To kick off its three day retrospective of the films of Robert De Niro, the American Cinematheque screened David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook” and hosted a post-screening conversation with the iconic actor. Harvey Weinstein introduced De Niro after a reel of some of his career highlights — including scenes from “Casino,” “Raging Bull,” “Kings of Comedy” and “Taxi Driver.” (See clips below.)
It was a busy day for De Niro, who attended the Oscar Nominees Luncheon (it’s his seventh) and his hand and footprint ceremony at Grauman’s Chinese Theater. He’s working consistently and is far from slowing down: “If things are going well for you as an actor, you gotta keep working,” he said.
When he appeared onstage after the “Silver Linings”screening, the Aero theater greeted him with an enthusiastic standing ovation. Moderator Pete Hammond pointed out the “legendary” stories of De Niro immersing himself into his characters; driving a taxi for weeks before shooting “Taxi Driver,” gaining weight for “Raging Bull,” learning to play the sax phonetically for “New York, New York.”
They discussed working with Russell on “SLP” as Pat Sr. and how he researched his obsessive compulsive behavior. The film was shot in 33 days with a 150-page script. “He moves fast,” De Niro said.
De Niro also spoke about his work at the Actors Studio and with Stella Adler, noting that he believes a actor’s talent lies in making the right choices, not their personality. This is not the subjective Actors Studio stand, he admitted: “At the end of the day, I think it’s a combo of both; whatever works for you as an actor.”
He also mentioned the need to diverge from a script and constantly make adjustments; directors should trust their actors so they can be free. He recalled a time when a writer was “so in love with the words” that they weren’t open to him showing that there was a better way to do something.
Having made eight films with Martin Scorsese, De Niro would like to make that total at least ten, if not fifteen. Their next collaboration is “The Irishman” with Al Pacino and Joe Pesci. De Niro also wants to direct more (his last effort was 2006’s “The Good Shepherd”), but it has to be something he feels strongly about because it requires such devotion of time. He likes roles that are departures from what he’s used to playing, but they rarely come around. He’s currently rehearsing and training back in the ring for “Grudge Match” with Sylvester Stallone, in which a pair of boxing rivals are dragged into a third fight fifty years after their retirement.