Robert De Niro captivates Tel Aviv University students and supporters

“COVID-19 is a terrible situation for all of us. 9/11 was a terrible disaster, but what’s going on now is even worse.” -Robert De Niro

More than 2,000 participants, including students from Tel Aviv University’s Steve Tisch School of Film and Television and governors and friends from around the world, took part in a webinar with legendary actor Robert De Niro on July 13. The webinar is part of an ongoing series of conversations with major players in the world of film and television as well as TAU experts in all fields. The conversation with Robert De Niro followed last month’s interview with Michael Douglas.

For almost an hour, De Niro captivated the audience with behind-the-scenes stories of the movies he starred in, highlighting the planning and decision-making that are necessary to create a winning movie.

Ido Aharoni, a TAU alumnus and governor, conducted the interview.

When asked about selecting and preparing for roles in crime and law enforcement films as well as in comedies, De Niro said that some roles offer him more flexibility and personal input. When working with his friend “Marty” Scorsese, he and the other actors are “guided into what becomes the final product.”
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Touching on U.S. politics, De Niro, known as an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, reflected, “As I get older, maybe I start to see that there are people in this world who are not good and should not be in places where we know that they are now. They are unforgiving and should not be forgiven for their badness. And there are characters I would not want to even play, like you know who.”
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When asked how he has been coping with the COVID-19 crisis and what effect the virus will have on the film industry, De Niro responded, “It’s a terrible situation for all of us. It shouldn’t have happened the way it did. This is a situation that could have been minimized or possibly even avoided.” He concluded, “We are paying for it now, and dying for it.”

De Niro is uncertain as to whether streaming platforms signal the end of cinema, especially given the current reality of lockdowns and social distancing. “Streaming is good because you can tell a story in a much longer and detailed way,” he said. “But I don’t know where we are going with it, especially with this COVID-19. There will always have to be theaters. You want to watch a movie with an audience. I do at times, especially a comedy or any movie that has something in it.”
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De Niro said he was grateful to Netflix for financing one of his films, which was shown first in theatres for a few weeks, then streamed on Netflix.

De Niro reminisced about his first trip to Israel, about 40 years ago. Then, he met Moshe Dayan and Ezer Weizman and began friendships that endure until today. His most recent trip was in 2013 on the occasion of former President Shimon Peres’ 90th birthday. He traveled to Israel with one of his children and described Shimon Peres as “a great person, a great statesman.”

De Niro concluded with advice to the students: “Keep your own voice, specifically yours, as much as possible…Personalize your performance, along the lines of what is demanded of it. Follow your instincts.” It seems that he himself has followed this advice throughout his prolific career.

About the Steve Tisch School of Film and Television

Founded in 1972, the Steve Tisch School of Film and Television offers unique and diverse opportunities for developing proficiency in film and television production and for studying film history, theory, and criticism. Many of Israel’s most prominent filmmakers, scholars and critics are among its graduates; student films produced in the school are screened regularly at prestigious international festivals, where they have won numerous awards. The Hollywood Reporter ranked the Steve Tisch School of Film & TV among the top 15 international film schools.

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