Interview with Robert De Niro: "Sometimes I don't like to look at myself on the screen"
At the opening of the second Nobu restaurant in Moscow, the famously media shy Robert De Niro opens up to Buro 24/7 on his family life, fame and what it means to be an actor in this generation
You're here in Moscow as a businessman, and not as an actor. Does business play a big part in your life? How did you come about being in the restaurant business? Yes, business is a big part of my life. It all came about when Nobu Matsuhisa asked me if I wanted to take part in opening a branch of his restaurant in New York.
When did you receive your first paycheck? I made money by delivering packages around the city. And then when I was 19, I did my first movie and my mother had to sign a contract. It was $50 per week, I was thrilled. Back then, you had to be 21 to sign something serious as a contract like that.
What do you think of Nobu Matsuhita's acting skills? He's pretty good actually. He even played in a movie I produced but he was eventually cut out. If I convinced Martin Scorsese to take him, he must be really good.
Are there any plans to use him as an actor in your future projects? You never know, there's always a part when someone gets shot — maybe I'll use him for that.
How good of a cook are you? Oh no, I don't cook. These guys I work with are doing a much better job.
What does a respected actor who's played in hundreds of movies know about what a chef does? He understands nothing! The more I learn, the more confusing it gets.
When did you realize how big of a star you were? I probably realized it after The Godfather Part II, but believe it or not I used to worry about it before I made that film. It takes a lot to be recognised especially by people in New York, but even now, people sometimes don't recognise me on the streets.
You're known to be a man of very few words. How's your relationship with the media? As a man of a few words I will say it's okay!
What do you like about society now, and what disappoints you about it? When I was younger, I used to see conflicts around the world and that still seems to be the situation nowadays too. Everyone talks about peace but it seems impossible to come to some sort of unity, it seems that this is the reality. These wars between countries are no different between gang fights in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago.
What does a respected actor who's played in hundreds of movies know about what a chef does? He understands nothing!
What are the most important things to you right now? My family and my children — those are my priorities.
Do you spend a lot of time with them? Yes, a decent amount.
How much do you need to be comfortable? Actually not much. I get up, dress up, maybe I don't eat as much as I want, and I work out.
Are you at all interested in the high life? Yachts, jets and all that jazz comes with being in your position. Sure, I like it when it's around me. I can't lie, I can go simple too. Especially with my family — it's nice to give that lifestyle to my family. If it was for me alone, I could live a more simple life and even take a commercial flight, but I want to give them that life.
What do you think of the younger generation? Do they inspire you? Sometimes when I see young actors or smart young people who create amazing things, that's inspiring to me. I hope they'll be able to deal with all the conflicts of today through technology and instant communication. Things are becoming quickly and universally understood. We all have an iPhone these days and everything goes very fast today, for better and for worse. Movements have happened because of such quick communication and technology is just going to develop further. It's not going away.
You're 72. Do you feel your own age? I feel younger in some ways, but sometimes I realise how old I am. And now if I have a project, I know it might take me longer to finish it than before.
What do you appreciate most in people? When people are nice, considerate, genuine and not trying to be what they aren't. It's important to be yourself and not be arrogant.
Do you have all your awards stacked in one place? I have them around in my home and I give some of them to my agents to have in their offices.
Do you have any moments of vanity? Yeah sure, I have vanity moments. Sometimes I don't like to look at myself on the screen because I look too fat and I make myself look like a character... sometimes I look like myself.