Robert De Niro is not only one of the finest actors of modern Hollywood, but a New York icon. However, that still does not always prevent him from being to a degree typecast, from his classic tough guy roles in films like The Godfather, Part II, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas to his comical parodies of his tough guy roles in films like the Analyze This and Meet The Parents movies.
Now, De Niro gets the opportunity to take a break from his distinguished tough guy archetype to play widower Frank in Everybody's Fine. The 66 year-old actor shared with us what first motivated him to pursue the role.
"Well, Kirk [Jones] had, we were at a meeting and he told me the story and what it was based on and had photos of the whole project, the traveling across the country and everything,"Â Robert recalls, "I was impressed with how passionate about the project he was. It was special and he doesn’t do movies often, his will be his third and so that was important for me, knowing that he cared so much, obviously. So then I saw the original and then I saw his two movies and I read the script and then we just had to decide when to do it."Â
The film is an Americanized remake of the 1990 Italian film of the same name, by director Giuseppe Tornatore, with the role of Frank's Italian counterpart Matteo Scuro, played by actor Marcello Mastroianni, the latter who Robert says he's an admirer of.
"I only saw it once,"Â De Niro says, "It was just a different type of movie. I love Mastroianni. Since I was a kid, I've always watched his movies. He's been in great films and part of a great Italian tradition, obviously, but it was a different thing totally. Kirk made it his own and his way, the structure was there and all that stuff, but it was a totally different thing."Â
De Niro said that as much as Frank was a welcome break from his tough guy archetypes, he said there were elements of him that were similar to himself.
"I relate to Frank, obviously, and drew on my own experiences like I do in all my parts,"Â Robert says, "You draw on whatever’s relevant to the part you’re playing. It makes it more personal. There was a lot here of course. I have five children, two grandchildren. But also going back to Kirk being the director and caring, that’s the anchor of the whole thing, so that’s really, really important. He has to steer the ship, it’s his baby, so he’s got to make choices and all that. So I put myself in his hands so to speak."Â
He says he also shares Frank's trouble in keeping up with the modern world of his children.
"I don’t Twitter,"Â Robert admits, "Somebody told me about it. I didn’t know what it was. I only know how to use a computer. I don’t even know how good I am at it. I slowly use the little things and get emails and I look at videos on the computer and I use an iPhone. I guess I use it… adequately."Â
Robert shared with us how he personally has dealt with being a parent and a grandparent.
"My father's father, my grandfather, was more strict, more old-school, more old-time Italian, and my impression was that my father came to New York City to get away from certain things,"Â De Niro shares, "So, my parents raised me kind of easily. And the fact that I wanted to be an actor, that was OK with my mother and father."Â
"With my kids, I try not to be too strict because certain things they have to do,"Â he continues, "But at the same time, I don't want them to get away with anything. But I think I try to rationalize with them, and argue, 'Now, look I'm very good with you about certain things unless you do this, so you have to now do this. That's only fair.' Of course, there are times when that stuff doesn't work. I'd love to be the all-knowing, all-seeing. I think in general, it's pretty good. I don't try to put a curfew, but I'm flexible with certain things that they have to do. It's not like it's a curfew that they have to go to sleep at a certain time."Â
De Niro also adds that it was also a change-of-pace for the Oscar winner even from the comedies he's done in the past.
"This is a more gentle sort of comedy in this,"Â he says, "It's a dramedy. It's not like sort of, say, Meet The Parents."Â
We asked Robert how he's handled being still so largely identified for much of his career as a singular character archetype.
"Some people do and sometimes I play off that, as far as a certain thing you're doing or I make fun of it in certain movies,"Â De Niro believes, "Like in Meet The Little Fockers (the soon-to-be-released Meet The Parents sequel), it’s also 'The Godfocker'. And I ask Greg because I have a feeling, 'If something happens to me will he be the "Godfocker?"Â"Â
Finally, we wondered whether De Niro will be doing more independent films in the future at this point in his long career.
"Yeah, I think I will,"Â he says, "Well, the difference is you have more time, there's just a lot more people on the set, a lot more trucks. It's a big production. Making movies is very simple ultimately. I always wonder when I walk around on a big movie and you see all these trucks and just to get this, you have to get all these people."Â
"And of course, there's only certain movies that do that, but it was good, this, to me, was a normal"Â¦we shot it in eight weeks,"Â Robert adds, "So eight weeks was a pretty good schedule. It's an independent film, sort of. But an independent would even be less than what was on this film, I think. It'd cost less to make and be on a shorter schedule like five weeks, four weeks. I'd do more with Kirk, hopefully."Â