tv Bloomberg Businessweek Debrief A Conversation with Robert De Niro and... Bloomberg June 4, 2017 2:00am-2:31am EDT
>> robert de niro is perhaps the leading actor. but when it comes to the business film, de niro and his producing partner jane rosenthal launch the tribeca film festival in 2002. the annual event brought hundreds of independent films to wider audiences, fostering a vibrant creative community. mr. de niro: it's becoming a tradition that will last forever. megan: while constantly expanding its artistic horizon. ms. rosenthal: you are on different streams, but still telling these great stories. megan: i sat down with these two legendary figures on the eve of this year's festival, and we discussed everything from partnerships. mr. de niro: i said read this book, this is what we should be
doing. megan: -- to platforms. >> we have to look at where the audience are. to politics. mr. deniro: he has debased the presidency, as far as i'm concerned. megan: that is all coming up in the special bloomberg business in brief, "a conversation with robert deniro and jane rosenthal." i began by asking de niro how he approached the story of bernie madoff, who he plays in the upcoming hbo film. mr. deniro: i always felt very strongly that the kids didn't know anything. and i don't think his wife did either, really. he protected them. i don't see anything that says otherwise. but it was an interesting character. it's been so long, i did it almost a year and a half ago. >> a master manipulator.
>> yeah, i mean, it's the classic con, where everybody comes to him and they want to be part of this club. and that whole thing evolved through his personality, his way of manipulating people that he became -- it's classic. it's a classic sort of con situation. that people fell for. megan: jane, it wasn't the easiest movie to get made. you options the book six years ago, so tell me about that process. i heard you say had you done it right away, the film would've been different in terms of focusing more on the scheme and the con, and it became more about the family and a family story of family breaking apart. ms. rosenthal: when the book came out, "wizard of lies," it would have focused more on the
ponzi scheme, and as we got distance from it, one son died of cancer, one son hung himself. and as you get further away, you realized this broken family. so, there were certainly, bernie hurt a lot of people. he was really quite despicable. but he also hurt those who thought he was protecting. and left them in such a vulnerable position. there's a moment in the film where mark says how do i trust anything about myself, when the father who raised me, who taught me right from wrong, has lied about everything? and so you think about that and growing up like that it really made for magnificent drama. megan: and hbo was your partner as well and helped push to get
that through, obviously hoping that it will get a larger audience than had you gone through more traditional -- ms. rosenthal: if we had gone through more traditional -- a, this is not a movie the major studios are making today. it would be considered a smaller movie. so you would be doing this the independent film route, and that is a lot of work. it is a lot of pushing papers and this way, hbo came in and is is terrific and really supported the project and it's the first time that bob and michelle pfeiffer did a project for hbo. megan: speaking of other nontraditional projects, i'm excited about "the irishman," which is bringing the band back together.
in some ways. joe pesci, you, al pacino, the story of jimmy hoffa's disappearance. mr. deniro: right, right. yeah, i mean hopefully joe pesci will be in it. ms. rosenthal: we're not sure. mr. deniro: we wanted in it. ms. rosenthal: this is the moment we are going to say, joe, are you going to do this or not? megan: joe, on bloomberg, you got to get to this movie. tell me about this ongoing long-term partnership with martin scorsese. mr. deniro: yeah. we were involved another project that we were going to do, and "i -- i read this other "i heard you paint houses," it was over two years i wanted to read it, and i said, marty, read this book. because this is more what should -- what we should be doing. and we tried at one point of the old project in the new thing together, but it was too complicated.
so we pivoted, and -- it's been about 10 years. ms. rosenthal: it was 10 years ago, we were having a green light call on the other project and bob says, maybe there's this other project. so there went a go movie turned into a development deal turns into, here we are 10 years later. but anyway, it is really exciting. megan: one thing that's fascinating from the business side is you are going through netflix for this and they have put up the money. how disruptive is that now, in terms of that kind of model or amazon, or going straight to them, than the traditional film industry? ms. rosenthal: the business is rapidly changing. i think that the audience and consumers have more choices than ever. and they are screen agnostic. so it doesn't make a difference whether you can do it on netflix
and screen it on a big screen, or you want to watch it on a small screen. i have teenagers now that are watching something at every moment, whether it's on their phone, computer, or a large screen. so consumer behaviors are changing, and as producers, it's really quite -- it's wonderful for us. because if we want to make a certain type of film, there are all different venues to go through. there are all different opportunities for financing. we have to start looking at where the consumer is, where the audiences are. and audiences now have so many different choices, and you have and so you have to be able to differentiate the project and what's good for a project and where it belongs and on what platform. megan: i want to turn to talk about the festival. because it's the 16th year, and just how much it's been a vital
obviously, and cultural rebuilding after 9/11 in new york, but also an economic renaissance downtown as well. when you look at it, how has it evolved through the years, what are you most proud of, and what it's become for new york? mr. deniro: well, i'm proud it lasted this long, a tradition that will last forever. i'm very, very excited, proud, it's just there. ms. rosenthal: you think after that first year, we opened the film festival that first year on the steps of city hall with bob, the mayor, president clinton, and nelson mandela. so, basically gave us the permission to go watch some movies. you couldn't just go from being
a recovery operation to suddenly -- in lower manhattan, to screening movies. and mandela came and blessed the opportunity and said you've got to celebrate community. megan: now so much of the festival, when i read about it, is about exploring these boundaries of tech, gaming, for example. i didn't know you produced a video game in 1996 with a cast, if i'm correct, jim belushi, cher, ellen degeneres, and steven tyler. in a game called "the last resort." it's been a long-term passion of yours and it's going to be a big part of the festival this year. ms. rosenthal: yes. we have always been interested in novelistic storytelling, even i think the projects that bob has been attracted to, if you look at something like "the good shepherd," the length of those stories, they are more novelistic.
so, for me, it's different for bob, but i'm always interested in nonlinear storytelling. and this year at the festival, we have kojima, ken levine who did "bioshock." some of the most extraordinary storytellers in gaming. so it's another way to look at how entertainment is changing, how you are on different screens, but you are still telling these great stories. the festival a number of years ago was the first festival to actually screen a game. we screened "l.a. noire," from rockstar, which is a terrific company based in new york. megan: the arts have been under fire under president trump. coming up, jane rosenthal and robert de niro fire back. ms. rosenthal: artist voices need to be heard loud and proud. ms. rosenthal: this is real. ♪
♪ megan: you have been, bob, quite vocal about some of the political climate that we are living in and you have been quite vocal about trump. you called him a bully and a pig and threatened to punch him. is there anything during this first 100 days that has given you time to pause and think, this could be better or worse? mr. deniro: well, i always try and give every situation that i feel is negative the benefit of the doubt, that it will change and get better. i have not seen that with him. he's -- it's the same situation, i don't think it will change. he will do certain things like what he did in syria, i agree,
what he should have done. but i don't know where that is going to go. i'm worried we're going to get into a situation where we have a real confrontation and in that sense, he might do something and he will get credit for it, everyone will think is a great president or something along those lines. that's my concern. but i think, other than that, he's just, he's not -- he has debased the presidency, as far as i'm concerned. megan: let's talk about that a little bit. when people talk about debasing the president, and then you see during his presidency whether it's calling out meryl streep, a friend of yours, saying it's important for everyone to be active. when we see "saturday night live" with alec baldwin playing trump or melissa mccarthy playing spicer, one of my concerns, having covered washington as well, is that these lines are blurred now between what people expect from
the political class and what they expect from entertainment, sports, etc. are you concerned about this convergence of reality tv show style and political life? mr. deniro: you know, this is not "the apprentice," this is real, and every thing he does and says is very important and has an impact around the world. it's not a game, and he is so narcissistic and so self-centered. he doesn't really i don't know whether he gets it or -- i just don't understand it. i don't understand how he became president. i think a lot of us feel that way. it's just -- it's mortifying. and not to say that he won't do good things, and i will be the first to give him credit for that. but so far -- megan: jane, you have been quite politically active as well. when you look at the environment
and you look at some of the targeted budget cuts that he has made, national endowment for the arts and humanities, pbs, etc. what are you telling people in the industry now about their voice going forward, is it impacting projects, decisions you are making about what to do? ms. rosenthal: artist voices need to be heard loud and proud and to keep going. and the nea is such a small amount by comparison to everything else that the support of the nea is vital. it is a public community. we are judged, we are remembered by our culture. but artists have always made it through the most difficult times, and artists' voices bring us together. it's in our dna, it's how we started the film festival with artists joining together to say
that we're still here after a terrorist act in our country. so we will persevere. megan: is there anything the entertainment industry should do to help reduce partisanship? or is it always going to be that hollywood, new york, san francisco have a, or promote more liberal values than large swaths of the country, whether it's rural america -- mr. deniro: it's a good question. i think we as a country represent so many good things to the rest of the world. not in everything, but many good things, progressive things. i'm sorry that we don't appeal to people in the middle of the country, who have their own needs or issues, and rightfully so. but we represent something that is very important, and we don't want to go backwards on that stuff. we can't. and i think if anything, with
trump, so far, it has shown that this country -- the system is pushing back on what he's been doing. and so that, in a way -- i used to joke that he didn't become president, he said i should get -- i shook it up, and i should get credit for that. he did shake it up and i give him credit. he shakes it up right now. and we are -- the system is fighting back, pushing back. megan: up next, a discussion of disruption. how netflix and amazon are changing the distribution game. ms. rosenthal: the traditional players are going to have to look hard at their business and start taking some real risk in what they are doing. megan: and a master's advice for young actors. mr. deniro: the auditions, even after they have been cast, you go, you go. ♪
♪ megan: bob, i went back and watched the graduation address you gave at tisch two years ago, and it went viral because you had said at the very beginning something i can't say on tv like congratulations, you made it, and now, to paraphrase, you don't have a great outlook. the thing that stood out for me in that talk was how much you talked about failure and rejection and the struggle. and you have talked a lot about how you were lucky, but how much is lucky combined with going through that struggle of rejection and pushing through? mr. deniro: well, luck is there, but you have to be ready to be in a position to get lucky. and that means you have to consistently be doing what you have to do, because you love doing it. and you just can't give up, you
goota to keep going to auditions. as i did. even though they've been cast already, you go, you go, you go. for example, if you see a casting director go, assume you're not going to get the part, and you won't get the part, most likely, the casting director, who is more important than the director in some ways, because they work with a lot of directors. they will remember you and say, this person wasn't quite right for what you are thinking, but you should meet them because they are interesting and it's an interesting thing that i have seen. that means you have to go out there and keep moving forward. you can't give up. megan: when did you realize you were good? mr. deniro: oh. i don't even know if i'm good now. i mean, i just do what i'm doing. ms. rosenthal: even as producers, you are being told no all the time. you were just talking about "the irishman," those projects took a long, long time.
it's, we are still, knock on wood, talk about being lucky -- hoping "irishman" goes 100%. i mean, even as we sit here. megan: even at your level, the work that goes into it. ms. rosenthal: when he says you got to keep -- it's every day. it's like, what are we going to do? a lot of times it's like sisyphus pushing old rock up a hill. megan: that's what journalism is like. ms. rosenthal: you get told in this business no more than you get told yes, no matter what voltage position you think someone perceives you as being in, you get told no more than yes. megan: what do you think is the thing we may not be seeing in terms of the next disruption to entertainment or the next thing? the next wave of distribution or the way consumption -- bringing
stuff to the audience in a different way? is it virtual reality? is it -- what's the next big thing? ms. rosenthal: the next -- virtual reality is still so new. and until the actual headsets get to be a bit more practical and completely affordable beyond just the cardboard, it will take a while. certainly for journalism and documentary films, vr is wonderful because you can walk in the shoes of somebody. and it is so empathetic. i do think where gaming is going, in so many ways, from a business standpoint of e-sports, will be a huge business. it certainly is already with "league of legends" and some of
the other smaller games. in terms of storytelling, you're seeing creatives play on all different platforms. so i'm not giving you that one simple answer. vr might be it, but it's not necessarily just vr, it's more mixed reality and how you use it might not be what you think you're going use it for. so it may be for an aging population versus just entertainment. megan: on that note, in terms of what's changing, what do you have left you want to do, in terms of your legacy and what want to do with the festival? what's on your bucket list? mr. deniro: with the festival, we don't know. it's constantly changing. so it will be what it will be and we just have to hopefully be ahead of the curve and part of it and roll with it.
i'm doing "the irishman" with marty, which i'm looking forward to. and then i'm doing a thing with david o russell, for two seasons at this point, which i'm looking forward to. it's a family saga. megan: a tv series. mr. deniro: it's for amazon. megan: again, bring the band back together. ms. rosenthal: when you talk about that, years ago, even 10 years ago, you wouldn't have somebody like bob or meryl crossing back-and-forth between film and tv. now people do it with ease. there were definitely real dividing lines in hollywood. we didn't even eat in the same restaurants. megan: tell me, on that
metamorphosis, is netflix now, is amazon the place you go to take these big risks? that you can afford to get the backing and the freedom to do these kind of projects? ms. rosenthal: they are certainly taking the risks right now, and i think that the traditional players are also going to have to look hard at their business and start taking some real risk in what they are doing. as long as certain networks are getting the audiences they want and are happy with that, that's one thing. you look at how the advertising industry has changed and the death of the 30-second and 60-second spot, now everyone wants to do branded content and you have ad blockers. the business has just changed so much. so for creatives, we have all different opportunities. that is what these new distribution patterns have
♪ narrator: our world today is wealthier than ever. but not everyone shares in this wealth. today's young business leaders are challenging this, changing the way we think about money, its power and its purpose. this is a new generation. this is the new philanthropy. ♪ narrator: beatrice trussardi is