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From 'The Godfather II' to 'The Irishman', here's the lowdown on the diverging career paths of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro

The two have had very different career paths since their first appearance together in 'Godfather II'. We take a look through the years, as how the careers of the two actors diverged before converging again in 'The Irishman'
UPDATED NOV 27, 2019

Arguably two of the greatest actors in Hollywood history, Al Pacino and Robert De Nero are set to star in Martin Scorsese's 'The Irishman'. Despite the fact that people tend to conflate the two actors, the two have actually starred in very few films together over their decades-long careers.

What's more, the two have had very different career paths since their first appearance together in 'Godfather II'. We take a look through the years, as how the careers of the two actors diverged before converging again in 'The Irishman'.

From Robert De Niro's rise to his low plateau

Early in his career, De Niro's role in 'Bang the Drum Slowly' earned him the appreciation that attracted the interest of Francis Ford Coppola and a central role on 'The Godfather II'. It was a role that won him his first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

That was just the start of his illustrious career. In 1973, he collaborated with Martin Scorsese for the first time on 'Mean Streets', which proved to be a very successful partnership.

De Niro's performances on films like 'Goodfellas', 'Taxi Driver' and 'Raging Bull' were nothing short of iconic, with the latter winning him his second Oscar for Best Actor. 

In more recent years, however, his performances have left something to be desired, starting in the mid-90s with his role in 'Jackie Brown'. Fans have been left uninspired by his appearances in more comedic films, and many are of the opinion that he really stopped trying.

An all-time low is his lead role in the 2016 film, 'Dirty Grandpa'. One fan on Twitter has even charted the decline, based on Rotten Tomatoes scores of movies he's been in.

James Chapman charts out the decline of De Niro's film careeer

Al Pacino's exultant highs and erratic lows

Al Pacino's career is a lot less neatly charted, with highs and lows scattered throughout the decades of his time in Hollywood. It should be noted that this all runs concurrent to his career on the stage, where he's performed as dedicatedly as he has on the big screen. 

Pacino's role as Mike Corleone on 'The Godfather' in 1972 was his big break. His performance on 'The Panic in Needle Park' convinced Francis Ford Coppola that he was right for the role, beating out bigger names such as Warren Beaty, Jack Nicholson, and Robert Redford.

Coppola's faith in Pacino paid off, as Mike Corleone is considered to be his best performance to date. From 'The Godfather' trilogy, Pacino moved on to a host of other films — the 1970s were his time to shine, and he ended the decade with four Oscar nominations to his name.

The 1980s was a completely different decade for Pacino. He started the decade rough with 'Cruising' in 1980, which followed a cop going undercover on New York's gay fetish scene.

The movie was almost universally scorned for its graphic scenes and its inaccurate portrayals of gay culture, but it proved the lengths to which Al Pacino would go to in his portrayal of a role.

Other movies such as 'Revolution' or 'Author! Author!' failed to make a splash, but in 1983, Al Pacino forever cemented his place in Hollywood history in the role of Brian de Palma in 'Scarface'.

The 1990s saw Al Pacino in a host of pulp B-movies like 'Dick Tracy', 'The Devil's Advocate' and 'City Hall'. His performances were a return to form even if the movies weren't huge in terms of critical successes.

He had two standout movies during this period — 'The Scent of a Woman', for which he finally won an Oscar for Best Actor — and 'Heat', which reunited him with Robert De Niro.

Though 'Heat' only saw the two big names on screen together for a single scene, it's a scene that's been lauded by film critics and students of cinema in the years since. 

Recent years have seen a scattering of different performances from Pacino, ranging from the quiet intensity of a hard-boiled detective on 'Insomnia' to a more absurd comedic performance in the Adam Sandler 'Jack and Jill' film.

Al Pacino's career has certainly been unique. He's performed a variety of roles and he's unlikely to stop any time soon.

While 'The Irishman' may be a return to form for De Niro that fans have been waiting for decades, for Al Pacino, it's another in a long line of films that experiment with storytelling, format and focus on evocative characters.

Where the two actors go from here is anybody's guess, but 'The Irishman' is sure to be a memorable event. 'The Irishman' releases on Netflix on November 27.