Robert De Niro has made no secret of his disdain for Donald Trump. The actor made headlines a month before the 2016 election by declaring that he’d like to punch the future president in the face, and during a speech at the National Board of Review’s gala in January, he declared, “this fucking idiot is our president.” Now, as De Niro gears up for the 2018 edition of Tribeca Film Festival, which he co-founded in 2002, he has found some semblance of progress in one area of the political landscape — the debate about gun control.
“The people that I care about are those young people who demonstrated,” he said, in an interview with IndieWire at his Tribeca office with festival co-founder Jane Rosenthal, referencing the survivors of the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida and other high school students who marched in Washington last month. “They’re the future. They know. They say, ‘We’ll remember in November.’ They’re the ones that feel the way we do, not the way the gun lovers and the NRA do, with all that idiocy to the point of absurdity.”
De Niro has spoken out about gun control before. In 2012, after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, he told New York magazine, “One thing that there should be is some regulation of guns … It’s crazy how almost anyone can get access to a gun.” Now, he’s offering a more pointed criticism, singling out the influence of the NRA on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “The CDC can’t even do a study because the NRA stopped it,” De Niro said. “The CDC works for us! How can the NRA stop that? What kind of absurd logic is that?”
The CDC has lost funds over the years, in part due to lobbying by members of Congress who are members of the NRA.
“The CDC has never been restricted from studying firearms and violence,” said Lars Dalseide, a spokesman for the NRA. “They are restricted, however, from using government funding to advocate or promote gun control. Those limitations were put in place after CDC officials publicly stated their intentions to do just that. The NRA supports private and public research into the causes of violence in our communities, but we do not support using tax dollars to promote an anti-gun agenda.”
Of course, De Niro starred in one of the most celebrated movies of all time to feature gun violence, as the unhinged Travis Bickle in Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver.” The actor said he had no issue with portraying characters whose behavior or positions run counter to his own. “I could play somebody who’s a total lunatic,” he said. “I could play somebody who’s a member of the NRA. It doesn’t mean I subscribe to that. That’s what an actor does.”
However, he expressed less tolerance for reaching across the aisle to people whose views differed from his own. Asked about the ratings win for “Roseanne” among working class viewers and the conversations it has started about reaching audiences that support Trump, he didn’t mince words.
“I’ve never seen her show before, I didn’t know she was supporting Trump, but I have no interest in that,” he said. “We’re at a point with all of us this where it’s beyond trying to see another person’s point of view. There are ways you can talk about that, but we’re at a point where the things that are happening in our country are so bad and it comes from Trump. There are so many people who have left his administration. It’s a serious thing. So I don’t care about Roseanne. They want that thing, fine. We have real issues in this country.”
Stay tuned for more from De Niro and Rosenthal in the weeks ahead. The Tribeca Film Festival runs April 18 – 29.