This much I know Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro, actor, 75
I am a perfectionist. I always try to do as much research as possible for a role. For Taxi Driver I did actually drive a cab for a few weeks. It probably wasn’t really necessary, but it was something I wanted to do.
I’ve realised how important it is to appreciate the things your parents leave behind. My father, Robert De Niro Snr, was an artist and since he died in 1993, I’ve kept his studio intact, just the way he left it. I thought about getting rid of it, but my family and I gathered there after his death and realised the reality is different to seeing it in pictures, so it stayed.
There is much more opportunity now than when I was starting out. There really was only TV and films made in California. Now TV and the internet has created so many more opportunities for actors.
I learned a lot about being a father from my father. I knew he loved me. It was important for me to know that, so I know it’s important for my kids to know it, too. I give my kids space, but we do spend a lot of time together. I guess I can be firm when necessary. Now that I’m a grandfather, I get to have good times without the direct responsibilities that parents have. I have four grandchildren and six children so I know what I’m talking about.
Sometimes the physical can portray the psychological. That’s why I put on 60lb when I played Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull . I had this fascination with the graphic deterioration of his character, which to me was symbolised by his physical decline. I didn’t think using prosthetics would do the same thing.
I understand why people use social media, but I don’t. No way! I don’t watch much TV or go to the movies either. To me, they’re just another distraction. And I have enough of those to worry about without all that stuff as well.
Fame is not an issue for me these days. When I was younger, I found the attention difficult to deal with, but I’m mostly OK with it now. I go around quite freely and people may say “hello” or want a photo and that’s fine by me.
I prefer movies to theatre. I suppose I’d do a play if I could find a really great new modern one. But I love movies. You can do so much more with film and you can create an illusion. Films last, they are there forever, like a little piece of history.
I’ve no idea what my epitaph will be, but I am very curious to see what my obituary says. I met someone once at a dinner who wrote obituaries for the New York Times and they told me the main people they have written obituaries for in advance – and that I was one of them. Apparently it’s all ready to go and they just fill it in with last minute stuff. ■
An Experience With Robert De Niro is on 26 and 27 November at Leeds and Birmingham (anexperiencewith.com)