Robert De Niro proves that experience never gets old. He tells WYZA what it's like working with Hollywood writer and director, Nancy Meyers, and why he doesn’t have a Facebook account.
Is it true that you have not worked with director Nancy Meyers prior to making The Intern?
No, I haven’t. But it was fun to do and I had a good time doing it.
What drew you to her script, and what was the experience like to work with Nancy?
I was flattered that she asked me to be in her movie. She’s pretty precise on what she wants, and I like that.
When you read a character like Ben Whittaker, did you understand him immediately or did you build the character with Nancy?
Well, you get what he’s about, so there wasn’t much more to add. I mean, certain writers have it very precise and there’s not much room to add something. Here, there was room to slightly improvise, but you don’t want to mess up the rhythm, the timing and the joke.
Renee Russo and Robert De Niro in a funny scene from The Intern
Do you remember the era when men wore three-piece suits to work?
Some still do. I mean, even I like to go to certain restaurants and places where you have to wear a jacket, a suit and a tie, and I like that sort of old world style. I am sure it will come back in many ways, if it hasn’t already. It’s kind of nice and it breaks it up.
Was it interesting for you to play a character who is basically trying to find a place for himself in this new tech world?
Yeah, it was interesting. There are certain things I am clueless about as far as the new technologies. I see these people in front of these computers all day and I don’t know what they are doing—they are doing something, obviously—with Facebook, Instagram and all that. I am aware of it, but basically not in touch.
So you don’t have a Facebook account?
No, it’s just one other thing that would complicate my life.
What was it like working with Anne Hathaway, who plays Jules?
Well, Anne works very hard and she is a great partner and very, very professional. We had a great time and she’s a pleasure to work with. When you are working hard, you don’t have time for anything other than what you are doing in the scene and what the director wants.
Robert De Niro stars with Anne Hathaway in The Intern
Why do you think Ben brings the sense of calm to Jules’s life that no one else in her world does?
Because he’s older. Jules can feel that he knows things that she doesn’t, just by virtue of the age. The older you get, the more you know about certain things. If you walk down there, you will still get the same results and accomplish the same thing. So you don’t have to rush to do anything. . Ben is one of the more evolved characters in his thoughts about modern women.
Do you believe a woman can be successful and still have a family?
Well, yeah. I certainly know that from personal experience. The people I work with try and do it all and have it all, and I support that.
Is your character Ben an old school kind of gentleman?
[Laughs] Well, he’s very traditional, but you don’t have to be traditional to feel that way. He’s gotten close to her and he sees what is happening with her husband and so on. Nancy is very precise with all of that stuff and wanted it a certain way.
As you'd expect, Meyers handles the material with assurance and charm, and there's fun to be had in the odd-couple dynamic at her film's heart – Empire
In this film, you’re working with this ensemble of young comedians. Was it fun for you to mix it up with people so in tune with their improv skills, or was it intimidating?
No, I think they’re great. I always enjoy when somebody can riff and come up with this stuff all the time. Sometimes you have to stick to what Nancy’s written or the timing of the joke is not quite right and misfires.
Yet there are other times when riffing or going off-script is great and it’s needed. There are other comedies with a more freewheeling, spontaneous feeling—you can improvise, come up with stuff, and have fun. But this one is more curated or tightly managed because one thing does depend on the thing before it in order for the joke to happen in the proper way.
Nancy is known for shooting long takes between two characters where the plot is allowed to develop and breathe without fast edits and cuts. Did you find that to be the case?
Well, she is very, very much of a stickler for everything, as everybody knows [laughs]. She’s from that—I don’t want to say school—but that period, where a director such as her will get the deference needed to do it in the way that she wants to do it, and that’s it. People have other ways of putting constraints on you, or limits and parameters, but she managed to get around all that.
Russo and De Niro sharing a romantic date in The Intern
It’s a very stressful thing, directing a movie. You have the budget; you have the schedule; you are in certain confines, and you have everybody giving you advice about what to do. The bottom line is if the movie does well, everybody is happy and they forget about what they went through. And if it doesn’t, it’s ‘I told you.’[Laughs]
There is something quite appealing to seeing a sweet, lovely character played by Robert De Niro
I like that. Sure, it’s fun to do. Truth is, it’s not easier to play, but I understand it and there are parts of me that identify with Ben, obviously. And as an actor, you use the things from yourself that you can apply to the character. But if we do a sequel, I want to beat somebody’s ass. [Laughs]
Watch the trailer here:
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