Monday, April 14, 2008

"Scarface" the story can be told!

PLUS...the pictures the Miami Herald didn't want you to see.

Twenty five years ago this month Director Brian De Palma and his production crew hurriedly filmed some exterior shots for the movie Scarface on a sleepy, rundown part of Ocean Drive and then hightailed it back to California to lens the remaining scenes of the film that was destined to become a cult classic with Al Pacino in the title role.

The entire movie had been slated to be shot in South Florida. But six months prior to the filming some members of the exile community in Miami raised a fuss over the fact that the main character of De Palma's remake of the 1932 gangster classic would be a Cuban drug dealer.

Fearing for the safety of the cast and crew, the film's producer Martin Bregman decided to pull the production out of Miami.

The Miami Herald carried several stories a week starting in the summer of 1982 focusing on every aspect of the controversy.

One of the main voices speaking out against the making of the film was then Miami commissioner Demetrio Perez; his super-heated rhetoric exacerbated by the fact that a mere two and half years had passed since Castro sent 125,000 refugees northward from the port of Mariel. Miami was still reeling from the effects of the influx of that many refugees.

By the time the film actually started shooting it seemed like just about everyone at the Herald with a byline had written a story or two about the ruckus. (NOTE: All of the stories that appeared in the Herald are available on various databases. I found all of them on a database that I accessed through the Miami Dade Public Library.)

Back then I was lucky enough to get tipped off about the filming on Ocean Drive. So on a Saturday in April, I showed up with my cameras, and over the next 3 hours I was able to record a piece of film history.

I took my film to the Herald to be processed and eventually sold a few images to the Associated Press.

About a year ago I found my negatives and scanned them to Cd's and started pitching the story to different publications.

Glenn Albin at Ocean Drive immediately recognized the significance of the story and my images. In January, Ocean Drive scooped everybody when they published 4 pages of my photos along with a story by Humberto Guida.

Click images to enlarge.

Last week New Times' Frank Houston weighed in with his take on the story.

Apparently the passage of 25 years hasn't softened Scarface producer Martin Bregman's opinion of Demetrio Perez!

Today St. Petersburg Times film critic Steve Persall updates the story along with some tantalizing details that producer Bregman says he's never revealed before.

After I sold a few pictures to the AP I stored the negatives and for got about them until last year. The pictures I shot that day helped me convince the Miami Associated Press photo editor to give me assignments. I shot on and off for the AP for the next dozen or so years.

On that day I'd originally taken the pictures to the Herald and photo editor Joe Elbert told me they'd probably run one or two the next day to go along with a story on the filming.

The story ran but they never used my pictures. It seems that Sunday was the third anniversary of the Mariel boat lift and some editor killed the pictures. The thinking was that my photos of Al Pacino as a Cuban drug dealer blowing some guy's head off in the middle of Ocean Drive might be a little too much for exile community to handle.

Anyway, you can now see the images that were too hot for the Miami Herald...25 years later in a slideshow courtesy of Miami New Times.

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