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ROBERT DE NIRO Screen Talk with Ian Haydn Smith | BFI London Film Festival 2019

ROBERT DE NIRO Screen Talk with Ian Haydn Smith | BFI London Film Festival 2019


– Will you please welcome to
the stage, Robert De Niro. (audience clapping) Kind of feels like a boxing match and you’re playing to the home crowd. So we just opened with the opening scene of Raging Bull from 1980. Over the years people have seen that as a sort of a landmark of the end of a particular
kind of American film, the new American cinema of the 1970s. But I thought to start,
perhaps we could go back to the beginnings. I mentioned that you
made The Wedding Party with Brian de Palma. Then you made Greetings and Hi, Mom!. I’m just curious, that moment in time going into early 1970s, was there a sense amongst
you and your peers that something was bubbling,
something was in the air, in terms of cinema? – No. At that time, doing a
movie like Greetings or then Hi, Mom! one or two other films that I’d done at that time, you were lucky as an
actor to be doing a film. It was an independent
film but it was a film. Not like today, there’s so much. But there wasn’t this sense that we were part of anything, whatever
you want to call it, movement, whatever. No. – Going into the 1960s, you studied under Stella Adler, and you’d been championed, amongst other people, by Shelly Winters. I’m just wondering if that concentration of theatre that you had been doing, and then you began to shift into film, was it just a natural move, or was there a decision on your part that you really saw film
as what you wanted to do? – I think movies I preferred doing and I gravitated towards them. Part of it was that those were the things that were being offered to me. Though I could have done plays later on. But I didn’t do much. I just enjoy movies. I like the fact that you can shift them and they last forever. So if you do something it’s there forever. I like that. – I know, having chatted
with actors previously, I know the idea of talking about process can be a difficult one, but was the attraction of acting about the process or
seeing the end result? What was the thing that
really gave you a kick? – I just enjoyed it. So it was a combination of
all those things really. Seeing how something
would be put together, and then how it would be put together after all these little
pieces are assembled, say in a movie. That make sense? – Yeah, I’m just thinking
about this environment in New York in the early 1970s, and the community of actors and directors. I’ve heard different stories about how you first came into
contact with Martin Scorsese. Some people have said it was different parties you were at, or you’ve
known him over the years? – I knew Marty when I
was a kid, a teenager, in Little Italy, but we
didn’t hang out together. We had mutual friends who would go between my group, his group. So for example, this one
mutual friend would tell me, oh, Marty’s interested in directing and he’s doing this thing,
he’s working on this play, and stuff like that. And then in my early 20s, I became, I forget when Who’s
That Knocking came out. But I saw that in mid-20s
or whenever it was. And then I again met Marty
at a mutual friend’s house for dinner on I think
it was Christmas Eve, or something, 10 or so years later. I said, “That was great.” Terrific movie and I understood a lot of what he was doing. Then we talked about
“Mean Streets,” I think, and he was saying he’s doing this movie. So we talked about that. Then over the next month
or two or maybe longer we talked about, he offered
me one of the three parts. Johnny Boy, the other two
guys, not Harvey’s part. Then I was going back and
forth with him which one to do. Then I ran into Harvey
Keitel in the street, and he told me you should
do the Johnny Boy part, blah blah blah. So I said all right. That and I just said I’ll do that. – I love the blah blah blahs. (laughing) It’s funny because the way that people look at film history and pick out films that are landmark films, I’ve had the opportunity
to be lucky enough to go back and look through
a lot of your early work, and the film that isn’t
talked about a lot, but you give quite an amazing performance as Bruce Pearson, the baseball player, in Bang the Drum Slowly came out before. And to look at the notices then, even though people now say Mean Streets was this breakthrough film, it feels like it was the combination of the two films that really
had an impact at the time. – Yeah, I remember at that time. I don’t know the Cinema One
and Cinema Two in New York they’re still there, but
I don’t know how they fit into the whole cinema
thing, or film thing. I had Marty and the director John Hancock take a picture when both
movies were playing. Bang the Drum Slowly
and Mean Streets there. I took a picture with
Marty and John Hancock under the marquee. So I was happy. – Let’s see two clips now. We’re going to go in
reverse chronologically. First of all, we’re
going to see a moment of you attaining power as Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II. And then we’re going to
see the fantastic entrance in the bar of Johnny
Boy in Mean Streets. If we can show the two clips, please. (audience clapping) I’ve got to say… Hot damn! You’re a good-looking chap in the 1970s! – Thanks. (audience laughing) – Whoa. I’m not sure where that came from. (laughing) That clip, the reason I
wanted to show that clip from Mean Streets in the 1980s, in the pre-cable age in this country, they introduce Channel 4 on Monday nights. I was quite young and I would steal my way into the other room, where we had the tiny black portable TV set and I knew that Monday night they had these American films that were quite edgy. I’d missed your first entrance where you put the firework in the postbox at the beginning of this film. But that moment was when
I turned the TV set on. I’d just never seen anything
like it in my entire life. Were you surprised at
the time by the reaction of people to the film? – Well yeah, I was happy. I don’t know if I was surprised. Yeah, I guess I was surprised. (laughing) It got a good reaction,
the film and everything. – I know over the years
it’s been talked about and you’ve mentioned about
the use of props that you use. I’m curious about Johnny Boy because just before that moment we see him walk in the bar without his trousers on and he looks unlike any
other male character in that film. There’s something about him. How much did you bring to the outfits that Johnny Boy wore in the film? – The outfits? – Yeah. – Well, I forget who did the wardrobe, but we worked on what they should be. Yeah, we made it what it was. – And the short-brimmed fedora? – The fedora, actually
that was a hat of mine. That when I was a kid I had and I used it. – It’s just the angle you wear everything, it seemed so familiar. Is that something that’s continued? Because I watched recently
John Curran’s film Stone from 2010, and
the character you play, the probation officer in there, there’s something about that tie that says so much about the character. Is this something you
still play around with, props or items of clothing? – It depends. Of course, yeah, it depends. Yeah, it depends. (audience laughing) – Okay, we’re going to come back to a prop later in the film that
I’m going to ask about. Just thinking about the period of 1973 in which Mean Streets was made. I know some of it was shot in L.A., but just looking at New
York at that moment in time, what was New York like
in the 1970s, early ’70s? – It was a little more rundown, I guess. And then people say, the good old days in the ’70s or ’80s, I
thought I’ve heard that. I just think New York, what
it was then was what it was, now it’s what it is. There’s always nostalgia for the past, but it was nothing particularly
that I experienced then that I would wish would be back today. Let’s put it that way. – In terms of experiences that you drew on for the character of Johnny Boy, was there anything from
your own growing up in New York neighbourhoods
that you brought to the role? – Yeah, and I actually knew
the kid who it was based on. So I had that also. But I didn’t know it
until Marty told me later. We were, I said, yeah, yeah, okay. – And again, was this
mutual friends that you had, you knew about? – Yeah, yeah. We used mutual friends in
the movie who we knew also. – So shifting to The Godfather
which was a year later. Now I know that you had
previously screen tested for the role of Michael Corleone in the first Godfather film. – Yes, I think I did. Believe it or not, I can’t… Yeah. – I think Francis Ford
Coppola had mentioned that he was even considering
you for the role of Sonny. – I don’t know. I always thought he was
locked into Jimmy Caan. I’m not sure. I wanted to do Sonny if I couldn’t… But everybody knew that Al, that Francis wanted him for the part. But in spite of that,
I think the producers wanted Francis to just
see people, I guess. Or he was doing it to satisfy them. Plus, he was probably being pushed, getting a lot of pressure to
have somebody with a name. Who wouldn’t be right for it, but he probably had to
deal with that, too. – So moving to The Godfather Part II, because he’d already seen you screen test, and obviously, with your
other work, he knew of you. I’m just curious about the
challenge that you had. This is a film that unfolds in
early 20th century New York, but it strikes me you
don’t just play a role. You play a role knowing
that there’s an audience who are going to be
familiar with this character in so many decades’ time. – Right. – Was that quite tough to balance mining your own version of Vito Corleone with what might be expected? – No, I looked at it
more like a kind of a, not scientific, but just where I had an outline of what to do, behaviour-wise. So I remember I went to
the Paramount building with one of the producers,
Gray Frederickson. We took an old Wollensak,
reel to reel thing, and put a camera on a
tripod and faced the screen and whenever the scenes
of Brando were there we videotaped them. And I took those and I studied them over and over quite a lot. So I had that, and then
whatever Francis would allow, or whatever I’d do, I always had those
parameters to stay within, what Brando had done. That’s how I looked at it. – There’s so many films that you’ve made over the course of decades where you’ve embraced something to quite an astonishing degree. In The Godfather Part II and we just saw you speaking Sicilian, and speaking it incredibly fluently, how long did it take for you to become completely okay with the language? – Well, I was okay with what I learned. To actually speak the
language is another thing. My real concern was to
know what I was given. So I had more trouble… When I was in Sicily, I’d go to one town, they’d say things one way. I’d go to another town,
they’d say things another way. So I had these variations on the dialect. So I finally worked with
and settled with a guy, a Sicilian who lived in
L.A., and we worked on it. Basically if there was overlaps, we just had to lock in on one particular, the middle, the best common
pronunciation Sicilian. Because otherwise, I’d go crazy. So that’s how it was. It wasn’t phonetic in the sense. It was phonetic, but not phonetic. I knew everything I was saying. I just have to practise a lot to do it. – But jumping forward
now to The Irishman, you’re speaking Italian again, and once again it’s another
very specific dialect. – That was a different,
that was just an American who had spent time in Italy and learned Italian
because he was in the war. So that’s the approach I
took on that, more or less. – And just, once again,
looking at the environment. There are other actors in the 1970s who, the trajectory of their career
may have been more random. Obviously a lot of the
1970s work that you produced was produced in tandem
with Martin Scorsese. Did you feel at that
time, alongside all these amazing directors who were coming out, you had this whole new
generation of actors. Did you feel that there was a lot of collegiate competition
between actors with roles? – No, well there’s always competition where you’re up for the same
part, or you might hear, but that’s just what it is, you know. I mean, I’m actually amazed
at all the young actors today that are so terrific, from
Australia, England of course. Just great, great stuff, great things. – I gather American actors really love it when the British actors go over there and start aping the accents. (audience laughing) – No, no, no. – We kind of do it so well. – I tell you, in The Irishman
we had Stephen Graham. Stephen was great in The Irishman. – I won’t say what the scene is, but I remember watching The Irishman and seeing a scene with Stephen Graham with you and Al Pacino, and I just thought, in his mind he must just be sat there going, “This is a really cool job.” – Mm-hmm. – I like this. – Yeah, he was terrific. – Jumping forward to
your next collaboration with Martin Scorsese, Taxi Driver, I know there were many draughts that Paul Schrader had
produced around this period. What was your first impression when you read the draught
that you were given? – I liked it. We all had a good
feeling about the script. I remember I was out
visiting the producers and Paul Schrader. They all lived out in Malibu somewhere. They gave me the script, or I read it, I forgot, but I said it’s really terrific. We were all looking forward to doing it. – There was never a sense of nerves. It’s interesting. It is a profoundly disturbing film. It’s retained all of its power over the time since it was made. A couple of years ago, I
read the actual screenplay and it’s terrifying to read off the page. There was never a moment of pause? – No, no, no, none, no. (audience laughing) – Paul Schrader, talking
about your performance in that film, I’ve read he said the Are
You Looking at Me? scene is his favourite scene in the film, and it was a completely improvised scene. I’m curious about the
role of improvisation. You have the physicality of the character, the psychology of a character. How does improvisation fit in with that? Is it something that you
build this character up first, and then you start improvising? Or does the improvisation sort of help in the creation of the character? – Well, all those ways. You don’t, sometimes,
even plan certain things. You’ve been thinking about the scene, maybe you say this or
that before, whatever. Sometimes things come
out that you never even planned or thought of. In the scene that you just saw, what we just had here in the bar, and then there’s the back
room scene with Harvey. And I’m telling him whatever I go through with all that stuff. We improvised that, worked
on it, structured it. Then I had worked on it, based on what we had come up with it. And this scene too, actually, before it. In Taxi Driver we just, as I remember, then I had the thing with the gun, too, which was another thing to have to do. Sometimes I’d be having trouble with it. Which worked into the
scene so it was okay. But, that was another thing. I just started doing the
riffing on the mirror. That was what it was. – Now I gather that you got
your taxi driver’s licence sometime before you started
working on the film. Is it actually true that
when you were filming someone got in your cab
thinking you were a taxi driver? – All the people that got in the cab thought I was the cab driver, ’cause I was driving a cab. (audience laughing) (audience clapping) But there was one guy
who got in for a second, and I looked at him through
the rear view mirror and he looked at me, he checked me out. For a second there was a
moment of maybe, is this? And then that was it. I drove him and he didn’t know. – I love this idea that in the 1970s these incredible luminaries
were driving around in taxi cabs around New York. Because I remember
hearing about this story of Phillip Glass was a
cab driver in the 1970s and apparently he picked a woman up and she looked at the badge and leaned forward and said, “Do you know there’s a man “who’s got your name, who’s got an opera, Einstein On the Beach,
at the Met at the moment.” He’s like, “Yeah, it
doesn’t pay very well.” – (laughing) Sure. – How did the relationship
with Martin Scorsese change as you carried on filming, through Taxi Driver
into New York, New York and then onto Raging Bull? Is it just a relationship where you don’t need to say as much, as you’ve kind of
developed with each film? – No, we still have to say things. There’s some things you
understand automatically. Others, you have to clarify. But, a lot of it is there and a lot of it is where
you wanna just do it and show what you’re doing and Marty’ll go for it or not. Or make an adjustment here
and there or whatever. That’s pretty much the way we do it. – It strikes me it’s a
very symbiotic relationship in that, I look at the relationship of other actors who’ve
worked on a number of films with a director and they
get called up and say, “Come in, there’s this
film I want you to do.” But it strikes me, you’ve both been quite creative in coming up with ideas. So for instance, the story of Jake LaMotta is something that you’d been developing for quite a long time. – Well, I had been developing. I read the book when I was doing 1900. Somebody gave it to me,
one of Jake’s friends, co-writer, he became
co-producer later, Pete Savage. And I read it and I said, “Marty, this is “an interesting book. “It’s not a great book,
it’s not great literature, “but it’s got a lot of heart.” It’s interesting, there’s certain things I’d like to do, with a fighter, and I’ve seen Jake
LaMotta around New York. He’s very overweight. He’s a bouncer in a club. I’ve seen him, he stands right,
practically on the street. You know, when you walk down
Broadway he was in this place. I just thought the graphic difference in what he was as a fighter, and then what he turned into
when he got so overweight, was something I thought that’d be, that’s just for me very,
so strong and powerful. I’d like to see how far
I could get doing that. So we talked about
creating a space of time where I would gain as
much weight as I could. Then we shot one scene where I’d gained maybe 15 or 20 pounds. I’m out of shape. We shot it in L.A., it was
supposed to be Florida. We did that for two days or something in the space of this four month break. Yeah, so. – So what was the tougher challenge? Actually becoming as incredibly ripped as a boxer, as you are, as we saw? Or actually going to Italy and putting on an immense amount of weight
in a very short space of time? – It was very hard. The first 15, 20 pounds, that’s fun. Then after that, it’s
just pure drudgery work. It’s not fun. And it’s not easy to take off. The first 40, I did 60 in four months. But then losing it, the first 40, those are just go back to
your old eating habits. You gotta be careful, actually, letting yourself down not too quickly. But then after that, those
15 or 20 extra pounds are always the problem. (audience laughing) – Just thinking about,
not just the immense physical challenge of
moving from the young to the older Jake LaMotta, but looking at the
psychology of Jake LaMotta, of Travis Bickle, and then Rupert Pupkin in The King of Comedy. They’re characters who
are very, very easily dislikable on the surface. Is there something in your
attraction to these roles to find a way, not
necessarily to make them likeable to an audience, but to find something in their soul that you might say, this is why I find these people fascinating to present. – Yeah, I suppose. I just like those characters. I liked King of Comedy. The script so much was written by a critic for Newsweek at the time, Paul Zimmerman, gave it to me and Marty. We were at Cannes. I liked the character. It was fun, I just thought he was great. I remember dragging
Marty around to a few… I said now we’re going to turn
on these autograph hounds, and we’re gonna go ask them questions. Guys who have been following
us around and so on. And I did. I got to know a few of them. As I said, I took Marty over to one or two of their houses, maybe three. Went in the basement and saw how they had their whole thing. We got the idea of the basement thing in King of Comedy from this guy, Vinnie. And some of them, one
became a photographer for one of the tabloids in New York, which didn’t surprise me, and so on. It was all fitting. – I’d heard somewhere, and
I don’t know if this is apocryphal, but the
Rupert Pupkin performance was for a time the one that
you just wouldn’t watch. – No, no, no, no. You mean I wouldn’t watch it? – Yeah. – No, you mean watch the
dailies or just watch the movie? – Just watch the film
since it had been made. – No, I had done that
with a lot of movies. I just leave it alone for years sometimes. But I don’t know. What was interesting about that is, we had Dick Bruno who was a wardrobe guy and then he became the costume designer on Raging Bull and on King of Comedy. Marty and I saw this
mannequin on Broadway, in one of these Vegas-type stores that is no longer in Manhattan there, but had these kind of clothes. These very flashy kind
of Vegas-type clothes. There was a mannequin with
the suit and everything, the guy’s hair, everything. We went in, me and
Bruno and Marty went in, looked at, picked it, and just took it. Took the whole thing. Not the mannequin. I wish we did because
we could have kept that. I would have loved to kept it. Even the hairstyle on the mannequin, we just did the whole thing. – That is one hell of a moustache as well. – Yes, that is. – We’re in the 1980s now and, just looking at the body of work that
you produced in that decade, we’ve got two priests, the devil, a Jewish gangster, a
certain Chicago mobster, an 18th-century Jesuit convert, a plumber-cum-terrorist, that’s Brazil, and of course a wannabe comedian. Of all the films that
you made in the 1980s, the one that I really
wanted to show a clip of, that I think is just an
absolutely wonderful film, and when I saw it, I saw another side to your performance, is your playing the
bounty hunter, Jack Walsh, in Midnight Run. This is quite early in the film. This is where Jack gets
collared by the FBI. If we can show the clip, please. (audience clapping) It’s a sublime performance. Obviously we don’t even
see your sparring partner in that sequence, Charles Grodin. We can see you play comedy scenes going all the way back to The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, or even Brian de Palma’s early films that you did with him. But in some ways, this is the first time that you’ve starred in a film that is regarded as an out-and-out comedy. What was the attraction of this? – I liked the script. And the writing. I thought it was funny and I liked it. – It’s interesting now, if we had someone say in their 20s in the audience, I’m sure there are, they may say that they know you from a lot more comedies than
they do from dramatic roles over the course of the last 15, 20 years. Is it just a natural progression, that you’ve just found
yourself gravitating towards a lot more out-and-out comedies, then perhaps you’d previously started? – Well, it’s also just
what comes your way. So that’s what it would be. Midnight Run, I wasn’t sure
I would be able to do it. I was hoping, I was putting
pressure on my agent to see if I could get it. So I was happy when I did get it. There are other things that come along, like all the Meet the
Parents and things like that, or Analyse This. Billy Crystal thought of this idea of me parodying myself or what
I’ve done, those characters. So he sent the script and I read it and I said, yeah, let’s have a reading and let’s see what it is. Just to see. And we did, and we had a reading. I wasn’t crazy about the first reading because we did it in L.A. and some of the characters that they had pulled into it were
not real enough for me. So I asked if we could
have another reading, and I think we did it
in New York, I think. And got characters that were much more, and those are the characters that you see in Analyse This which
gave it more weight and made it funny, but real funny, funny in a real way. – A couple of years ago I
showed my nephew Analyse This. Then I put on The Untouchables. It absolutely terrified him
that this was the same person. (audience laughing) What was it like going back
to work with Brian de Palma, and how painful was it to
have your hairline plucked? – That was not the difficult part. No, Brian was, of course
this was many years later. I’d say 15, 12, 15 years later, I suppose? Brian had been very
successful as a director, and at that point we both
had done pretty well. So this is what happened. It was fine. The worst thing I got from
that was the manicure. Somehow I got a fungus
that lasted on my nail for a few years. I had to get rid of it. – We’ll edit that answer in the recording. – But the hair thing was not. I receded my hairline and stuff because I could only gain so much weight at that time, in the time that I had. And to make the illusion
at least that I was rounder or more portly, at least that would help, receding the hairline
and doing it and so on. – And you mentioned earlier on about this beautiful barber’s chair. – Yes. In the opening scene, my scene, I think it’s the opening scene, where I’m in a barber’s chair and I’m talking, I’m forgetting to who, but the barber’s chair was great and I wish I had kept it. – It’s also a really great opening. Because there is that moment, I remember being sat in the cinema, and never even drawing a breath where the barber cuts you while shaving you and that expression on your face. You had these collaborations,
Martin Scorsese, with Brian de Palma as well. We’ll get on to David O. Russell shortly. But in the early ’90s,
you shifted to directing. Now I gather Heywood Gould’s Double Bang was something at one point in time that you were considering directing. – What was it? – Double Bang, the novel? I’d read, or perhaps not. – No, what was it about? (chuckles) (audience laughing) – I’m guessing it’s a no. It was about a cop who’s shot, and his partner goes undercover to seek out the people who killed him and ends up being part of this gang. – I don’t remember that. – That’s fine, in that case let’s go on to A Bronx Tale. What was it about Chazz
Palminteri’s play that…? – I had heard about this one-man
show that Chazz was doing. I heard about it around, and it was the thing that
everybody was talking about. So I said, well let me go see it. I saw it in L.A., met Chazz. And then finally I said, you
know I have to do something, I wanna do something. Let me, if I can do this, I’m gonna do it. So I spoke to him about it and he had all kinds of offers from everybody else. So what I said to him, I said, look. One thing he wanted was to play Sonny, so I promised him that
he would play Sonny. And I said, what’s gonna happen is they’re gonna buy it from
you for a lot of money. They’re gonna tell you
you’re gonna play Sonny. They’re not gonna honour that really. You don’t know. You have no guarantee unless
you had it in writing. And then they’re gonna
come to me to play Sonny. So why don’t we eliminate
that middle step? Just say you’re gonna do it. I’ll play the father, you play Sonny. Now let’s get the money to do the movie. – Did you find it a pleasurable
experience, directing? – Yes, I did, I did. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed all the kids. Most of them were not actors. I just knew that I had to find, and spent a lot of time casting, with Ellen Chenoweth, finding kids who were from that world and knew it. So that when I put them
in an improvisational situation, they’d know what to do, even if they were stuck. Even their being stuck
would be interesting. So that was one thing. – Alongside Chazz’s play, was it again a case of you looking
back on your own childhood and sort of elements of misspent youth? – Yes, I knew a way that I
could personalise that story and add things to it. Though it’s not my story. It wasn’t mine, it was Chazz’s. That’s what I did. – And then it’s another 13 years before you took the director’s seat again with The Good Shepherd. – Yeah. – Which is an extraordinary
piece of filmmaking. And an incredibly ambitious film. What attracted you to that, and how easy was it to
get that off the ground and get it made? – It wasn’t easy. I liked the script very much. It was hard to get it financed, done. First I had Leo DiCaprio, finally, then Leo couldn’t do it because he was doing The Departed with Marty and it just so conflicted
with my schedule. I was on that ship, on that train, I couldn’t get off it, because everything was already set up. So if I stopped, I wouldn’t
be able to rev it up again. I would have lost all
momentum in every sense. So I didn’t. Also I wanted to be in The Departed. Marty offered me this part
but I couldn’t do it either. I had to do the film. So anyway, I went and I got Matt Damon. But I thought the script was great. I loved it when I read it. I’ve always been interested in that world. So this is what I wanted to do. – Now I’ve heard rumours over the years that I think the film is about
just over 2 1/2 hours long, that there’s a three hour
20 minute cut that… – There is a longer version, yes. I had to cut the brother out, some of the stuff with the brother, yes. – Is that something that will likely see the light of day? – Maybe, I don’t know. I haven’t thought much about it. But if people are interested, I could try and resurrect that part of it. Yeah, I might do that. (audience clapping) Oh, thanks. – Have you watched the
film again recently? Because I didn’t see it that long ago and, without wanting to
delve into politics too much, it’s a very interesting film that was made at the point in time, 2006,
five years after 9-11. The reputation of the CIA after 9-11 had been dragged through the dirt, and it was seen as a very dark film, and a dark reflection on the organisation. We now have this interesting situation where some people in the U.S. are actually looking
at the FBI and the CIA as being the last bastion. – Yeah. – And it is an incredible
film to watch now because it’s completely changed, in terms of tone, for me. – My thing was basically
that, like in anything, when CIA, KGB, FSB, whatever, there’s always people
in the same profession have some, they cannot tell
each other certain things. But there’s a certain, you know, if a deal’s to be made, it’ll be made. By adversaries. We all know that. So I just had a little
bit of the complicity kind of thing in the
scene with the Russian KGB colonel toward the end of the movie, Matt’s character. Yes, today everything’s
been turned upside down because of Trump, because he’s such a dirty player that it’s amazing to me that he has just upended it and is
getting away with it. He won’t get away with it forever. But he is getting away
with saying these things about every institution,
that we have to defend these institutions. Plus the fourth estate, the press. Because he’s trying to destroy them. And for only one reason, to save himself. And we all know this, I mean everybody. It’s pretty disgusting that we’ve got Republicans there who are just so afraid to do anything, so afraid to stand up. And they could be stars
in their own communities, they are. They could go into private practise, make more money, and stand up and still be very vocal against him. I don’t know why they don’t do that. Certain Senators that have pulled out, some of them are doing it. But others could pull out, get out, and say I can’t be in this Administration but I’ve gotta speak out constantly against this Administration. Because we have to right this wrong. Anyway. (audience clapping) – I want to come back in a short while to the relationship between
criminality and politics with some more recent
films that you’ve made. But I feel that we can’t leave the 1990s, without looking at 1995, where it wasn’t good enough
that you did Casino, you had to come along with Heat at exactly the same time. (audience clapping) Which is extraordinary by any standards. I want to show a scene from Heat. It unfolds in a cafe. It’s not that scene. I’m sure you’re all
familiar with that scene. I want to share a scene because, again, like The Godfather,
there’s something that people talk about you and transformation, and they talk about these
huge transformations, of putting on weight for Raging Bull, losing weight and becoming
muscley for Cape Fear or learning to play the sax
for New York, New York. One of the things that amazes me every time I see your performances, is the subtle transitions. This is the scene with
Amy Brenneman in a cafe where we just have one camera movement from left to right, and we suddenly see Neil McCauley change
from this professional to a human being. Will you show this clip, please? (audience clapping) That’s such a beautifully-performed scene. – Thank you. – Michael Mann seems like
a very different director, in terms of the level of precision, almost geometric
precision, that he brings. It’s almost like the characters who are robbing the truck or robbing the bank, that everything is done to nth degree. Was that the case with working with him on creating this character
of Neil McCauley, or did he give you the
materials and say go off. – No, Michael is very precise. You sense that and that
intensity and so on. It permeates the whole project. Everybody feels it. The way we train, this
and that, everything, it’s serious. It’s all good, all good stuff. Dedicated. It’s all precise. Really terrific. – And just in terms of
filming the action sequences, which are quite incredible in their scale, was that quite a challenge? – Yeah, no that was, again, the precision. We trained with these
guys who knew that stuff, and we did it a lot to
make it look professional, if you will. – We’re going to jump
forward to another clip now. This is from 2013 and
your second collaboration with David O. Russell. This is American Hustle,
in which a major meeting is about to take place. If we can show this clip, please. (audience clapping) At a screening I went to
when that film opened, with those two shots of
both you and Christian Bale, there was an older gentleman
sat about three or four seats behind me, at which point he shouted out, “You show ’em who’s boss, Bob!” (audience laughing) Please, please tell me that you made them send you to the Emirates to learn those lines. – No, I worked with a guy. David and I were talking about doing that. I said, what can he do, what can he… What about the scene? And he said, “Oh, he could speak Arabic.” I said, “Oh, that’s great.” So David came up with
the scene, the dialogue, and then we worked on it, and I worked on it with a guy we had, who was in the Boston area. I spent a lot of time on
practising the Arabic. It’s not an easy language. For me it wasn’t. But again, phonetically, for that period. And I even had, I used an ear wick, which I don’t use often,
but sometimes it can help, where if I had a phrase, and
I for some reason paused, he would give it to me and prompt me, and I would go on with it. So I put a lot of work into that. – The reason I wanted to show that as the last clip before at the end we show The Irishman is just that split
second moment at the end where we have the two
shots of your conversation with Jeremy Renner and
the line’s repeated. It really reminded me of this energy that goes back to early
Scorsese in the ’70s, that there’s something
about David O. Russell’s style of filmmaking. – Yes, it’s like Bradley says,
it’s a full-contact sport. Because David will have, he’ll be behind the camera operator and they’ll be going around like this, and I’ll be, say, here doing a scene, or somebody else, and he’ll
throw lines at you, too, and stuff like that. It’s got an energy, and
a vitality, a spontaneity that’s really great. By the way, I just want
to say Christian Bale is great, he was great in that movie. – Unfortunately, I have
got a signal that we have to draw this to a close. I mentioned at the beginning that the London Film Festival
closes on Sunday night with Martin Scorsese’s
mournful, majestic epic, The Irishman. I cannot recommend enough that you go and see this film in the cinema. This is an absolutely extraordinary film, that has to be seen on the
largest screen possible. Not just because of the brilliance of Martin Scorsese’s direction, but also because of its three lead actors, Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, and our
guest today, Robert De Niro. Can you please join me in thanking him? (audience clapping)

77 thoughts on “ROBERT DE NIRO Screen Talk with Ian Haydn Smith | BFI London Film Festival 2019”

  1. Thanks for this! He has been amazing from r my whole life. Was born in82. He is a real class act. I really adore him. Im a Cinema freak anyway. He is a reminder to me of a time and era of films/movies and actors that are gone, or at least few and far between. Things today are bonkers.

    Godfather 2 was such an excellent example of his power.
    He also can do a lot with a lne of sub par questions

  2. Thanks for this, you almost got Mr. De Niro to talk about his acting technique! Also, here's my benevolent tip for Mr. De Niro, if he ever gets annoyed by being recognized today, all he has to do is two things..1. Smile…2. Wear a MAGA hat. No one will know it is him! You are welcome.

  3. There is noting classy about this fool. He lost his mind a long time ago, and his dirty mouth should not be in front of a TV camera. A has-been that needs to keep his politics to himself, and retire.

  4. I know you from the beginning of your career and watching you act. You wowed audiences and you still are. Dear hunter, Once upon a time in America, Godfather 2, Casino, just a few of your numerous accolades when you blew my mind away.

  5. De Niro is not the only one confused by the Double Bang reference. I tried googling De Niro and the book's author and title but nothing comes up. Where did Smith find that Double Bang story?

  6. What a terrible interviewer, stupid superficial questions and it just seems that the guy is enamored with de Niro very unprofessional guy, De Niro would be thinking what the hell i'm doing here

  7. I think DeNiro is one of those guys like Miles Davis who never felt the need to say a lot about himself, because his work spoke for itself. In both cases, great intellect is obvious. Just don't bother asking them to explain themselves.

  8. Mean Streets
    The Godfather Part 2
    1900
    Taxi Driver
    New York, New York
    The Deer Hunter
    Raging Bull
    The King of Comedy
    Once Upon A Time In America
    Brazil
    The Mission
    The Untouchables
    Angel Heart
    Midnight Run
    Awakenings
    Goodfellas
    Cape Fear
    A Bronx Tale
    Casino
    Heat
    Jackie Brown
    Wag The Dog
    Ronin
    Silver Linings Playbook
    Joy
    Joker
    The Irishman

    He takes a lot of flak these days for his questionable choices, but in his prime he had indisputably one of the greatest and most versatile filmographies ever displayed in cinema history.
    Greatest actor of his generation and maybe of all time.

  9. Pretty fitting that there's basically no mention of his movies from 1996-2013.

    Glad to see that October 2019 seems like the Resurrection of De Niro (Joker, The Irishman)

  10. Best Robert De Niro Movies….(as movies, not performances)

    1. Once Upon A Time In America (very underated, possibly the best gangster movie of them all, and so layered and full of meaning… May be the best movie of all time).

    2..- Godfather II

    3.- Goodfellas

    4.- Heat

    5.- Taxi Driver (best De Niro performance)

    6.- The Untouchables (a great entertainment movie)

    7.- King Of Comedy

    8.- Raging Bull

  11. 18 Best acting of deniro(of him in the lead roles):
    Irishman
    Bronx tale
    Goodfellas
    Casino
    Mean streets
    Untouchables
    Once upon a time in america
    Godfather2
    Heat
    Cape fear
    Deer hunter
    Raging bull
    Taxi driver
    Awakenings
    Silver linings playbook
    Meet the parents
    Analyse this
    Midnight run
    King of comedy

  12. De Niro is one of those artists you're just glad you got to discover his body of work.
    All those 70s movies has meant so much to me.

  13. Bob slips into the Arthur character from #Joker when he goes into that delusional rant about Trump and not understanding why Republicans don't quit and turn on him; and that Trump will eventually be caught. Hmmm….kinda delusional, Arthur…I mean Bobby.

  14. Great interview. The interviewer asked all the right questions as a fan about De Niro’s acting process. Everyone should know by now De Niro is very reserved in interviews this is chatty for him.

  15. robert the pedophile deniro. jefferey epstein's buddy. he's been to epstein island a number of times.who the fuck praises pedos?

  16. "Those who are the loudest have the most to lose." – Q

    This guy is a PEDOPHILE, and a member of the 'RED SHOES' club. Why do you think he's TALKING SO MUCH?

    BOYCOTT this sick MOFO!!!

    WWG1WGA

  17. The guy misquotes De Niro's most famous line, LOL. De Niro even looks at him like he's waiting for him to catch his mistake, and when he doesn't De Niro just lets it go, LOL.

  18. Media whore/prostitue, signed on for life, lies through his teeth and lord knows the rituals maintained to achieve such stupidity other than ego…. another 9th circle relative

  19. He did screen test for Sonny in Godfather 1. The scene when he's telling Michael that it's not easy to "make your bones".
    I'm not sure if he tested for Michael.. but Coppola was stuck on Pacino because of his and Dianne Keaton's chemistry. The studio wanted Robert Redford for the role but after they saw some of the scene's that had been shot they agreed to stick with Pacino.

  20. His best work is as follow:
    Raging Bull (no 1)
    Cape Fear (no 2)
    Taxi Driver ( no 3)
    Vito Corleone ( no 4)
    Casino (no 5)
    Everything else is still top 5 for me without any order. 😁😁

  21. I was a big fan until he got mixed up in politics and started acting like his roles are real life. In "Goodfellas" he confronts Ray Liotta's character over some silencers that didn't fit by telling Liotta that his mind has turned to mush. Every time De Niro open his mouth these days I think of that line. A real shame.

  22. Who really gives a flyin fk what a piece of garbage actwhore satanist from hollyweird has to say?

  23. No mate ,, I don’t welcome this DOG on any stage,, let me remind you , ,,,the leech doesn’t approve of Donald John Trump ,,
    ¿ But he makes money off him ,,outta of him ,? That’s low as Red Belly Snake,, There for a leech !
    And let’s not talk about Alex Bald-WINKEL- Baldwin AKA 🗣WIFE BASHER,!!
    Even lower .
    Take your pick.

  24. This is painful to watch. Why do they bother interviewing this guy. It’s like getting blood out of a stone. Great actor but awful interviewee.

  25. The most underrated De Niro's character nobody talks about: Max Cady in Cape Fear. Ripped as f—, badass and one of the meanest character he ever played.

  26. He is inarticulate, yet while in the USA he doesn't hesitate to share his idiotic political views. It's best when he stays quiet, an intellect he's NOT.

  27. it really is too bad that king of comedy was panned when it came out as it was one of the most prescient films ever made
    in that film, de niro really stretches his acting chops
    i think the bad reviews caused him to never take huge chances again…and that is just too bad

  28. De Niro just go away into retirement you narcissist. The world is sick of you now. The great actors of your time never did this attention seeking BS that you’re doing now. Bogart, Cagney, Sinatra- they didn’t get into ppl faces.

  29. Is there a strange arrogance to de niro.. Almost like a faint sickness of mentality? Yes.. What is wrong with this man

  30. ART totally mimicking LIFE. DE NIRO has completely morphed into TRAVIS BICKLE. All the $$$ he has, but his HEART is filled with HATE.

  31. One great movie of him i remember watching on cable is "Night and the City".. check it out. It also stars Jessica Lange.

  32. Pity the gobshite says "Are you looking at me?". Like interviewing McCartney and saying 'Elaine Rigby' was a great lyric.

  33. I love Robert De Niro. I love that he is just himself and doesn’t feel to give long answers. His performances speak for themselves.

  34. He does not like interviews. I think he finds it boring to talk about himself. I've heard in real life he is loquacious and incredibly funny.

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