FILM- Out of order: Norman Jewison dishes on <i>Justice</i>
"You're out of order?" howls idealistic attorney Arthur Kirkland (Al Pacino). "You're out of order? This whole trial's out of order!"
Those lines from Academy Award-winner Norman Jewison's legal satire ...And Justice for All (1979) became a signature Pacino moment, and sum up the fiery conflict at the film's core.
Jewison, 83, recently discussed making the film and working with Pacino, who he describes as "one of our finest and most theatrical actors."
But, Jewison cautions, "He's like a doberman pinscher: If you take him off the leash, forget it! The anger is so incredible." During production, Jewison says, "He actually smashed the windshield of a Cadillac with a briefcase, and that's hard to do!"
But Pacino's operatic acting style ideally suited the film's script, which Jewison says was "a little over-the-top, like most good comedy/satire should be." Despite the film's occasional outrageousness, he says, he strove for believability, because regardless of genre, "If you don't believe it... you tune out of the movie. And this had some strange scenes in it, so that's why I went for seasoned actors."
Among the veterans were Pacino's mentor, legendary acting teacher Lee Strasberg, whom Jewison brought on to keep Pacino in line, and two-time Academy Award nominee Jack Warden.
The leading lady, however, was Christine Lahti, a newcomer Jewison discovered "in New York Off-Broadway," he says, whose height intimidated the diminutive Pacino.
"So there's a lot of scenes where I have them sitting down," he says, laughing.
The film's top-flight cast was given meaty legal roles. "Trial lawyers are really exciting people to watch because they're consummate actors," Jewison explains. "And justice doesn't even figure into it." Nor do right and wrong, or the truth, he says. "It's about winning.
"Winning is everything. And if winning is everything in your society, then there isn't any grace left. It's all about beating up the next guy. It's a pretty tough society."
As ...And Justice for All turns 30, Jewison feels that its potent satire largely still holds true: "I think it's still difficult to find justice unless you're white and very wealthy. There seems to be a justice for the rich and a justice for the poor."
When originally released, many Americans disliked the film, Jewison says, "because they felt it ridiculed the judicial system. So the American Bar Association wasn't happy.
"Now, so many, many years later, they've kind of embraced the film," Jewison marvels. "It's strange. I get invited to address law societies."
Norman Jewison hosts a screening of ...And Justice for All at 4pm Saturday, November 7, at the Paramount Theater. At 1pm Friday, November 6, he will host his film The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming! at the Regal 4.