MEET THE FOCKERS - Q&A with ROBERT DE NIRO & BLYTHE DANNER
Mr De Niro, Jay Roach just called you a pussycat. How do you feel about that?
ROBERT DE NIRO: Well, uh, it's okay. Jay's a terrific director and terrific person and we are all lucky to have him to be the director of the both movies.
BLYTHE DANNER: He is a pussycat (laughs).
There were two methods of child raising portrayed in the movie. Which method do you prefer, the more disciplined one of the Byrnes' or the 'you can't love your child too much' of the Fockers'?
BLYTHE DANNER: For me it was the Fockers, actually, personally.
ROBERT DE NIRO: Me too.
Mr De Niro, the director said that because of the things that happened in your own life you were more willing to think about your legacy. Having had a reminder of your own mortality, has your look on life changed?
ROBERT DE NIRO: Probably. A little bit. You just realize that life is moving on and you just have to make decisions, if you are going to do something, you better do it now as opposed to thinking that you are going to do it later and 10 years go by and you are "I didn't even do that thing I always wanted to do" and stuff like that.
Ms Danner, you became a grandmother recently, how do you feel about it?
BLYTHE DANNER: Ooh, need I say more? (Laughs) Just look at my face. It's an extraordinary experience. All of my friends who are grandparents have been saying "just wait" a bit cynically, but it's just extraordinary. You feel like a child again yourself. Just walking on air, it's wonderful. And of course you feel responsibility. I think after the election we've been so depressed and so upset (laughs), we have very little to look forward to in a way that I feel that it's our children who do give us hope because they are the ones who are going to save the world. We're trying our best but not having the best luck at the moment.
Mr De Niro, are other actors intimidated by you?
ROBERT DE NIRO: When you work on a movie day after day, that goes away, just everybody's working together. The relationship as characters towards each other was supposed to be like that, but as far as actual intimidation other than that, Ben and I are past that point. Working day after day you don't have much time for that.
How was it having Barbra Streisand riding on your back?
ROBERT DE NIRO: Well, it was interesting. She worked hard on that scene, I tell you. She felt like she worked out. That's one scene we worked on a lot.
BLYTHE DANNER: She gives a good back rub.
Was it your idea to have the artificial boob and how did it feel?
ROBERT DE NIRO: No, it wasn't. I don't know where that came from. It came from John Hamburg and Jay probably or one of the other writers. I'm not sure but that wasn't my idea.
How did it feel?
ROBERT DE NIRO: It felt kind of weird but it was funny.
In addition to being an actor you are also a successful restaurant owner. Which work is your passion?
ROBERT DE NIRO: I love acting, that's what I do and directing, I do less of that obviously. And the restaurant stuff has become very successful and I did that just because I like good food. That just evolved.
What is your most embarrassing parent related incident?
BLYTHE DANNER: I guess when I was at a party with my daughter who was about this tall (about 120 cm) and we were at an opening, and I kept seeing this little hand coming up towards the champagne tray. I kept thinking "who is that?" I had to carry her home on my shoulder. I hadn't paid close attention (laughs) and she was having a good time.
ROBERT DE NIRO: I can think of when I embarrassed my kids, they don't like to see me act silly or act funny.
Do they watch your movies?
ROBERT DE NIRO: Not yet, my younger ones are not ready for that.
In what ways do you act silly?
ROBERT DE NIRO: Oh, dance around, singing and act silly. They're embarrassed by that, especially if I do it in front of friends.
Mr De Niro, some people say that comedic acting is actually more of a challenge then straight dramatic acting. What are your thoughts on that?
ROBERT DE NIRO: Well, in some ways it depends on what the part is and what the situation is. I think with the comedy that I feel that I can do the way I do, it's fun to kind of make choices that you can't do in a dramatic situation because it would be funny, so, whereas you could do something that would be dramatic and at the same time you could put a little spin on it and you get away with it because it's meant to be funny, if that makes any sense.
Jay Roach said that each of you contributed to the story. Is there a specific scene that has your fingerprints on it?
BLYTHE DANNER: Well, as Bob was saying before it's such a collaborative effort so many things came out of just, you know, improvisation and talking. Like one particular moment, I just worked on being a very life affirming, kind of good peacemaker in the family but a specific piece of business I can't put my finger on.
Mr De Niro, do you still have to work on the character and rehearsing beforehand?
ROBERT DE NIRO: Yeah, of course. That doesn't change.
Do you have any plans for producing and directing?
ROBERT DE NIRO: We're producing a few things which I, at the moment, don't have the names in front of me but we are doing, still doing a few things including THE GOOD SHEPHERD that I'm going to direct, and RENT.
Are you a cat or a dog person?
BLYTHE DANNER: Dog.
ROBERT DE NIRO: I like dogs and cats.
Is there a specific scene where it was very hard for you not to stop laughing while filming?
BLYTHE DANNER: The toilet. The dog in the toilet scene. (Laughs) Even though I love dogs it was just hilarious, it was beautifully edited. It was very funny.
ROBERT DE NIRO: Oh, Yeah. No. Some scenes we would do we'd break up, I'd forget there was something...one where Ben and I were talking about his family at the night before party and we were sort of improvising and we were both doing it very straight, you know, and I was as the prospective father-in-law and we were sort of riffing, or whatever on the names of the character's relatives. It was just very funny, at least for us it was. Couldn't stop, couldn't control ourselves.
This is the second time you've done a sequel to a comedy. What about your dramas, is there any character you would like to revisit?
ROBERT DE NIRO: I was thinking once with Marty Scorsese about doing sort of a, I guess you'd call it a sequel to TAXI DRIVER where he's older and so on, but we never could come up with the right way to do it, so...
Does that mean it might happen?
ROBERT DE NIRO: I don't, I don't know, I mean, it sort of fizzled out.
Both MEET THE PARENTS and this sequel are good studies in a comedic way about parent-children relationships. Did you draw from your own experiences and could you identify with your characters?
ROBERT DE NIRO Sure. I'm not like the character the way he is but I could understand it. But I'm not that kind of a parent with my own daughter.
Are you less over protective?
ROBERT DE NIRO: I'm protective, of course, but not in that way.
BLYTHE DANNER: Not militaristic. (Laughs) I wish I was as uncomplicated and just purely loving as Dina, I think I have a lot of, lot of crazy layers.
Mr De Niro, you said you're not like the father in this movie but still one day your daughter will come home with a guy. What are going to put him through and are you ready for that?
ROBERT DE NIRO: No, I get along very well with my daughter's fiancé so I haven't, you know... We are okay, I mean, sometimes, some people I've met I wasn't crazy about but I'm very careful to preserve my judgment until the right time. Cause it's, it's their life and I have to respect that.
A lot of people seems to be intimidated of you. Even Jay said that, the first time he directed you in MEET THE PARENTS he didn't dare to give you any direction. How is it to have that affect on people?
ROBERT DE NIRO: Once you start working with people that goes away.
Your daughter's fiancé was probably scared out of his pants at once?
ROBERT DE NIRO: Well, he might have been, I don't know but we have a great relationship. We're always kidding each other and we sort of play on that stuff at times but, but...
Are you frightened of him, Ms. Danner?
BLYTHE DANNER: No, I'm not. I was initially. (Laughs)
How did you solve that?
BLYTHE DANNER: I just did a lot of stroking. I feel good when I pat and hold somebody.
Did you end up becoming your own parents, did you become like your mother and did you become like your father?
BLYTHE DANNER: In some aspects yes, others no. You know I was raised in a time where children were still seen and not heard basically, so I think a lot of us in my generation went the other way and just tried to be as much more liberal and open and we're still paying for it.
ROBERT DE NIRO: As I get older I see certain things that I'm like them. And you always say, well, I don't want to be like them in certain ways but you get older, certain things are ingrained in you in a, in a way. So...
Mr. De Niro, how was it working with Mr. Dustin Hoffman?
ROBERT DE NIRO: Dustin is fine. We've done two movies together, this is the second, and, you know, it's fun.
In what ways?
ROBERT DE NIRO: He has ideas sometimes, he'll think of something or change it and that's just the way it is. There is nothing that unique or different. He is different than I and all of us. Dustin, the way he works, and he's kind of nutty in some ways. He does things to break the tension. He'll try and he'll burp or fart, excuse my French, and stuff like that, he's done that.
Mr De Niro, you've been acting for so long and you've done many amazing characters. Is there still a role you want to do in the future?
ROBERT DE NIRO: Yeah, but I can't think off hand now what they'd be. I'm not sure, but I know that there are things that I'd love to do but I can't figure it out.
Mr De Niro, you have been in more comedies than in dramas lately. Does that mean that you are taking yourself less seriously nowadays or that you're getting funnier?
ROBERT DE NIRO: Well, I've done things over the years that were funny characters, that had a certain irony and the humour in their behaviour, so this is going further of being an outright comedy but I always felt I had a good sense of humour about things, and I see the irony in the behaviour of certain characters no matter how serious they may be or how seriously they take themselves.
Why do you want to direct?
ROBERT DE NIRO: For me it keeps my mind occupied in many different ways. It's a lot of hard work but I like to do it.
Is there an actor who could possibly intimidate you?
BLYTHE DANNER: Well, he was, yes, that would have been him but I've gotten past that, so, no. (Laughs)
ROBERT DE NIRO: Yes, Blythe. No, not that I can think of anybody.
How difficult was Barbra Streisand to work with and how easy it is to work with Ben Stiller?
ROBERT DE NIRO: Barbara was great and Ben is great. He's very funny, he's terrific. We all had a good time.
BLYTHE DANNER: Yeah, I've known Ben since he was little boy. So, I'm friendly with his parents. It's wonderful just to have seen him evolve into this fabulous actor. Barbra, I had the good fortune of being directed by several years ago in PRINCE OF TIDES and she is incredibly generous just as she is as an actor, I mean there is something about having an ear like hers to the musicality, it just leaves her naturally to wonderful directing as in acting. So much of it is, I think, music driven.
Is the rumour not true then that she's hard to work with?
BLYTHE DANNER: I think she is a perfectionist and when she is working with a team that is less than perfect she's probably demanding and has every right to be. 'Cause she's very smart she knows what is needed, not only for herself but she's generous, for the whole. She's very much aware of the whole and how everyone works together, I think that's what makes her so great.
Do you ever think about retiring from the acting business?
ROBERT DE NIRO: No, I don't know. I used to see actors say, "I'm going to finish, it's over." Then they go back anyway two years later or three years later, so, I'd never say that. And I don't feel that. Sometimes I'm tired, you know, fed up with certain things but, oh, well, it's too complicated to go into.
How was it playing mother to your real life daughter on screen and would you like to do it again?
BLYTHE DANNER: Yes, I forget that she has such an extraordinary talent, that I forget when I'm working with her that she's my daughter. I've done a few things with her now and I'm off camera giving her, her lines for her close up and I remember once I actually went "who is this girl? Oh, my, this is, it's my daughter, yeah." It's a joy to work with her. Yeah.
Since you have such a history with your name what do you think about Gwyneth continuing with exotic names like Apple?
BLYTHE DANNER: I know, and then we have Julia Roberts with Hazel and Phinnaeus. I just think it may be people who are creative or think we're creative. Speaking of myself they certainly are or there's just an attraction to something that's unusual and I was attracted to Gwyneth from a school friend who was British. I was six years old and she was very eccentric and had a beautiful English accent and when the time came, I just named Gwyneth after that. I got a lot of guff for naming her Gwyneth.
I bet Gwyneth isn't eccentric at all in Britain. You know that?
BLYTHE DANNER: No, but it is in here, and actually Apple I think, also I hear it's more common in Britain, as in Pear, there more fruit names in Britain.
Would you discourage your children to act?
ROBERT DE NIRO: Well, I wouldn't discourage him if that's what he wanted to do. I'd just tell him what the down side is and what the upside is. It's hard when you're starting out and if he's my kid, there's a lot of loaded stuff coming in. You know, going for an audition and people will do it out of respect or just as a courtesy, but it doesn't mean...it might even work against him, there's all that kind of stuff. But I would never discourage them, I wouldn't have the right to do that. I would encourage them.
Mr De Niro, I just wonder would travelling around in a big motor home be an option for you, would you ever think about taking your daughter and your future son-in-law for a trip across country?
ROBERT DE NIRO: I thought of it. I know some people who have done it or who do it, but I thought of it but then thinking about it and doing it is another thing, you know. I don't know. Not, not such a big motor home maybe a little smaller. Maybe in another country, or Europe or something.
Was there a clash of the Method titans on the set? Like was there any competitiveness in the football scene?
ROBERT DE NIRO: No, I think Jay shot that very quickly, actually. It wasn't like with the children, if he got a good take he knew he had a good take. We didn't labour it and go over it and over it and over it, you know.
Is Dustin Hoffman a good neck kisser?
ROBERT DE NIRO: Yeah, he's a good one.
What was that experience like?
ROBERT DE NIRO: Well, it was supposed to be discomforting, so, I played that.
As an Italian, are you used to kissing men on the cheek?
ROBERT DE NIRO: (Laughs) Sometimes. Kissing men...
Mr De Niro, do you have any plans to work again with Martin Scorsese?
ROBERT DE NIRO: Yeah I would like to do a few more movies with Marty. There's nothing concrete yet. We've talked about things over the years and, and I would like to do couple of more films with him.
Ms Danner, what are you doing next because your pager has been going off every few seconds, I think there's a very big offer coming up?
BLYTHE DANNER: No, I don't think so. I've just had a fortunate year of playing many different women which I love. At my age in Hollywood it's very difficult in television especially. I'm very grateful for this job because I don't get an opportunity to do a lot of features, but in TV I've been playing a lot of different women.
Would you like to make a third part of this movie?
BLYTHE DANNER: Yeah, we were talking about the title, we would call it the...
ROBERT DE NIRO: Meet The Little Fockers, I think (laughs).
What did Barbara Streisand whisper in your ear in the scene where she gave you some sex tips, we did see the results after all?
ROBERT DE NIRO: Well, that's the point. You have to figure it out. You can put in whatever you want.
But did she say anything?
ROBERT DE NIRO: She might have, I think, when we were kidding around, yeah.
Which are the sort of comedies you prefer whether it be Billy Wilder or Alexander Payne or something else?
BLYTHE DANNER: I like Billy Wilder a lot and I think one of my very favorite films of all time was with Peter Sellers when he played Chauncey, the gardener. What was it called?
BLYTHE DANNER: BEING THERE 'cause it was so gentle, it was so, so lovely. That wasn't Billy Wilder, who was that was Hal Ashby...
ROBERT DE NIRO: Yeah, I like Alexander Payne, I like that. I haven't seen the latest film. There's other things that I've seen I liked.
Do you see a lot of new films?
ROBERT DE NIRO: I don't see a lot, as you know. I thought SOMETHING ABOUT MARY was very funny (laughs) The Farrelly Brothers are pretty funny.
Ms Danner, do you have a favorite Coldplay track?
BLYTHE DANNER: Well, of course. The last one was my...I was introduced to Chris after. I'm not very up on rock'n'roll. I am a big jazz buff, so it has been an education but certainly this last album was just beautiful. Now he's working on a new one.
In looking at Gwyneth Paltrow, one can see why she's as beautiful as she is, but do you also do yoga or diet or exercise?
BLYTHE DANNER: She has my husband's wonderful family cheekbones, those wonderful movie star cheekbones. She didn't get that from me. She's actually the one who started me doing the macrobiotic diet which is very helpful. Yeah, I find I could fly more easily without all those, that milk in my sinuses. It helps.
Mr Roach talked a little bit about your relationship with the babies, but could you tell us how much did the twins love you?
ROBERT DE NIRO: Well, the kids were good. It's terrifying for little kids to be in a movie. It's terrifying for adults some time, you know. And so...
Did they know who you were by the way?
ROBERT DE NIRO: No, they (laughs) didn't. They didn't care either. One of the guys was crying more than the other one and then we had a third kid who was used as a double for profile shots, and the back of his head so he was terrific. The kids were very sweet kids and we got through it.
Jay Roach was saying that he thought that as an actor you quite like props. A baby's not a prop, but do you quite like these sort of wild card things?
ROBERT DE NIRO: Yeah. I don't mind that. With the kids you never know what you're going to get and, they also did second unit with the kids, all the sign language, which they spent a lot of time, as far as I know, doing that. But, no, the kids were great. You know, the cats were good and the dog. I mean it's, those are all unpredictables.
Jay Roach actually mentioned that you like having something like a cat or whatever to take your mind off the dialogue. How does that work for you?
ROBERT DE NIRO: Well, if you have some another task that can take your mind off of what you're supposed to be doing, so you're not just directly doing whatever it is.
How much does the phrase "Are you talking to me?" follow you, like two years ago on a TV show INSIDE THE ACTOR'S STUDIO the host James Lipton tried to get you to say the phrase which you refused to do, which is very understandable...
ROBERT DE NIRO: Right.
So do people still yell it out to you or come up to you and ask you to say it?
ROBERT DE NIRO: Yeah, sometimes people will say it. I sort of avoid it somehow and deflect it. But I did do it in ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE.
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