Wednesday, 10 September 2008


Robert De Niro made his feature film debut in 1968 for Brian De Palma's "Greetings". He made a further 8 films prior to 1973's "Mean Streets" from Martin Scorsese. Then he did "The Godfather: Part 2" the year after that, and his next film was "Taxi Driver" in 1976 as Travis Bickle. Before the 70's and 80's were over with, he gave us Jimmy Doyle in "New York, New York", then "The Deer Hunter", "King of Comedy", "Once Upon A Time in America", "Brazil", "The Untouchables", "Midnight Run" and, of course, Jake La Motta in "Raging Bull". In the 90's, we got "Goodfellas", "Cape Fear", "Mad Dog & Glory", "Casino", "Heat", "Wag The Dog", and "Jackie Brown". Among others.

Then, in 2000, he produced and appeared in ...
"The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle".

Nobody's perfect.

After 40 years in the movie business, De Niro finds himself regularly criticised for the roles he now takes on. As
Philip Horne notes in the UK’s Telegraph, according to many De Niro has squandered his talents these last several years in sub-standard vehicles that do him no credit whatsoever. "Analyse That" anyone? "Godsend"? Who’d like to sit through “The Good Shepherd” a second time?

Well, no, but ... Excuuuuuuuuuuuse me …

At 65 years of age and with 78 feature films to his credit, I think De Niro, given all that he has achieved as an actor as I’ve noted above, can do whatever the fuck he feels like until he drops dead.

And who the hell are we to insist he fulfill our ridiculous and unrealistic expectations that he pile on the pounds and powder up to bring us “Raging Bull Pt. 2”? Perhaps he should have a word to Scorsese about reprising his role as Travis Bickle in … let’s see now … “Bus Driver”? Would that help?

For God’s sake, live in the world.

Imagine spending 40 years of your life in the film industry. Liars, thieves, shills and spivs, con-men, bullshit artists and the flat-out deluded and insane – these are the men and women who, if they thought it would help get them an “assistant producer” credit on a flick, any flick, would happily shoot their mothers through the head, pack a bag and grab the first plane, train or automobile to Hollywoodland for a 5 minute meeting and a glass of warm water with someone’s stationary clerk.

The only thing worse than 40 years in the film industry would be spending 40 years in the fucking music industry.

For example, in
his recently published diaries, director Bruce Beresford goes through a period of (I think) two years trying to get a couple of projects that he has an interest in off the ground only to be dumped on again and again and again as dodgy finance people (read, “producers”) reveal themselves to be full of it, actors won’t work with him, and various other self-absorbed, talentless shitheads with Patrick Bateman business cards endlessly fuck and fart him about. Eventually, desperate to work simply for the sake of having some work to do to keep him busy, he winds up lumped with a project he thought was crap from the start, but at least has some names attached and a green light, so … we get “The Contract” (Unfortunately (or not), I can’t remember anything about “The Contract” other than John Cusack and Morgan Freeman were in it, and I only watched it about 3 weeks ago).

That’s life in showbiz.

And if you’ve spent 40 years as an actor in it, well over half of that time will have been spent sitting on your arse wondering why you were called at 5am in the morning and it’s now 2pm in the afternoon and all you had to do was a one line reaction shot …

“Fact is, Mr. De Niro, we might have to bring you in tomorrow for the scene as the bombulator we needed for your shot has slipped a snigget and it’s a four-hour drive to the next county to pick up a new one as the snigget manufacturer’s delivery guy went on a cocaine bender last night and shot some fellas in a MacDonald’s after an altercation with a trans-gender lap dancer and the production designer won’t dress the scene until the vintage
Pez dispenser he wanted for the bedside table gets here from eBay … Also, someone put superglue in the boom operator’s Fleshlight and he can’t stand up straight right now.”

“Oh. Okay.”


At which point, one could be excused for thinking, “Maybe I could open a restaurant. Or a bar. Start a film festival, perhaps? Hell, why don’t I produce my own movies and as long as I don’t have to do much or not even be in them, I wouldn’t have to deal with this shit …”

From ?, Robert De Niro “How to Piss Off Robert De Niro in 30 Seconds”

Actors do not act in order to prove they can to an audience. They act in order to prove to themselves that they may achieve what they have set out to achieve to their own satisfaction and to the satisfaction of the director in accordance with the rules of the script. Anyone who does otherwise is not an actor, they are a “celebrity”. De Niro is not a celebrity and he has absolutely nothing he needs to prove anymore as an actor. Having turned himself inside out physically and emotionally for a couple of decades in order to meet the demands of the roles he was fortunate enough to score and subsequently succeed in, he’s well and truly entitled to a nice long fucking rest.

And for anyone who thinks that De Niro has “lost it” – if your video store has one of those 7 rentals for 7 bucks deals, grab any 7 of those movies mentioned in the first paragraph and watch one a night for a week. Then imagine what “Taxi Driver” may have been like if
Jeff Bridges or Dustin Hoffman or (God forbid) Neil Diamond had been given the role of Travis Bickle. Bridges and Hoffman are fine actors, but somehow … As for Neil Diamond … truly, the mind not just boggles at the thought, but returns a “file not found” error report.

In the hopefully not so far off future De Niro may come upon a script or a project that fires him up sufficiently to knock us senseless with awe once again. We can only dream.

However, given his choice of roles these last several years, I think it could be reasonable to assume that he really couldn’t give a flying fuck about accumulating Academy Awards and the like just now and has been doing precisely what he feels like when he feels like doing it.

And if that means taking it (relatively) easy in work at an age when most people are expected to retire and eat dog food and whine about the pension, so be it.

From 2007, Robert De Niro in “Extras”


Terry Wright said...

Good one, Ross.

Although not as good as The Office, I liked Extras. The role of RG's manager is classic stuff played by Steve Merchant who is also RG's real life writing partner.

Do you also remember him from an episode of The Office as Gareth's friend, Oggy?

Ross Sharp said...

I never got into "The Office" - I think it was because it reminded too much of a place I used to work. "Extras" I loved, mostly because I'd met extras in the course of an old career way back and, err, oh, dear ... some of them can be quite ... odd. To say the least.