In a new interview with Variety, Robert De Niro takes a stand against claims that movies cause moviegoers to commit acts of violence. The Oscar-winning actor was responding to comments made by Donald Trump, who came forward following the 2018 Parkland school shooting to blame media such as movies and video games for inciting violence in teenagers. De Niro is one of Trump’s biggest critics in Hollywood and has often used press appearances to slam the president.
Variety reporter Brett Lang writes that Trump’s comments on movies causing violence “provokes De Niro to almost Jake LaMotta levels of intensity,” referencing the actor’s role in Martin Scorsese’s “Raging Bull.” De Niro goes on to say, “This is absolute nonsense. It’s bullshit.”
“This guy is afraid to defy the NRA,” De Niro continues. “He calls Washington a swamp because all he knows is a swamp. He’s a classic hustler and a scam artist. He has no morals. No ethics. If people don’t wake up and he gets reelected, it’s going to be very, very bad. Anybody who feels that way should say it. If you wait to say something, before you know it the dictators and despots come to power.”
In 2018 Trump said, “We have to look at the internet because a lot of bad things are happening to young kids and young minds and their minds are being formed, and we have to do something about maybe what they’re seeing and how they’re seeing it. And also video games. I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence in video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts. And you go one further step and that’s the movies. Maybe they have to put a rating system for that.”
De Niro stars in the upcoming “Joker,” which for weeks has launched a national conversation about the capacity for movies to incite violence. The actor is no stranger to such accusations, as Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver” became the center of similar claims in the 1970s. De Niro is the latest “Joker” talent to deny movies cause violence. Joaquin Phoenix, who plays the title character, told IGN this month that anything can be the stimulus for someone to become violent, so to not make films that ask provocative questions is pointless.
“The truth is you don’t know what is going to be the fuel for somebody,” Phoenix said. “And it might very well be your question. It might be this moment, right? But you can’t function in life saying, ‘Well, I can’t ask that question for the small chance that somebody might be affected by [it].’ I wouldn’t ask you to do that.”
“Joker” opens in theaters nationwide this Friday, October 4 from Warner Bros.