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What Tony Montana And ‘Scarface’ Can Teach Us About Life
July 17, 2013
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Director Brian De Palma's 1983 gangster movie 'Scarface' wasn't an immediate hit when it was released - critical reactions were mixed, and it didn't blow up the box office - but it's developed a huge fan base since.

There are plenty of reasons why people are still talking about the film 30 years later: it's got that mesmerizing lead performance from Al Pacino (not to mention a great supporting role from Steven Bauer, aka Manny), a gritty, intense take on the drug trade, and iconic lines like, "Say hello to my little friend!"

But the film continues to be a touchstone, regularly referenced in pop culture and countless hip-hop tracks.

It's got a lot to teach us - Tony Montana is obviously not someone to imitate in a literal sense, but some of his values are surprisingly applicable to everyday life.

On the other hand, he got some things completely wrong.

So, balancing the good with the very, very bad, here are some of the lessons we learned from 'Scarface':

Live By Your Values

tony-values.jpgIt's a little surprising that the story of a vicious drug dealer could teach a lesson about sticking to your values - but Tony Montana was a man of his word.

As one of his associates says, "I like you, Tony - there's no lying in you."

Following a moral code when you're also a cold-blooded killer may seem like a bit of a contradiction in terms, but Tony knows what he believes and he sticks to it.

In fact, he ends up taking actions that lead to his own demise when he refuses to kill an innocent woman and child.

Granted, dying in a hail of gunfire may not be the ideal way to end your story - but for Tony, it was a better option than living with the guilt of having taken innocent lives.

scarface-life-lessons-feature.jpg
Brian De Palma and Al Pacino on set (Photo: AP)

Look Out For Your Friends

tony-and-manny.jpgThere are two sides to this lesson: first of all, you should make sure to take care of the people you call your friends, and be there for them.

Like when Manny saves Tony from being killed in that chainsaw attack. Good looking out.

But also, if you run with a dangerous crowd, look out for your friends, because they might be coming for you. Especially if you're sleeping with their sister.

Never, Ever Buy A Tiger

tony-tiger.jpgAt the height of his success, Tony buys a lot of luxury items. One of them is his own tiger.

In one scene in the movie, guests at his wedding come across the animal chained up on the ground's of Tony's home.

Owning a wild animal of any kind is cruel and awful. Keeping it chained up in your yard is even worse.

Just don't do this. Ever.

Go After What You Want

tony-and-michelle.jpgHowever large your goals are, you'll never achieve them unless you work for them.

In Tony's case, his goals are simple, and tough to attain: money, power, and his boss's girlfriend (played by Michelle Pfeiffer).

Whether or not Tony was making the right choices by going after all those goals, he didn't rest until he had them.

In a drug-addled speech at a fancy restaurant, he tells the assembled wealthy diners, "you don't have the guts to be what you want to be":

Tony may not win in the end, but he definitely has the guts to go after what he wants.

Don't Let Money Dictate Your Interior Decorating Choices

tony-decorating.jpgWhen Tony gets rich, he moves into a mansion. Fair enough.

But the decorations that he chooses are a little... Excessive.

It's nice to celebrate your successes, but when you've installed a fountain with cherubs holding up a neon sign that says 'The World Is Yours' on it, you have left good taste behind.

Also, no one needs banisters that fancy.

Know When To Stop

tony-gun.jpgYou know the old chestnut "quit while you're ahead"? That's advice that Tony Montana could really have benefited from.

For a minute there, he had it all: a multi-million-dollar empire, a beautiful wife, all the power he could want.

But the mixture of an ugly drug habit and an unstoppable desire for more drove Tony to keep going until the inevitable fall.

If you sense that things are getting out of hand or that you're not in control of your life anymore, it's definitely time to let go.

Imagine an alternate version of 'Scarface' where Tony gets out of the drug business, starts a music career, and becomes a world-famous American icon. Let's call it... 'The Blueprint'.

'Scarface' is a bit of a theme on the program this week.

Monday we had Steven Bauer, aka Manny, in the red chair. Check out his interview below, and tune in to CBC TV tonight, Wednesday July 17, at 7 pm to see director Brian De Palma in conversation with George.

Related:

Brian De Palma On Discovering Robert De Niro

AWESOME THING OF THE DAY: Famous Movies Without The Guns

INTERVIEW: Steven Bauer

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