When the team behind CBS’ ”60 Minutes” discovered that Al Pacino’s new movie ”The Insider” takes a warts-and-all look at the show’s behind-the-scenes battle to air a 1995 segment about a tobacco-company whistle-blower, they began grousing to the media. Correspondent Mike Wallace, for example, offered his critique of the movie’s blend of fact and fiction even before he had seen a frame of celluloid, claiming he had been ”used in a dishonest way” by the filmmakers. Wait, isn’t that what scam artists say whenever ”60 Minutes” does one of its hidden-camera exposés?
Pacino — who plays ”60 Minutes” producer Lowell Bergman — admits he sees “a certain amount of irony” in the situation. But he also feels Wallace’s pain. “I know he has concerns, which I think is natural and which I sympathize with,” says the 59-year-old actor. “Whether it’s an interview that’s written about you or a performance that you do on screen, you’re sensitive to yourself, and there’s a reluctance to see [the finished product] for whatever it’s worth.” Still, Pacino believes the star reporter may change his tune after he watches the movie. “I hope his reaction will be positive,” Pacino says. “Whatever he does in the picture, there is redemption in the end, and this is drama, something that’s heightened. But I don’t want to be presumptuous in saying he came off okay to me, since I’m not him.”
Pacino, who has never been interviewed by Wallace, dismisses the complaint that the film will mar the reporter’s legacy: “He’s done such great things, and that’s what he’ll be remembered for.” Despite the conflict, what Pacino remembers Wallace for has nothing to do with “60 Minutes” or the tobacco brouhaha. “The first time I ever saw him, I was a kid in New York and I was passing Rockefeller Plaza, and he was in a window there doing something on radio,” says Pacino. “I remember looking at him, and he waved at me. And I thought, nice guy, huh?” Maybe if he knew Pacino would grow up to make “The Insider,” Wallace would have used a different hand gesture.