Will 2020 Be the Year of an Acting Renaissance for Al Pacino and Robert De Niro?

Had Al Pacino and Robert De Niro been able to time travel from their 1970s time of unparalleled success to the time of today, they perhaps would have recoiled at the latter part of their filmography. Even by the late 1970s, neither one would have likely thought they’d be churning out films that were far below the quality of their earlier output if even being nominated for Golden Raspberry Awards. What makes that separation of time even more notable is that their most recent films of variable quality are far exceeded in quantity than the output of their first decade. For those who are unaware of these movie legend’s work can go to 123movies and enlighten themselves.

We all know the latter situation is because the demand for movies is exceedingly higher now than in the 1970s and ’80s. Yet for whatever reason beginning in the mid-1990s, Pacino and De Niro ended up going in directions that sometimes belied their profound acting gifts. It’s ironic that we see them more than ever in films today (something fans would have died to see 40 years ago), but in far too many roles that are sometimes unmemorable.

Call it possible burnout, or perhaps just not finding scripts once found in the last treasured film era of the ’70s. However, it seems both actors have been making a concerted effort to stop the coasting and finding better roles to seal their acting legacy before becoming senior citizens. 2013 and ’14 contain a confluence of films that could place Pacino and De Niro back in real contention for new awards.

And that would be history repeating considering they were Oscar competitors in their early heyday. As with De Niro winning his first Oscar before Pacino did for “The Godfather, Part II”, De Niro has already beaten Pacino to the punch by being Oscar-nominated for “Silver Linings Playbook.” If you’ve seen De Niro’s performance, you know he’s gone back to his solid method acting roots and manifested a truly memorable character.

It may be just a preview, though, because De Niro also has several projects ahead that could place him back in Oscar or Golden Globe contention at the same time Pacino follows suit. Next year, we could see Pacino up for Best Actor in a TV Movie/Miniseries at the Golden Globes for “Phil Spector”, then perhaps an eventual Oscar nomination for delayed “Gotti: In the Shadow of My Father.” De Niro may be up for an Oscar in 2014 for “The Comedian” where he plays a washed-up insult comic, followed by possible award contention for “Killing Season” where he teams with John Travolta.

Yes, all of the above are miles away from the Fockers or the last film starring both De Niro and Pacino (“Righteous Kill”). The irony is on them that they could never find a truly great film beyond “The Godfather, Part II” to star in together. In their career sunsets, they may have been better off not teaming up rather than trying to contain greatness in one film.

The individual comeback efforts by De Niro and Pacino have the potential to inspire something similar for those great actors and actresses we’ve seen coast too long in mediocrity. We have to look at the aforementioned John Travolta, plus James Woods, Jack Nicholson, Renee Zellweger, and Halle Berry as just some examples.

No, it doesn’t hurt for an A-list actor to be mindful of a complacency problem. Not everybody should end up in the guise of Marlon Brando who never did have the acting renaissance he should have had late in life.