Brian De Palma is regarded as one of the finest American filmmakers of the 20th century, known especially for his 1983 masterpiece Scarface which remains an important part of popular culture. However, Scarface almost became a completely different entity because it was Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro who were initially attached to the project.
A partial remake of the vastly influential pre-Code masterpiece from 1932, the film features Al Pacino in the definitive role of his career as he plays the iconic Tony Montana. It follows a Cuban immigrant who embarks on a bloody journey to become one of the most powerful drug lords in Miami, eventually forgetting what it is like to be human.
When Scarface was first released, it was vastly misunderstood and was bombarded with negative reviews due to its graphic depictions of violence. Over time, the film has been re-evaluated by critics and has developed a massive global fan base while also influencing hip hop culture, video games and other avenues of popular culture.
During the initial phase of the planning, multiple filmmakers and actors expressed their interest in being a part of the project. Al Pacino even asked Robert De Niro to suggest a director to helm Scarface and the actor advised him to go with De Palma, warning him that he was ready to take the role if Pacino wasn’t sure about it.
Al Pacino was aware of the fact that Scorsese and De Niro also had their eyes on Scarface which is why he began a campaign to convince producer Martin Bregman to fund this project. In addition to those two, there were a lot of rumours about other interested parties but it was De Palma and Al Pacino who eventually made history together.
A major reason why nobody else could make Scarface was the confluence of vastly differing opinions about the directorial approach of the project. Scorsese’s idea of Scarface didn’t seem to be that appealing to the producers and De Palma was finally attached to the project who incorporated his own vision into the soul of the film.
Although Scorsese never got the chance to direct Scarface, he was an admirer of De Palma’s masterpiece from the very first day. In fact, he even warned actor Steven Bauer about Hollywood’s initial rejection of Scarface. Bauer later revealed that Scorsese told him: “You guys are great – but be prepared, because they’re going to hate it in Hollywood … because it’s about them.”