De Niro, Pacino and Pesci: Oscars, Cigars and Mob Movies

De Niro, Pacino and Pesci: Oscars, Cigars and Mob Movies


The Irishman has been nominated for 10 Oscars since its release, making its way to potentially becoming a cult classic. Starring three of the most widely recognised actors in the world, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, the movie was set to bring excitement to mob movie fanatics worldwide. Just once glance at the cast, there's no doubt they were fit for the role, and we can't help but reminisce unforgettable performances of Robert De Niro’s young Vito Corleone, Al Pacino’s iconic Cuban Cigar chomping Tony Montana and Joe Pesci’s psychopathic Tommy DeVito. The combination of these iconic 'gangster' movie actors has, without a doubt, caught the Oscar's attention since its conception.

The three actors were cast to play real-life figures of the Jimmy Hoffa Case in the 60s to the 70s, providing an incredibly unique narrative of real-world politics and the mafia underworld. Frank Sheeran (De Niro) at the end of the movie quotes “You don’t know how fast times goes by until you get there”, providing a sense of irony and melancholy – not only does it relate to the context of the movie but can be seen as a symbolism for decades of outstanding acting these De Niro, Pacino and Pesci have had. The film was directed by the venerated director, Martin Scorsese, who returned to the silver screen presenting the world of mobs and gangsters once again. He quotes “When you look at this whole group together, it’s cinema history. You look at all of their films together, and this fits right in there.” 

Top Left: Max Cady from Cape Fear; Bottom Left: Al Capone from the Untouchables; Right: Young Vito Corleone from The Godfather II


Aged 76 this year, De Niro has amassed a portfolio of countless iconic movies. whether it’s the Godfather, Goodfellas or Meet the Parents, without a doubt, everyone has seen a classic De Niro film. Born and raised in New York, he had always had a passion for the arts; it was even said that when he was a child, he was an avid reader of playwrights. This passion continued to the age of 17 when he didn't hesitate to drop out of high school to join Stella Adler’s acting school to forge his career in acting. And from then on, De Niro was on his way to becoming one of Hollywood's most acclaimed actors.

Robert De Niro first earned recognition with the film Mean Streets in 1973 – his first collaboration with Martin Scorsese; the same director from the Irishman and many of his memorable films. His career didn't stop there, in 1966, he secured a role in the cult classic – the Godfather: Part II where he played the major role of Vito Corleone, the leader of the mafia underworld. It was the first time he worked with the also acclaimed Al Pacino (and definitely was not the last). De Niro's other award-winning films include the Taxi Driver, Cape Fear and Raging Bull. With these roles, he had undoubtedly established himself as a strong actor, providing an uncompromising portrayal of violent and abrasive personalities. But despite this reputation, he wasn't afraid to demonstrate his versatility as an actor and therefore took on more 'comedic' productions later on his life, with performances in Meet The Parents and Dirty Grandpa.

In terms of his cigar-smoking experience, he has long given up this leisurely activity. but despite this, De Niro has certainly left a mark with his roles – Who wouldn’t forget his role as Max Cady in Cape Fear? Or De Niro as Al Capone in the Untouchables? In each of these roles, he has successfully depicted these tough characters by firing up cigars as a prop. In an interview conducted by Cigar Aficionado, De Niro reflects some of his favourite smokes back when he used to enjoy a stogie, those were the Quai d’Orsay Cigars and Partagas Serie D No. 4.

Left: Michael Corleone from the Godfather; Top right: Tony Montana from Scarface; Bottom right: Jimmy Hoffa from the Irishman


Named as a 'living legend' Alfredo James ‘Al’ Pacino is an Award-winning actor and filmmaker, who’s had a career in the silver screen spanning over five decades. He has earned countless awards from the Academy Awards, the Oscars, the Tony’s and much more – establishing himself as one of film’s greatest actors in history. Born of Sicilian heritage, young Al Pacino wasn't particularly motivated in his studies, however, he found solace and fulfilment in acting. He attended various acting schools, acted on Broadway and finally secured a place at Lee Strasberg’s Actors Studio, bumping shoulders with other iconic actors such as De Niro.

His most famous gig of them all is the classic Godfather trilogy directed by none other than Francis Ford Coppola. Michael Corleone, as played by Pacino, is an intelligent, independent and visionary character, who's father was the leader of a mafia empire. But to his father's demise, Michael did not want to follow in his footsteps. The Godfather brought up themes of family, criminality, society and revenge – taking on the real-life topic of mobsters in America. Critics praised Al Pacino for his excellent acting skills in this movie, winning various awards for the production. Today, the Godfather is credited as one of Hollywood's greatest Mob films in history.

Or perhaps, can you recall the famous quote “Say hello to my little friend”?  That memorable line was said by Tony Montana, another iconic character played by Pacino.  Scarface narrates the story of a Cuban refugee who arrives in Miami and rises as a powerful drug king from scratch. Scarface is a story based on the rise and fall of the real-life gangster Al Capone – with themes of immorality, materiality and excessiveness. In the movie, one of the many quirks Tony Montana has is his clear habit of smoking a Habano. As Tony was a Cuban immigrant,  we have no doubt the character must have definitely fired up some iconic Cuban smokes, perhaps a hefty Cohiba Robusto or Romeo y Julieta Wide Churchills?

As you can see, Al Pacino is a highly versatile actor, roles ranging from the darkly charismatic Michael Corleone to boisterous Tony Montana in Scarface. But apart from these cinema classics, he's also played in many other films such as The Devils Advocate (1999) and Heat (1995). Today, Pacino continues to be one of Hollywood's most consistent actors, with his latest role being in the new TV series called The Hunters (2020).


Top left: Weegee from The Public Eye; Bottom left: Russell Bufalino from the Irishman; Right: Tommy from Goodfellas


Bborn in New Jersey, Joe Pesci made a name for himself as one of the most outstanding actors on the silver screen. From Jake La Motta's brother and manager in Raging Bull to the psychopathic Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas, not to mention memorable roles in Home Alone, My Cousin Vinny, and Lethal Weapon, Pesci was a frequent and extremely welcome presence on the big screen for decades.

Pesci's most acclaimed role was Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas, where he famously quotes “Funny, how?” Joe Pesci’s performance in Goodfellas offers one of the greatest depictions of psychopathy in film history, ultimately winning the 'Best Supporting Actor' award at the Oscars in 1991.  Other roles he would be known for is "My Cousin Vinny" where he plays as a lawyer who tries to save his cousin from going to jail. Funny, lighthearted and memorable – it's one of the few movies Pesci doesn't play as a tough gangster.

Another notable performance by Pesci is The Public Eye (1992), a movie based on a New York newspaper photographer in the 1940s. A man who prowls the midnight streets, searching for photos he can send to the tabloids, all while chomping a cigar in his mouth – just one of the many films that use Cigars As a Prop. In terms of Pesci's cigar-smoking experience, he is a frequent smoker. In many interviews, he was found smoking a stogie in interviews with Bob Costas, Greg Kinnear and David Letterman. Though he had never formally announced his favourite smokes, we're sure he had smoked a few Cubans. 

To many people’s surprise, Joe Pesci announced his retirement in 1999 as he wanted to pursue a career in music. Despite this, The Irishman presented an opportunity to reunite with longtime collaborators; Scorsese, De Niro and Pacino. It was a no-brainer for Pesci. He plays the mobster Russell Bufalino in the ‘Irishman’, evoking a slightly blank and menacingly calm character. It is questionable whether Joe Pesci wants to return to the silver screen, despite this, he remains as Hollywood’s most credible actors, and perhaps, many people even say – underrated!

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