Has Robert De Niro "Retired?"

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Chris Farmer, Jan 6, 2005.

  1. Chris Farmer

    Chris Farmer Screenwriter

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    Looking around the net recently, I've noticed a lot of articles criticizing Robert De Niro for his recent choices in movie roles, namely going for a lot of light comedy instead of the weighty, dramatic roles that made him famous and gave him an creditable claim to "Greatest actor of his generation." Just do a Google search for the phrases "Say it ain't so" and "De Niro" and you'll see exactly what I mean (I tried to track down an editorial one of the columnists over the The Digital Bits wrote saying many of these things, but couldn't find it), he's been roundly criticized for his parts in Analyze This, Meet the Parents, their respective sequels, Showtime, Rocky & Bullwinkle, etc.

    So my question is, why has he made that shift? Has he lost his mind? Is he just "phoning it in" for the money? Does he simply not care anymore? My personal belief is that this is his "retirement" from movies. Let's face it, this man has defined more characters then just about any other actor, and has put a massive number of quotes in popular culture. Jake La Motta, Travis Bickle, young Vito Corleone, Noodles Aaronson, and plenty of others are absolutely fantastic performances. I'm still in awe of how well they aged him in Once Upon A Time In America, he has aged in real life to look almost exactly like he did in the "old Noodles" scenes of that movie. I think now though, he's tired of those heavy, taxing roles. He knows that they're forever ingrained in cinematic history, and he probably won't ever match those performances again, so I think now he's doing parts that he simply finds fun. This is his way of enjoying himself, getting to work in his chosen profession for sheer enjoyment, and not having to work at getting the emotional drama and power of his signature roles. Now, he can simply enjoy giving Ben Stiller a lie detector test over pornography, or break down crying at an insurance commercial. His place in history is established, this is a man who has nothing left to prove, and can now afford to take advantage of that fact.

    Anyway, that's what I thought looking at the last few movies he's been in, anyone else have any thoughts?
     
  2. Ricardo C

    Ricardo C Producer

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    Personally, I've enjoyed his comedic roles, for the most part. People change. I doubt he's "phoning it in for the money." He could do that playing the type of roles he's most famous for, but he's instead focusing on comedy. And quite well, I might add. Whether he is deliberately going into lighter roles to "have fun" now that he knows his cinematic immortality is assured, I can't say. Doesn't seem like a bad reason, though [​IMG]
     
  3. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Any actor or director that's been in the business for over 30 years is going to make some career decisions that didn't exactly shine for them. However, DeNiro has done some good work besides the comedies, they just don't match up with his golden era of performances which is going to happen in a long career.
    • Men of Honor: Good film with some good acting performances.
    • The Score: Liked it a lot with Edward Norton.
    • City by the Sea: Film was mediocre, but I thought he gave a good performance.
    • 15 Minutes: Good concept just didn't work for me.
    • Hide and Seek: 2005 Release, I'm looking forward to it with Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Shue.
    • The Bridge of San Luis Rey: Another 2005 release I can't wait for.
    • The Good Shephard: He is producing/directing this film about the CIA with Matt Damon and himself in the cast.
     
  4. chris winters

    chris winters Second Unit

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    i think it has more in common with Michael Jorden switching to Baseball. He was at the top of his game dramtically for quite awhile, now he wants to stretch different acting muscles. Comedy is very difficult. Its not easier, and hes not "phoning it in". he is adding a layer to his legacy. A fine comedic straightman, as well as a helluva dramtic actor. Im sure he will profile some oscer worthy drama again, maybe even for scorsesi. For now hes making some very fine comedies.
     
  5. Richard Travale

    Richard Travale Producer

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    Except for the fact that DeNiro is actually good at these comedic roles. [​IMG]
     
  6. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

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    I actually think Jordan was better at baseball. I hate DeNiro in comedy- I think he's unwatchable.

    And while it's not the same thing, his appearance on SNL was so embarassing I was physically tired from cringing through the whole debacle.
     
  7. Thi Them

    Thi Them Producer

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    Since what many would call his turn to comedy with Analyze This in 1999, he's had about 17 roles in that 5 or 6 year period. As Robert mentioned, he's done dramatic roles in that time, which some people seem to forget. I think the fact is, he's just working more, wants more variety, and isn't receiving as many of those Oscar-worthy roles as he used to.

    ~T
     
  8. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    DeNiro has some great dramatic roles, especially in The Godfather 2 and Goodfellas, but overall I like a greater percentage of his comedic roles than his dramatic roles.
     
  9. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

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    DeNiro is no longer a young leading-man. Actors do age and they can't play the same roles they did when they were younger. Times marches on. Reviews of his recent comedy movies have been positive. His next film is a drama "Hide And Seek" with Dakota Fanning. In the movie, DeNiro plays father to Fanning, who discovers that his nine-year-old daughter has come up with an unexpected and terrifying way of dealing with her mother’s death through a seemingly imaginary friend named Charlie. But her father soon realizes that Charlie isn’t make-believe.
     
  10. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    Sure but there has got to be more to it. Listen, there are plenty of aging actors, Pacino, Hackman, Nicholson just to name a few. They aren't playing the same roles they did decades ago either but whatever they are doing today does not feel like they've sold out.

    The problem with Deniro's recent choices is that they are SO beneath him it feels like he is betraying his legacy.

    --
    H
     
  11. Chris Farmer

    Chris Farmer Screenwriter

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    See, I disagree there Holadem, which was my idea behind this. I don't think he's betraying his legacy any more then a famous surgeon who retires to the links while he can still perform his work is betraying his legacy. I've definitely enjoyed his comedy roles, and find Analyze This to be one of the funnier movies I've seen (the less said about Analyze that the better though). My thoughts though was that he feels like he's done the hard work, and now he can try his hand at other, lighter material. Nothing he can do can erase the brilliance of his earlier performances, but he can sure enjoy doing something far different then what he's done before.
     
  12. Lynda-Marie

    Lynda-Marie Supporting Actor

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    I think the notion that perhaps De Niro is trying his hand at comedy or other types of roles is a good one. After all, while he is awesome at drama, the intensity of the roles have to be quite draining. Too, it seems that there is a dearth of roles lately that are actually worthy of his dramatic skills.

    Selling out to make more money? Well, why not? He's been in the business a while, and while he probably makes more money in a single role than many of us will see in a lifetime doing 9-5 jobs, it's got to be irritating as hell to see no-talent twerps getting $10 - $15 million and up per film because they are pretty, rather than hard working and talented. I won't name names, make up your own minds as to WHICH dipsticks are inferred. Why NOT make an empty blockbuster and make some REAL bucks? Where is the law against that, and how is it actually selling out?

    Robert De Niro is an actor, not a saint, and he'd probably like to make some BIG money. That makes him just as human as we 9-5ers.
     
  13. Nick C.

    Nick C. Second Unit

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    Quite a coincidence... Stephanie Zacharek of Salon just did a column about De Niro's waning 'legacy'. Personally, I wouldn't mind the 'selling out' idea myself, as posters above have mentioned, since it's money in his pocket, and Zacharek argues the same, even though he has his own production company, Tribeca, which according to IMDb includes a repertoire of over 30 pictures, which assures De Niro of gross cuts on both the front and back ends. Zacharek's criticism is not that De Niro is making bad pictures, but that he is phoning in his performances. I haven't seen most of the pictures she names, such as ANALYZE THAT and MEET THE FOCKERS, but I did enjoy the contrast he brought to the few comedies I have seen him in (MIDNIGHT RUN, ANALYZE THIS), since they so oppose his tough-guy intensity from his most memorable roles.

    Just some food for thought.
     
  14. Scott Weinberg

    Scott Weinberg Lead Actor

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    Great thread and discussion. My 2 cents:

    De Niro's a true great, an actor who deserves every ounce of praise he's ever earned. I love the guy.

    But I'm sick to effing death with his comedy roles. He seems to have exactly ONE speed in comedy: gruffy, slow-burny, grumpy jerk. Not that his most unmemorable foray into slapstick (Rocky & Bullwinkle) was anything to write home about.

    Do I think he's a "sellout"? Shit no. The guy's a working actor and he's out there working. If I LOVED all his comedies, then he's not a sellout...but if I hate those movies (which I do) then he IS a sellout? Meh, I don't buy it.

    Let's be frank here: for all his serious talent, De Niro's never been the most "versatile" actor in the universe. He's strong and commanding and often very powerful, but he's not exactly a chameleon-type actor. And I think that the recent comedies manage to highlight the guy's shortcomings more than his strengths.

    I think he's funny in The King of Comedy, Wag the Dog, Brazil and Midnight Run - but those are two extremely well-written movies. Meet the Fockers? Analyze That? Showtime? C'mon, Bob. Frankly I'm more afraid of him veering exclusively towards limp psycho-thrillers (Godsend, Hide and Seek) than staying in comedy.

    Still, the guy could make 50 pieces of crap in a row and he'd deserve a lifetime achievement award. The quality of his body of work, as a whole, more than speaks for itself.

    (I, like many of you, also enjoyed his work in The Score and City by the Sea.)
     
  15. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    Well I'm not at all surprised at the "sellout" takes. So-called "serious" musicians are sell-outs when they make some music that's popular. Dylan was a sell-out when he used an electric guitar (gasp), etc.

    In films, it's mostly when a 'serious (read: dramatic)' actor does a comedy.

    Why? Because comedy and rock music don't get the respect they deserve compared to drama and classical and jazz. That's just the way it is. Fine. But there are some of us who think that a great comedy is just as good as a great drama. Cary Grant used to get guff cause he had so many comedic roles, so this is nothing new.

    And there's a reverse application of this too. A comedic actor does a drama and is good (e.g., Tom Hanks, Steve Martin, Bill Murray, Alec Guinness, Danny Kaye) we're not only impressed, we're surprised, because who knew that someone who was just doing comedies could really act? (shock)

    If DeNiro had done comedies first, and then done dramas, everyone would be impressed. But because he goes from dramas to comedies, he's a sellout. [​IMG]
     
  16. Sam Favate

    Sam Favate Producer

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    I think DeNiro's best comedic role is still in Midnight Run. I'm glad to see him make so many movies, even if they aren't all Oscar calibur. Considering the output of his contemporaries (Pacino, Hoffman, etc.), DeNiro's dance card is very full. Plus, he runs Tribeca productions, so maybe the comedies he makes allows him to fund other projects.
     
  17. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Give that man a cigar! The list is too long to mention how many great actors and directors made certain films in order to make those films that really appeal to them. It takes a lot of financial backing to make a film today and De Niro unlike Harrison Ford for example never was one who appeared in several box office champions.
     
  18. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
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    ok, makes sense.
    but what are the films that he wants to make on his own terms, "those films that really appeal to him."

    hope its not films like godsend.
     
  19. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Only De Niro can give you the definitive answer, but the following are 2004/2005 films he's producing in conjuction with his production company. By the way, Meet the Parents/Meet the Fockers are two films he also produced.
    • Stage Beauty
    • Artemis Fowl
    • The Good Shephard (Also, directing and acting)
    • Chaos (Also acting)
    • Rent
     
  20. AlexCremers

    AlexCremers Second Unit

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    So, am I the only one who thinks his portrayal of Max Cady in Cape Fear was bordering on parody?
     

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