Robert De Niro: “I always try to do as much research as possible for a role”

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For an actor that in recent years has made up to six films a year, Robert De Niro has slowed his output recently as audiences await probably his most anticipated project in decades — his first feature with longtime collaborator Martin Scorsese since 1995’s Casino, the Netflix film The Irishman. Though Netflix hasn’t announced a release date yet, De Niro has taken the opportunity to be reflective of his past work.

In a piece written for The Guardian to promote two black-tie events saluting him in England, An Experience with Robert De Niro, he speaks about his past work and why he prefers film to the stage.

De Niro admits that sometimes deep research into a role isn’t required, and recalls one of his most famous instances in which he went above and beyond to research a character. He explains, “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.”

Another famous instance when De Niro went to great lengths to portray a character is the weight he put on for Raging Bull. He recalls, “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 symbolized by his physical decline. I didn’t think using prosthetics would do the same thing.”

Unlike his contemporary (and The Irishman co-star) Al Pacino, De Niro is not known for acting on the stage — De Niro has made only one appearance on Broadway in 1986 in the play Cuba & the Teddy Bear (De Niro later co-directed the A Bronx Tale: The Musical) and hasn’t done any other stage work. As to why De Niro sticks to film, he reveals, “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.”

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