Robert De Niro on the art of the long career

From The New York Times:

For a person of my generation, it pretty much goes without saying that Robert De Niro is the finest screen actor of his. To be a movie-besotted adolescent in the ’70s and early ’80s was to experience, in real time and at an impressionable age, performances that would go on to become icons and monuments. ‘‘This kid doesn’t just act — he takes off into the vapors,’’ wrote Pauline Kael in her review of ‘‘Mean Streets.’’ Not that there was anything airy or abstract about what he was doing, which was transforming himself — physically, vocally, psychologically — with each new role. And in the process, before our eyes, reinventing the art of acting.

A.S.: People talk a lot about how the industry’s changed, for better and worse.

R.D.: The obvious changes are the action films and all that stuff, the cartoon-character type stuff, which, for what it is, it’s O.K. The whole blockbuster type thing which I think started with “The Godfather,” the first “Godfather” and “Jaws,” and that kind of kicked off this whole other thing, and it morphed into what it is today.

A.S.: Do you think that has made it harder for more personal films to get made?

R.D.: You could probably answer that better than me. Probably in some ways. It’s a struggle. As far as producing movies, you partner up with a studio, they do the distribution, you get the money somewhere else, they carve it up in different territories. I remember back when you did a studio movie, you did a studio movie. Now it’s all over the place. Wherever you get the money, whenever, if ever you can get it, and then you’ve got to find distribution — it’s exasperating.

A.S.: Is that the same experience for actors and directors?

R.D.: Things are tighter. You’re working on tighter budgets. That’s why again, with Marty, who has to do that every time — to fight to get the way he wants it, and I have a lot of respect for him. Being able to battle it out. No matter how you do it, you gotta hold your ground at times. Other times you’ve got to compromise. But never a compromise that you can’t live with.

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