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Why Al Pacino Was Genuinely Relieved To Not Win The Best Actor Oscar For Serpico

Most great actors aren't motivated solely by awards, but it's safe to say that winning an Oscar beats not winning one any day. Unless, of course, you're Al Pacino at the 1974 Academy Awards, when the famed performer was nominated for best actor for his work as Frank Serpico in the Sidney Lumet police corruption drama "Serpico." That night, Pacino was anything but eager to take home the gold, and it wasn't because of his commitment to the art form of cinema, either.

Pacino told the tale in his 1979 Playboy interview, which even in those days at the height of his fame was a rarity for the actor. And he got unusually candid about the night he lost the best actor Oscar to Jack Lemmon. "No one expected me to come. I was a little high," recalled Pacino. Although, it's not clear whether those two thoughts are directly connected or not. "I had to pee — bad. So I popped a valium. Actually, I was eating valium like they were candy. Chewed on them. Finally came the best actor. Can you imagine the shape I was in? I couldn't have made it to the stage. I was praying, 'Please don't let it be me. Please.'"

Thankfully for Pacino, he didn't have to leave his seat. He went on, "And I hear ... 'Jack Lemmon.' I was just so happy I didn't have to get up because I never would have made it."

Pacino has only won the best actor Oscar once (so far)

If Al Pacino ever lies awake at night wondering why, as possibly the most acclaimed and beloved screen actor of his generation, he hasn't won more Oscars, perhaps he will look back on that night in 1974 as the moment he jinxed himself nearly for life. "Nearly," of course, because he eventually took home best actor gold for 1992's "Scent of a Woman."

He made it to the stage and gave a pretty good acceptance speech then (YouTube), opening with a very funny line: "You broke my streak." Pacino's "streak" of being nominated for acting Oscars but losing out didn't start with "Serpico," since he was actually nominated for best supporting actor for playing Michael Corleone in "The Godfather." But "Serpico" was his first time being nominated for best actor, and on that night at least, Pacino was more than happy not to win.