a comatose body falling out of control.
After Take One, Brian DePalma asked for another because Elliot's body language seemed too 'balletic'. Take Two was a bust because of a speed problem with the camera. The Third Take was perfect, and that's what is in the movie. Look carefully and you can see that the carpet around the pool is wet from the previous two takes.
Tom Elliot has continued to get his stunts right in over 500 film and television productions. He is now an accomplished Stunt Arranger and Second Unit Director, and recently received a third Emmy nomination for his work on the TV series 'Criminal Minds'. A very modest man, he simply points out that he was "Just one of the 62 stunt performers who worked on 'Scarface', and enjoyed every moment"..
Next Section: Deleted Scenes
There are often scenes cut from the final version of a movie. Sometimes these will have been seen by preview audiences, or be included in Blu-ray or DVD extras etc.The following missing scenes from Scarface are believed legit. If you disagree or have additional info, please update us.
Tony plays the fool, asking the two police officers to help him search for his missing white poodle. He then jokes with Alberto.
Not surprisingly, this was all deleted because it was judged too flippant for Tony's character arc in this pivotal and very 'dark' part of the movie.
So several scenes were deleted before filming even started, including an extended sequence which showed Tony earning his spurs from Frank by successfully co-ordinating a string of 'drug mules' who were smuggling cocaine into the US on a commercial flight from Colombia.
Brian DePalma binned the scene since it was felt to be a too obvious counterpart to Tony's fraught relationship with Elvira, and because it diluted the character development which needed to focus on the Tony/Alejandro interaction.
Next Section: Alternate Versions
Sometimes, there will be several versions of a movie floating about on cable, tv or video etc. Other times, a Director may release a special cut of the movie on Blu-ray or DVD.The following versions of Scarface are apparently real. If you disagree or have additional info, please update us.
I've tracked down six versions of the movie which were broadcast in six different countries within the past few years. Every version is different, the most common changes being in the levels of drug use and violence depicted, and in the censorship of language. In some cases extra scenes were added that were not in the cinema edit, for example the sequence showing Tony searching for his lost dog, or characters on the phone in Freedomtown. In many cases the editing is amateurish and jerky, clearly done without Universal's knowledge or consent.
In some ultra-conservative countries, such as Malta, 'Scarface' would be unlikely to be shown in any form on terrestrial TV. However, viewers there can always tune into the satellite channels, which always seen to show the 'real' uncut version. One place I have never seen any version of 'Scarface' is as an in-flight movie, but you never know...
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