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The Family - Robert De Niro interview

The Family

Interview by Rob Carnevale

ROBERT De Niro talks about making The Family in France and some of the research he did attempting to establish the film’s credibility.

He also reveals that he’ll be working with Martin Scorsese again soon, that he’s looking into his Irish roots and why he likes to make the most of the opportunity to visit various countries when he’s shooting on location. He was speaking at a UK press conference…

Q. How did you go about researching your roles?
Robert De Niro: Well, I spoke to people. I was trying to find a believable reason why he would be in France. We didn’t quite find it, although Luc [Besson] said he had spoken to people in France and it would be true, or it could be. I still think that it could be too, but we never as I say validated it, if you will. There were other people I spoke to, with whom I had some experience before with Henry Hill doing Goodfellas. I talked to him a bit. Every time I had a question I would get word to him that I needed to talk to him and then he’d call me. And also, this story… it is, as Michelle [Pfeiffer] says, what it is, so you don’t have to… it’s not about accuracy in the Witness Protection Programme. The fine details would be interesting, yes, but I think that there were a lot of details in it that were good as is. So, how’s that for an answer?

Q. Your character watches Goodfellas in the movie. Have you revisited it, or any more of your classic films recently?
Robert De Niro: Well, I looked at the movie and I looked at the DVD. Actually, there were things on the DVD that I hadn’t been aware of, so I went through the whole film carefully and then I went through the other stuff on the DVD and it was helpful for me.

Q. What pushes your buttons and makes you angry in real life?
Robert De Niro: Well, I forget if those things were in the book. He has a way of doing that which is personal and I think that’s why it’s funny. He juxtaposes a certain scene with something extremely violent like putting a guy’s face in the grill. But he personalised it in some way that gave it a little extra special touch.

Q. Have you ever been tempted to put pen to paper and pen the story of your own life in the way that your character does in this? Or have you been approached?
Robert De Niro: You mean to write an autobiography? I have been but I haven’t really entertained it much.

Q. Can I ask why?
Robert De Niro: I understand that it takes time to do that. Once Scorsese and I were thinking of doing a book together and we might still, I don’t know, but that was as far as it went.

Q. You’ve played a lot of gangsters, so what is it about this world that you think fascinates people so much and makes you as a performer want to revisit it?
Robert De Niro: Well, if it’s written well it’s fun to do and the characters are interesting, especially if I’m doing them with someone like Luc or Marty Scorsese. We have another gangster film we’re going to do but it’s a very interesting one. I’m looking forward to it. I guess people are fascinated by them because they’re against the establishment in some way… in some ways they’re not but they break the law and they break the rules. I guess there are people who can write it very well and explain it better than I can why people are fascinated by them.

Q. When you’re shooting abroad did you have time to visit the local area and be a bit of a tourist? Or is it strictly work?
Robert De Niro: I had time to do certain things. We all had time at one point. I always feel that when you’re in a location you take advantage of it because you never know when you’re going back there, if ever!

Q. How long were you filming on location and how did you cope with being away from friends and family?
Robert De Niro: I went back home a few times on long weekends. It was maybe five weeks.

Q. You mentioned working on a new gangster film with Martin Scorsese. What is the sate of play with The Irish Man?
Robert De Niro: That’s the one I’m talking about.

Q. Are you working on it at the moment?
Robert De Niro: Well, we’re preparing it, we have a script and we’re going to… Marty has another film he’s going to do before that one, so we won’t be doing it for a while.

Q. I understand that because you’ve found out that you have part Irish roots, you were going to look into them, so where are you with that?
Robert De Niro: I have been doing that. It’s been hard for some reason. But I am still doing it in fact.

Q. Any idea what part of Ireland?
Robert De Niro: No, I’m not sure. I think the southern part of Ireland. I’ve been working on it a lot.

Q. Your character’s summing up of his wife’s pasta making, “f**k”, would be an enviable response for a food critic. You’re a restaurateur as well, so where’s the worst and the best meal that you’ve ever had?
Robert De Niro: Well, I can’t say the worst [laughs]. I had some good ones here in London and in Europe, obviously in France and Spain. There some great restaurants on the other side of the ocean. I like my restaurant, Nobu… I don’t know, there are so many great places to go, especially when we were shooting in France, I’d try and go to some good places and yet not over-indulge because I don’t want to gain a lot of weight.

Read our review of The Family

Read our interview with Michelle Pfeiffer

Read our interview with Dianna Agron