How Netflix Is A Savior Aug 21, 2017 10:07:57 GMT -6
Post by The Ultimate Nullifier on Aug 21, 2017 10:07:57 GMT -6
Robert De Niro Lets Loose On Bernie Madoff, How Netflix Is A Savior, And Why The Emmys Should Dump On Trump
Robert De Niro has been nominated seven times for an Oscar and has won twice, yet when he sits in the audience at the Microsoft Theatre on September 17th, it remarkably be just his first time as an Emmy contender where he is up for Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for his searing work as Bernie Madoff in HBO’s The Wizard Of Lies (also nominated for Outstanding Television Movie – De Niro was an Executive Producer too). Actually I guess it is not that remarkable since other than playing himself a few times on sitcoms and elsewhere, De Niro has been one of the few actors of his generation who had not succumbed to the lure of the small screen and the kind of material that is available there now. He almost didn’t do this part either, as he
told me when we spoke last week, but when director Barry Levinson came aboard as director , and with his son Sam as a co-writer it started to come together. “I thought it would be a good project and I was happy that they did such a good job together, but I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to do it because of the timing, and I didn’t want to start working again right away. But of course with Barry and Sam I liked the idea that a father and son would be working on it. I just liked that whole thing and the feeling that they had for the material and so I did it. I sort of felt I had to and I’m glad I did of course, ” he said.
He had a head start because he and Madoff, whom he never met and still has no idea if he even saw the show, have certain vocal and physical features that are similar between them, but to make it more authentic he shaved his head so the hair piece would match perfectly on his actual head , rather than a pate. He relied on others to tell him what he needed to know about Madoff without having a face to face opportunity unlike his equally Emmy -nominated co -star Michelle Pfeiffer who did meet with Ruth Madoff. He normally would want to meet the person he is playing but not in this instance since it seemed very problematic. “As much as I wanted to meet him I also felt I didn’t want to be
used in some perverted way endorsing him or this or that. So I said just let it go. I met relatives, one of his lawyers, people who worked with him, family members, read books , and so on and I went that way. And I saw whatever I could of him on television, which of course is a lot,” he said adding that Ruth was not one of those people he met with although he says if Ruth wanted to meet him he would have been there in a second. He has always seen this as a family story in many ways, as well as the bottom line dynamic between Bernie , his wife and the kids (one son eventually committed suicide, the other died of cancer in 2014). He doesn’t think they knew much of what he was doing as he played out his multi billion dollar Ponzi scheme for years taking money from one client and giving to another. “I feel she didn’t know , and the kids didn’t know. You see what happened to the kids, ” he said.
One of the few people who did meet Madoff in prison was Diana Henriques,the author of the book the teleplay was based on, and De Niro suggested that they actually have her play herself interviewing De Niro as Madoff, just as she did with the man himself. “My feeling was always use people who are real because they know what questions to ask, and she’ll ask real questions that I can field, so I thought it would be great to use her, ” he said adding that they improvised much of those scenes. Henriques said sitting across from De Niro as Madoff was eerie at times because she thought he was just like the real thing, a compliment the star appreciated when I
repeated her words to him.
Some critics have pointed out parallels between what Madoff was able to get away with for all those years until getting caught, and what is going on in the Trump administration now. Of course De Niro has been vividly outspoken during the campaign and since his election about Donald Trump telling me that “if he was smart , he’d be even more dangerous. He’s dangerous as it is. He’s terrible , and a flat-out blatant racist and doubling down on that, and it’s good that he does because he’s going to sink himself,” he said very much on the record indicating that the title of this movie could very well apply to the President himself.
De Niro hopes to reach even a bigger audience with these kinds of socially pertinent stories that he hasn’t been able to reach on the big screen. He even asked me how many viewers I think HBO plays to. It is one reason they chose the medium for this project, and in fact on the day we talked it was announced that De Niro’s Tribeca Film Festival would be adding a separate edition in September devoted exclusively to television. He is also currently working with his Silver Linings Playbook director David O.Russell on a new untitled series for Amazon and Harvey Weinstein, another family story, that has a two season committment out of the gate. “I guess we’ll see how well it does. If it does well we will continue,” he said. There is even talk he may be doing a small screen version of Wag The Dog , although he wasn’t sure where that was in development at this point, referring
me to his Tribeca and producing partner Jane Rosenthal for answers. If ever there was something so prescient with what is going on today , twenty years after the film came out, it is Wag The Dog. “Well you know when we have a dumbbell like Trump, ” he laughed before launching into another expletive-laden riff on the former reality TV star. He certainly hasn’t given up the movies, which have given him a career in which he has become one of the all time greats, but TV,and being an Emmy nominee, is a new frontier for him. “Television in many ways has gone further than film, especially when you can tell a story longer and tell it with more truth and less restrictions,” he said noting that the broadcast network way of doing things when he was younger did not offer this kind of opportunity that he is now sparking to so enthusiastically.
In addition to saying nice things about Amazon and HBO, he also is high on that other streamer Netflix which has coughed up the reported $100 million budget for Martin Scorsese’s long-in-the-works gangster saga The Irishman which has a script by Steve Zaillian and boasts a cast that includes De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci and was previously set up at Paramount. Although Netflix , with its day and date release strategy has been controversial De Niro, even if he still prefers the theatrical experience, has no problem with it. “I think that’s good also because we need the money to do it right and it just wasn’t financeable in another way, in the traditional film way if you will,” he said. The film will be
pushing the technology envelope by de-aging its three stars by several decades which De Niro jokes should be able to make it possible to extend his career another 40 years or so. “They’re trying to really do it as the best it’s ever been . We’re doing the young stuff first and taking it decade by decade so that later the oldest stuff will be closer to our own age. So they’re trying to really make it as good as they can make it and that’s the goal that it can be something special that everyone would want to see and see it done as well as it can at this point. I’m excited by it and looking forward to doing it.” He says he starts shooting in mid-September , the day after the Emmys.
And speaking of that awards show, De Niro has a suggestion for the producers which brings us right back to, you guessed it, the President of the United States. “Even at the Emmys it should be a kind of theme in some way, however you know balanced it could be so we’re not making it all about that. But at this point we’re at a crisis in this country with this fool who never should have gotten into the position that he’s in,” he said . When I noted that the host this year is the famously anti-Trump Stephen Colbert, De Niro simply said , “Yeah, well he’ll do it”. With De Niro poised to win his first Emmy, CBS better have their hands on that censor button.