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Entertainment behind the scenes

You talking to me? De Niro perplexes at Cannes

May 11, 2011

Robert De Niro is known for explosive performances, lighting up movies as a mobster, conquistador or evil CIA stepdad. But to journalists, he has an entirely different reputation — as one of the toughest people to interview in showbusiness.

When facing reporters, the “Goodfellas” star has not always felt compelled to wax poetic. In fact, he barely waxes at all: De Niro has been known to field questions with abrupt ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers, leave pregnant silences that can make the most seasoned interviewers squirm — or simply shrug his shoulders.

At the start of the Cannes film festival, running May 11-22, De Niro is proving true to himself. At a press conference to introduce the jury which he is presiding over this year, he gave a classically non-committal performance. A sample of De Niro-isms:

“Every movie is different.”
“I’m not sure what we’re looking for.”
“We’ll know when we see the movies.”
“Some people will feel strongly about movies. Others won’t.”
“I suppose it can get political, but that’s what it is.”

Previous jury heads have been less concerned with conveying stoic impartiality. In 2005, when Serbian director Emir Kusturica was in charge, at the end of the festival he complained about a competition lineup that fell short of his expectations.

De Niro did threaten to break with form briefly, when a French reporter stood up and asked him, quoting a well-known and unprintably rude line from “Raging Bull”, whether the actor had slept with his wife.

Looking briefly off-balance, De Niro asked the moderator to repeat the question. Then he cracked one of his signature one-side smiles, apparently contemplating a witty response.

False alarm: After a pause, De Niro spoke: ”I don’t think so.”

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