Dear So-and-So: Robert De Niro
Can I call you Bobby D? Ok, probably not. Weíll just stick with Mr. De Niro, shall we?
Mr. De Niro, I write this letter with all due respect. You sir are, without a doubt, one of the greatest actors of this or any other generation, and fully worthy of being categorized with the greats like Humphrey Bogart, Spencer Tracy, James Cagney, Marlon Brando, Henry Fonda, Clint Eastwood, your pals Al Pacino, and Jack Nicholson, and the other great ones that Iím forgetting to mention here. Between the years 1972-1999 your filmography reads like a list of modern classics: MEAN STREETS, THE GODFATHER PART 2, TAXI DRIVER, 1900,THE DEER HUNTER, RAGING BULL, THE KING OF COMEDY, BRAZIL, ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, THE MISSION, THE UNTOUCHABLES, ANGEL HEART, GOODFELLAS, AWAKENINGS, A BRONX TALE, CASINO, RONIN and many others.
Now letís take a look at some of the post 1999 highlights: ANALYZE THIS/THAT, MEET THE PARENTS/FOCKERS/LITTLE FOCKERS, SHOWTIME, THE ADVENTURES OF ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE, HIDE AND SEEK, RIGHTEOUS KILL, EVERYBODYíS FINE, and MACHETE.
See the problem?
I think I know what happened here. ANALYZE THIS, which was a pretty decent comedy (although not the classic some have pegged it as) was a fun flick, and it was great watching you send up your own image, while revealing a little utilized flair for humor (although MIDNIGHT RUN proved you were capable of it ten years earlier). The film grossed over $100 Million, which shockingly was the first film of yours to pass this milestone, and your next comedy, MEET THE PARENTS was an even bigger hit.
At this point, I was with you all the way. I was thrilled that the masses were finally turning out to see your films in droves, but then something went horribly wrong. Rather than go back to dramas, you started doing crappy comedy after crappy comedy. I mean, Fearless Leader in ROCKY & BULLWINKLE? SHOWTIME? ANALYZE THAT was god-awful, and a flop- but just when I thought that would put you back into dramas, MEET THE FOCKERS comes out and grosses close to $300 Million, forever dooming us to another series of shitty comedies, and tepid thrillers like GODSEND, and HIDE & SEEK.
In the last ten years, there were only two movies where I felt I was watching the old Robert De Niro. The first was THE GOOD SHEPARD, which you also directed. By no means was it a great film, but it was ambitious, and it was obvious you put a lot of yourself into it, which was refreshing after a bunch of phoned-in performances. The other time was STARDUST, a really fun fantasy film that reminded me a bit of your work in BRAZIL. After that, you acted in what I think are the two worst films youíve ever done- RIGHTEOUS KILL, and LITTLE FOCKERS.
LITTLE FOCKERS I expected to be bad, but let me ask you, why does it exist? The only reason anyone thought making LITTLE FOCKERS was a good idea was to line their pockets with cash, but after thirty years of being a movie star, when have you made enough money? LITTLE FOCKERS was so bad, it must have been painfully obvious to anyone involved they were making a horrible movie, but I guess no one cared- as long as there were enough suckers to go see it.
As for RIGHTEOUS KILL, that one stung, as the last time you and Al Pacino teamed up you made HEAT, a masterpiece. But RIGHTEOUS KILL? It was a direct-to-DVD potboiler that only made it into theaters due to you and Pacino being the leads. Pacino seems to have learned from this mistake, and has started taken supporting roles in indies like SON OF NO ONE (which you dropped out of), and appearing in interesting films like HBOís YOU DONíT KNOW JACK.
Iíd say that STONE was probably a step in the right direction as you seemed to engage in the film more than any of you other recent films, but no one went, and you know why? Itís because people donít trust you anymore! Your name attached to a film used to guaranteed quality, now it does just the opposite.
Youíve got four films in production for next year, including a role in a Jason Statham action flick; a part in Garry Marshallís sequel to VALENTINEíS DAY- NEW YEARíS DAY, and LIMITLESS with Bradley Cooper. LIMITLESS looks OK, and I love Statham as much as the next guy, but why are you in it? And the Garry Marshall flick? Opposite Zac Efron and Ashton Kutcher! Címon!
Interestingly, I think that more than anyone else we've written about in this column, you're aware that your recent films have been bad. Your Golden Globe speech was fantastic, despite the naysayers, as you acknowledged the turkeys you've been in. Due to your talent, and stature, I'm sure you're flooded with movie offers, but please, be more selective.
The slump you're in now reminds me of the one Michael Caine was in throughout the late eighties/ early nineties. He did movies like JAWS: THE REVENGE for paychecks, but after a while the offers stopped coming in, as his name didn't mean anything anymore. Luckily, he turned it around, and over the last ten years, he's made some of the best films of his career. I know you have something of THE QUIET AMERICAN's caliber in you still.
At only sixty-seven, youíve got many good years of films left in you, but please- TRY to make good movies, and donít just accept roles because of a paycheck. I doubt you need the money. Remember what happened to Marlon Brando. He was one of the greatest actors of all time, and what was his last screen credit? A cameo in a Michael Jackson video. You deserve better.