I’ve learned to live without anonymity. I haven’t been in a grocery store or subway for years. It’s hard for my children to go out publicly with me. Fame is different now than it was 20 years ago – I don’t know what the hell it is now! If I have a rare time of being somewhere and not being recognised, it’s a luxury.
It’s never been about money for me. There were times when I was young when I could have used money: after college I was often unemployed and at one time I slept in a storefront for a few days. But I’ve never been materialistic. Except that I am, of course, because my lifestyle makes me a spender!
My grandfather, James Gerardi, taught me about work. He was a plasterer and work – any kind of work – was the joy of his life. So I grew up wanting to – it’s what I’ve always chased. The joy of work is what keeps me going.
The conclusion of my teachers was that I needed a dad. I wasn’t an out-of-control teenager, but I was close. My parents divorced when I was two and my father wasn’t in my life from then. I wanted to be different with my children [Julie, 25, and twins Anton and Olivia, 14]. I wanted to be responsible to them, so I divide my time between two coasts.
Kids changed my perspective. Before I had my three, I’d walk around in my own head, not noticing anything. Acting used to be everything; now, because of them, it’s just a small part.
I’m not lacking in friends. We can all get caught up in our lives, our careers, but I’ve always understood there’s a certain tenacity needed for friendship.
The lowest point of my life was losing my mother, Rose, and grandfather – they died within a year of each other. I was 22 and the two most influential people in my life had gone, so that sent me into a tailspin. I lost the 70s in a way, but then I gave up drinking in 1977 and decided to focus on the work.
I understand the value and power of social media, although I don’t really do it myself. I have a Facebook page that 5.4m people “like”. What does that mean? I don’t know, although I do appreciate that these platforms are good for getting your message out there.
Michael Corleone in The Godfather was and still is the most difficult role I’ve played. I didn’t see him as a gangster; I felt his power was his enigmatic quality. Unfortunately the studio couldn’t see that at first and were thinking of firing me. It was during my early career, a major movie with Marlon Brando, and no one other than Francis [Ford Coppola] wanted me for the part.
My grandparents came from a town in Sicily called Corleone. Fate? Yes, maybe – it’s very strange. But then life has so many twists and turns.
People think there is rivalry between me and Robert De Niro. I know Bobby pretty well. He’s a friend and he and I have gone through similar things. I love what he does with comedy; it’s pure genius.
I believe I have reached my stride, which is why I persist. As long as you have passion for the art, keep working, because age catches up with you.
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