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Robert De Niro Reflects on 40 Years of Acting, Says 'You Gotta Be Part Gangster'

Photo of Beth Hanna By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood November 14, 2012 at 1:38PM

Robert De Niro recently sat down with NY Times critic A.O. Scott for an interview covering the actor's substantial body of work over the past 40 years, his thoughts on the difficulty of getting movies made and the perceived hurdles of personal filmmaking...
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Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro

Robert De Niro recently sat down with NY Times critic A.O. Scott for an interview covering the actor's substantial body of work over the past 40 years, his thoughts on the difficulty of getting movies made and the perceived hurdles of personal filmmaking. Scott writes, "For a person of my generation, it pretty much goes without saying that Robert De Niro is the finest actor of his." Highlights below.

We recently questioned some of De Niro's career choices over the past decade. He shines in David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook" (November 16), but that film is a far cry from the likes of the "Focker" franchise, "Killer Elite," "New Years Eve" and the upcoming "Grudge Match" with Sylvester Stallone.

De Niro on consistently working for 40 years:

I enjoy it. I like it. And especially when you get older, you start realizing you don’t have that much time. And you look back and say, “The last 15 years, it went by kind of quickly.” You don’t really know it until you get there and look back and say, “Geez, where did that time go?” I know I’ve gotta account for every day, every moment, every this, every that, but it still went, that time went. So now I have the next whatever, hopefully 15, 20 years if I’m lucky, and I think what to use that time for.

On the difficulty of directing and financing a film:

It takes a long time to get it done, to get the financing, no matter who’s in it. It’s very, very arduous, a daunting, uphill battle. I have so much respect for people like Marty, or any director who only directs — all the battles over this and that, everybody giving their opinion. And you gotta listen to them. Because they paid for it. I’ve been through it, and it’s a real fight. There’s a quote: You gotta be part gangster. You’ve got to fight for what you want. You’ve got to listen to everybody’s opinion, then finally at the end of the day, you have to do what you feel is right.

On personal filmmaking in the 1970s and now:

That’s what everybody says, the ’70s, that was that period [for personal filmmaking]. I didn’t look at it that way. We’re lucky we were able to do those movies and get some money to do them. There are more personal movies in some ways being made now, more opportunities for actors to me.

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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.