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Robert De Niro Talks Fatherhood and Working With Leonardo DiCaprio

On Monday night in New York City, Robert De Niro sought refuge from a tropical downpour beneath a red tent surrounded by flowers outside of Balthazar, the French bistro in SoHo.

His olive green polo shirt and relaxed black blazer speckled by raindrops, the actor had arrived at the restaurant on June 12 for the annual Chanel and Tribeca Festival Artists Dinner, an event honoring 10 artists who contributed original works to the festival’s award-winning filmmakers. The dinner, now in its 16th year, is always a starry event—and 2023’s lineup was no different. Iman, Oscar Isaac, Katie Holmes, Ayo Edebiri, Camila Morrone, Dominique Fishback, Tracee Ellis Ross, Darren Aronofsky, and more hit the step and repeat beneath the tent before ducking inside to dine on seafood towers of shrimp and lobster. Inside Balthazar’s signature red booths, Zazie Beetz took selfies with Nina Dobrev, Morrone removed a tightly tied black leather trench to reveal a tube dress underneath, Sofia Coppola chatted with Suki Waterhouse, and Tommy Dorfman hobnobbed with Dianna Agron. Stephanie Hsu—whose Everything Everywhere All at Once follow-up, Joy Ride, comes to theaters in July—donned an ’80s-inspired, black, puffy bomber jacket that she described as a “deep-cut, really cool, hip, modern piece.”

But the man of the hour was, without question, De Niro himself—who, along with Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff, launched the Tribeca Festival in 2001 to spur the economic and cultural revitalization of downtown Manhattan following 9/11. The About My Father star has had quite a year, what with welcoming his seventh child; reuniting with Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio for Killers of the Flower Moon, which premiered to a 9-minute standing ovation at Cannes; and an 80th birthday on deck in August. He’s also the subject of a three-day event called De Niro Con, a festival created especially for fans who’d like to binge the actor’s iconic films, visit re-creations of his film sets, and attend panel discussions all about Bob. Did De Niro, a notoriously shy actor who tends to avoid talking about himself too much, find the idea of an entire convention surrounding his life and career a bit daunting?

“I was hoping that it wasn’t going to be an embarrassing thing for me,” he said of his first thoughts when he heard De Niro Con would, indeed, be a thing. “I wasn’t against it, and I don’t know if I’m into it, but it looked interesting. So I said, OK, let me see. And that’s where I am with it now.”

Although De Niro has eight projects currently in the works, the most talked-about film he’s a part of is inarguably Killers of the Flower Moon, based on the book by David Grann. In the movie, De Niro plays William Hale opposite DiCaprio’s Ernest Burkhart; the two actors haven’t worked together on a full-length feature film since 1993’s This Boy’s Life. Still, De Niro’s admiration for DiCaprio’s dedication to his craft persists.

“Leo is really wonderful in the movie,” De Niro said. “He’s a very sensitive person, a very sensitive young man—well, a ‘young man’ to me. And he shows that in his performance. He was very concerned—as Marty was, and I was too—about, the only word I can think of is titrating, or regulating the performance and what he was doing, especially in terms of the relation to his [fictional wife, Mollie Burkhart, played by Lily Gladstone]. So it was kind of a complicated role. And I think he did a great job.”

De Niro and Scorsese’s history making films together stretches decades, all the way back to Mean Streets in 1973. But it’s the pair’s 1980 film, Raging Bull, that’s been the subject of much conversation online, after eagle-eyed fans unearthed photos of the director and actor working on the script in Sint Maarten—while wearing sombreros and wielding frozen beverages.

“I saw that,” De Niro said of the tweet. “We were just together one day after we we’d been working, and I said, ‘Marty, let’s go have a drink somewhere and we’ll take a picture with mai tais, the usual Caribbean celebratory drinks.’ And that was it.”

The acclaimed actor tends to keep his answers politely succinct (when asked whether he’s found a story he’d consider developing into a film as a writer-director, De Niro said: “No. If it came, I would do it. But not at this point.”). The same goes for his outlook on fatherhood, which is taking on a new shape in De Niro’s late 70s. But he insists the wisest thing anyone’s ever told him about life in general could also apply to being a dad: “If I only knew then what I know now.”

Source: W Magazine

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