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Scarface was popular upon its initial release, but over the last thirty years it has transcended its film roots and become something of a cultural icon. The Brian De Palma film was an exercise in excess, with Al Pacino chewing up scenery like only Al Pacino can do. Here are 14 things about the pop culture staple you may not have known…
1. The violent gangster film went through a cavalcade of troubles with the MPAA ratings board. It was originally given an X rating (before NC-17 existed), so De Palma made a few cuts. It was still given an X rating after the cuts, so De Palma cut some more and again it was given an X. De Palma, refusing to cut the film anymore, brought in a panel of experts and law enforcement officials who stated the violence was an accurate and true portrayal of the South Florida drug trade. This finally convinced the majority of the ratings board to give the film an R.
2. In the scene where Tony is in the bathtub watching TV, he says to Manny, “Look at dem pelicangs fly.” This line was what Al Pacino practiced with a language coach to get the Cuban accent right.
3. The abundant cocaine used in the film was supposed to be dried milk, but it didn’t work during filming, so they had to change to a different substance. Brian De Palma refuses to say what that substance was because he doesn’t want to ruin the illusion of the film.
4. According to the “scorecard” feature on the Platinum Edition DVD, the word “fuck” and its derivatives are used 226 times for an average of 1.32 fucks per minute.
5. A majority of the film was shot in Los Angeles, California, standing in for Miami, Florida. This was done because production would have been endangered by protests from angry Cuban-Americans over the film’s reported subject matter. Streets and buildings used for shooting were redressed by the art directors to have the “feel” of Miami.
6. In the opening scene where Pacino’s Tony Montana is being interrogated by police, the two actors playing the offers are never seen. Their voices were dubbed by Charles Durning and Dennis Franz.
7. Originally, this film was going to be a remake of the 1932 film Scarface, but budget restraints didn’t allow it, so the setting was moved to Miami.
8. Steven Spielberg, a friend of De Palma, was on set during the final days of shooting, so he operated one of the cameras during filming.
9. In the final shootout sequence, Al Pacino grabs the gun by the barrel. Although only blanks were used, his hand was badly burned, and production had to be shut down for a few weeks.
10. The prop firearms were equipped with electronic synchronizing devices so that they would only fire when the camera shutter was open. The result was that the guns’ muzzle flashes are much more visible and consistent than in most movies.
11. Scarface has always been a heavy influence on hip-hop artists throughout the years. In fact, when the film was re-released in theaters on its 20th anniversary in 2003, the studio asked De Palma to redo the soundtrack to feature many of the popular rap songs referencing the film. Thankfully, De Palma refused.
12. According to producer Martin Bregman, the only shot removed from the “chainsaw scene” was that of a dismembered arm hanging from the shower curtain rod as the camera pans over to Hector, thereby establishing his line “And now the leg, huh?”