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Robert De Niro chats with Brian Williams at Tribeca

Brian Williams, declined from being a juror at Tribeca Film Festival this year because he will be covering the Royal Wedding on April 29, 2011.

BW: “How are you towards people if they recognize you in a Walgreen’s upstate, for example?”

RD: “I don’t mind, sometimes people are very respectful, and they don’t recognize you. I usually just wave. If people see me on the street and say, “Hi Bob”, I usually just wave. I’m an introvert is someways, and in other ways, I am not.”

BW: “Why do you think so many artists are introverted?”

RD: “People want to express themselves without any limitations. As an actor, I go through the lives of other people, expressing a story. I’m not a painter. My father was a painter. I always wanted to be an actor, since I was ten. When I was ten years old, I played the cowardly lion. Unfortunately, I have no photo record of the performance. “

BW: “Talk about 9/11. This will be an open sore for the rest of our adult lives. How do you process 9/11?”

RD: “I remember when it happened. I was trying to get ‘The Good Shepherd” going, but it wasn’t important at that point anymore. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I probably couldn’t have gotten it made after 9/11. New Yorker’s reacted in different ways. You used your all to make it better. There is always something that will frustrate us. It’s taken a longer time to get things done. Things happen the way they do. I can’t predict of forsee the future.”

BW: “Talk about Little Italy.”

RD: “Little Italy transforms the way the city evolves. Arthur Avenue in the Bronx is still the way it used to be, meanwhile, Little Italy has become gentrified.”

BW: ”Talk about your family.”

RD: “My mother started a typing business to support me. My father had a few studios in Soho/Noho way before they are what they are today. I kept my father’s studio intact, exactly the same as when he passed away, because I wanted my kids to see it. I’m still trying to figure out what to do with it. It’s different from photos to have my kids experience what their grandfather had done when he lived in the studios, easels, canvas’, a lot of light. It was real. “

BW: How do you view your work once it is done?

RD: “You see it in it’s rough stages. You see audiences reacting. You never know what is going to make an impression. We never knew ’Taxi Driver’ would have had made an impact in a certain way. ”

BW: Have you seen ‘Taxi Driver’ start to finish recently?

RD: “I haven’t see ‘Taxi Driver’ start to finish in a long time. I may watch part of it on tv. “

BW: “Do you flip through the channels and surf the tv?”

RD: ” Brian, I watch the news. I watch you. I watch NBC news, I watch you.”

BW: “What do you read in the book store?”

RD: “I usually see what books I would want to turn into a movie. I like to look at something that could be a possible project.”

BW: ”How do people get your scripts?”

RD: “Through my agent. I have them read through my agent. I don’t have the time. Sometimes, I may read it myself because I know the person, I like them. I may read it myself. You never know what may touch me in a certain way.”

BW: What’s next?

RD: “Working on “Another Bullsh!t Night in Suck City”, and a project with Marty Scorsese, Joe Pesce, and Al Pacino. Marty read it and liked it. Marty is not afraid to take chances with things, to express himself, he’s the captain of the ship, and has to make those kind of adjustments. The Director of Photography has to deal with a lot of people, respecting what they do and their choices. Nothing is more valid then getting their job done. You take your own vessel and turn it over. You trust his judgement. You make compromises. You look at things in different ways. You never know until you put the whole thing together.”

BW: Talk about the Italian culture.

RD: “This is the existence that I knew when I grew up. This is all I knew. I knew a few wise guys.”

BW: What did they go on to becoming?

RD: “A couple of them went on to be dead. NYC is a heavilyi ethnic area. One of many ethnic groups or a mixture. My Irish grandmother wanted to me to go to church. I haven’t changed as an adult. I took the James Lipton approach. If there’s a God, he has a lot of explaining to do.”

BW: Talk about changes of mood on screen. Telephone receiver scenes.

RD: “I don’t know if you can teach that kind of stuff. I studied with Stella Adler. She had a great script breakdown class. It was more oriented towards plays. You try to figure out what is the author trying to say? The neurotic type? The cult of personality. At the end of the day, I feel it is whatever works for you as long as you aren’t hurting anyone else or hurting yourself. “

BW: “If I came into your trailer, would I encounter you or your character?”

RD: “”I’d rather keep my mind off of it. Want to hear a joke? A director of a Shakespearen play approaches a man working at a gas station and says, would you like to be in my play, all you have to do is say, “Hark, I hear the canon’. The poor gas station attendant writes the phrase in the mirror, and says it over and over. Finally, it is only five minutes until he is on and the stage manager says to him, ”you’re up”. The gas station attendant/actor gets on stage and hears a big boom, and says, “What the f*ck was that?”

BW: Talk about projects.

RD: “I’ve always been fascinated with intelligence. I always wanted to do a Bay of Pigs story until 89 when the wall came down. We just wrapped “Another BS Night in Suck City”, about a guy who is homeleses, and although it was supposed to take place in Boston, we shot in NYC, most of it on Mott/Prince.”

BW: Talk about comedy.

RD: “Whenever there’s a big dramatic scene in a movie, I later think to myself, what are they going to do with this on SNL?”

BW: How much input do you like to have?

RD: ”I let them decide, I may like part of a skit, but if they see it, object to it, don’t like it, then I get rid of it. The bigger the film becomes formulaic. If you told me I would be “Godfocker”, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. “

BW: Do you think “Casino” never got the respect it deserved?

RD: “Not as many people as we would have liked went to go see it.”

BW: Anything in your career you would have liked to take back?

RD: “Whatever I did, I stay behind it for better or for worse. I have to.”

BW: Talk about latest Chris Rock film.

RD: ” University of Texas has received archives. They were the only people who would take it. You have to store film, take care of it, it gets expensive.”

BW: Are you on the web? Do you like Kathie Lee and Hoda?

RD: ” I like them. I like to watch the 6:30, 7pm news. I use the web, but I don’t Twitter. I have an IPhone. I text message. I think that’s enough. I have an IPad. I read scripts on my Ipad. I can read scripts more quickly on Ipad.”

BW: Do you relax?

RD: ” This is a more intense period with the festival going on now. The restaurant business is not easy, but I was lucky. Locanda Verde, Tribeca Grill, I was lucky.”

BW: Where would you like to live?

RD: ” I like the Tropics, a nice beach.”

BW: “Are you frustrated with politics and the US?”

RD: “The possibility of a government shutdown. How did we get there. I know Obama was trying to bridge the gap. Obama’s intentions were right, but we are playing with peoples lives. ”

BW: “Do you ever see it coming together? If 9/11 didn’t leave us more unified what would?”

RD: “The Republicans are saying a lot of nonsense. What are they doing? People should get the facts before saying anything. Don’t say things unless you can back them up.”

BW: 60 % of Americans don't think their grandkids will be better off then they were. We’re two guys without college degrees who have gotten lucky.”

RD: “What our ancestors were building was a better life. Our politics has corroded that. For such a young country we have so much to learn. Some nations have been around for thousands of years, and we’re a lot younger. We have a lot of learning to do, and we have everything. We have to be at the forefront, or we are going to lose it. We have to get real things done. I’ve seen NY change. We have to deal with what is going on NOW. The 70′s was the 70′s, more grittier, but this is now. I think Bloomberg is doing a good job. It’s a big challenge. I consider myself very lucky. We’re lucky. This is not the real world. We are the 1% of the population. It’s not the real world. I enjoyed acting, and said, ‘if I can make a living at this’. I used to watch the tv and say, ‘if that guy can do it, so can I’”. I love NY. People come here for a reason. You can feel anonymous here, or you can establish a sense of community. I love to travel. I don’t mind going somewhere as long as it’s for a short time. I like to take my kids places. It’s good to expose them to the real world, the bigger existence.”

BW: Will you retire?

RD: “I don’t know. I don’t have an answer now. Right now, I am going to keep going. In the future, I have 7-10 projects lined up over the next few years. Whether or not they will all be made? I don’t know. Maybe 3 of them.”

Article by Sharon Abella

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