‘Scent of a Woman’ at 30: Al Pacino talks Oscar-winning role, explains the origins of ‘Hoo-ah!’

American Age Official

Al Pacino had been nominated for an Academy Award six times already — including an incredible stretch of four consecutive nominations from 1973 to 1976 (two Godfather movies, Dog Day Afternoon and Serpico) — but had never won when Scent of a Woman sauntered into theaters 30 years ago Friday.

The crowd-pleasing drama about an idealistic prep student (Chris O’Donnell) who forms an unlikely friendship with a blind, hard-living Vietnam veteran (Pacino) would actually be one of two films that would put Pacino back on the ballot. He was nominated for Best Actor for Scent, and Best Supporting Actor for David Mamet’s adaptation on his own stage play, Glengarry Glen Ross.

Pacino ultimately triumphed for Scent. Was it a so-called “legacy” win? Possibly. Did Denzel Washington deserve to win instead for Malcolm X? Arguably. (Washington may have also been the recipient of a legacy award when he won nine years later for Training Day.)

But three decades later, Pacino’s long-coming win is perhaps what Scent of a Woman is most famous for… Well, that and a certain Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade catchphrase.

“Hoo-ah!,” Slade would bellow in any scenario with O’Donnell’s Charlie Simms that called for acknowledgment, satisfaction, or emphasis.

In a Role Recall interview with Yahoo Entertainment, Pacino revealed the origin’s of his oft-mimicked motto. (Watch full video above, with Scent starting at 4:25.)

“[That] came from this guy who was teaching me how to load and unload [a .45 caliber handgun] blind. You know, it’s complicated, [you] gotta pick it apart and then put it back together again in 45 seconds. And there’s a lot of little things you gotta learn,” Pacino says.

“So I was forever having practice with this guy, [who was] teaching me how to do it. And every time, and this was a real lieutenant, this guy. And every time I would do something good or even a little good, he would go, ‘Hoo-ah!’ And I said, what is that? He said, ‘Oh, that’s what we do. Hoo-ah! With the troops going along.’ I go, ‘I gotta use that.’

“So that somehow got in the part. That comes from heaven, that stuff.”

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