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What Is De Niro Thinking? Goes Against Stallone in 'Grudge Match'

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood November 6, 2012 at 2:09PM

Yet another example of Hollywood's current thinking is the depressing prospect of Warner Bros. chasing the trendy boomer demo by casting Robert De Niro ("Raging Bull") and Sylvester Stallone ("Rocky") as two aging boxers in "Grudge Match."
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'Grudge Match'
'Grudge Match'

Yet another example of Hollywood's current thinking is the depressing prospect of Warner Bros. chasing the trendy boomer demo by casting Robert De Niro ("Raging Bull") and Sylvester Stallone ("Rocky") as two aging boxers in "Grudge Match."

Shoot me now. I don't mind "The Expendables," which shows how smart and crafty and strong a bunch of aging action heroes still are. Fine.

But De Niro sold out his talent a long time ago for big cash paydays and it saddens me every time he trades on past glories for a buck.  One of the reasons people are so high on him--he is a supporting actor contender-- in "Silver Linings Playbook" is that in the hands of David O. Russell and surrounded by actors giving their best, De Niro steps up his game as a confused, caring father who genuinely wants what's best for his bipolar son. It's moving--and hilarious.

Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro in David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook"
Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro in David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook"

But how much crap and drivel has one of our greatest actors participated in, presumably believing that his self-worth should be measured by how much he gets paid? That's not the way to think, as George Clooney and Brad Pitt have proven. Legacy is the key. How do you want your entry in the David Thomson Biography of Film to read? Thomson's long and admiring De Niro essay eventually comes to this: "De Niro has gone a long way to squander his own high reputation by the remorseless greed for minor or trashy projects." He lists 23 pictures made since De Niro turned 50: they include "Analyze This" and "Analyze That," "The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle," "15 Minutes," "The Score," "City by the Sea," "Showtime," and "Scared Guys," to name a forgettable few.

It's possible that "Grudge Match" is a terrific script. And Warners should go with the best casting they can. But De Niro and Stallone did not have to say yes. Let "Raging Bull" and "Rocky" lie.

This article is related to: Robert De Niro, IN THE WORKS


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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.