years of waiting. So I‘d rather be making movies that are remembered in fifty years time for being good, solid work than some big thing. If a film makes its money back,
ﬁne, I’m happy. I fall asleep at my own movies and the only reason I’d look at all of them ever would just be to see a pattern of what I’ve been doing.’
The legendary arduous research has also been grossly overstated if his description of his methods on Guilty By Suspicion is anything to go by. He says he ‘read a book called Naming Names. and one called Fifty Years of Treason I’d read a little while ago. Then you talk to actors or people that have had that experience. A lot ofit I could just identify with — I didn’t need much else.’
All this restrained affability should really come as no surprise, given De Niro’s recent move away from the fevered intensity of Travis Bickle or Jake La Motta to a rather more easy-going screen persona in recent years. He popped up in virtual cameo roles as a baseball bat-wielding Al Capone in De Palma’s The Untouchables and the diabolic Louis Cyphre in Parker’s Angel Heart, and in both cases gave the impression of enjoying himself, coasting along and just keeping his hand in.
The game dyslexic in Stanley And Iris and the unfortunate victim of a mysterious ailment in the medical drama A wakenings have been attempts to reach a touching popular success; there’ve also been the lighter comic roles in the enjoyable chase movie Midnight Run and the rather flawed high-jinks ofNeil Jordan’s We’re No Angels. He’s testing himselfout, extending his range, the outcome being that we’re certainly seeing a lot more of Bobby of late. In Guilty By Suspicion he plays David Merrill, a successful film director in 19505 Hollywood, whose life outside the world of movies is in some disarray. Merrill gets caught up in the odious witch-hunts of the House Un-American Activities Committee and has to choose between his career and his own sense of decency. Director Winkler asserts that ‘the David Merrill in the film is very much like the Bob De Niro I’ve known for so many years.‘
De Niro says that he ‘liked that David Merrill was sort of low-key and unflashy. I identified with my character being frightened because when you get a little bit of success, then have that taken away in a minute, how could I not be sensitive to that?’
Is he insecure about his own position, then?
In some ways you always feel that way, that it could happen,’ he replies cautiously. ‘Myself, I always feel that you keep working. If you’re concerned that you just did a movie that grossed $200 million and that your next movie should gross-$200 million as well, that’s something else. But I’ve never had movies gross $100 million, so that’s not my problem. I’m not coming down from anything.
‘The way I look at it is that I’m lucky enough to be in a pretty good situation, working whenever I want. I’m young and I’m strong now, and I feel that later I’ll be focusing my energies on other things. I’ll have to spend longer periods working in a different way and also the TriBeCa Film Centre (his own Greenwich Village D
DE NIRO’S HER
Ten at his iinest hour-and-a-halis.
I Mean Streets (Martin Scorsese. 1973) Tragi-comic tale ofyoung Italian Americans obsessed with movies. machismo and the Mafia. De Niro and Harvey Keitel are both close to their best in this heavily improvised. humorous New York city symphony.
I Taxi Driver(Martin Scorsese. 1976) Are you looking at me? Inner city angst and vigilante murder. with De Niro on superb mettle asthc obsessive. introverted Travis Bickle. unable to integrate into decadent. mid-70s New York society.
I Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese. 1980) The Best Actor Oscar went to De Niro for his phenomenally physical embodiment of boxer Jake La Motta through success and failure in the ring andin relationships to grossly overweight decline as a nightclub owner. Passthe pasta.
I Once Upon ATirne In America (Sergio Leone. 1983) Though he hated the butchered final cut (229 mins! ). De Niro rises to the epic occasion in a wistful flashback movie covering five decades of crime. friendship and betrayal among New York City‘s mobsters.
A! I, ’3’. 9-
I The Mission (Roland Joffe. 1986) Surprisingly successful pairing of De Niro with Jeremy Irons in the two central roles as a slave trader and the stolid Jesuit missionary who converts him against the wild backdrop ofthe 18th-century Brazilian rainforest. Epic adventure
witha shortage of passion.
I The Untouchables (Brian De Palma. 1987) Slipping into a padded body-stocking. De Niro wipes the floor with Costner and co. totally dominating every scene featuring the relatively minor role of Al Capone. The same year saw him repeat the strategy in Alan Parker's Angel Heart.
I The Godfather Part2 (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974) De Niro won his first (Best Supporting Actor) Oscar for his sharp. flashback portrayal of young Vito Corleone, the Sicilian immigrant who sets the family business rolling by dabbling in petty crime.
I The Deer Hunter (Michael Cimino. 1978) Cimino‘s early success owes much to the three central performances in his classic and harrowing pre-. during- and post-Vietnam essay on the psychological effects of
W ‘ l t
I King Of Comedy (Martin Scorsese, 1982) De Niro‘s Rupert Pupkin is the persistent nuisance par excellence. badgering his way into chat-show stardom in a performance which is both highly sympathetic and disquietineg sinister. First-rate black comedy.
I GoodFellas (Martin Scorsese. 1990) Superb do-glamorisation ofthe ' Mafiosi.fcaturingsuperb j supporting work from De I Niro and Oscar-winner 1 Joe Pesci. Ray Liotta stars as a mobster who rats on his friends. etc. etc. while De Niro is his more experienced mentor.
The List31May—l3June 19911