There’s no doubt that Robert De Niro is a great actor, but there’s also little argument that his cinematic choices since the turn of the millennium have been rather questionable. As a result, like various acting legends who’ve reached their elderly years, these days he’s been labelled a ‘paycheck actor’ in various reviews for films like “Dirty Grandpa,” “What Just Happened” and “Killer Elite”.
Why has this happened to not just him but many other famed acting legends of the 1980s and 1990s? One of De Niro’s old co-stars and highly respected actress in her own right, Illeana Douglas, has a theory and says the fault lies less with De Niro and more with the current movie-making environment. Appearing on Bret Easton Ellis’ podcast recently, she spoke about her own experiences working with him on films like “Goodfellas” and “Cape Fear”:
“I think that, and I can only comment as an outsider and having worked with him on a film like Goodfellas, the environment that was created to play and to make a work of art, that no longer exists. You know, you’re talking about an environment where Marty [Scorsese] made crew members remove their watches. Where, on the set of Cape Fear, De Niro caught somebody looking at their watch and the person is yelled at, because it was like: ‘we are making art.’ And it must be very challenging to be in an environment where it’s like ‘Yeah we have an hour, let’s get this shot, let’s get this shot’, and so if nobody else cares, why should you care?”
It’s a fair call, fewer adult-oriented dramas are produced at studios these days as they prefer to focus on action and superhero tentpole films with the occasional cost-effective comedy – the latter of which De Niro has been most known for in his older age. De Niro’s next film takes him back to a straightforward drama with the boxing tale “Hands of Stone,” that movie opens August 26th.