the take

How Robert De Niro Can Save His Career

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After Robert De Niro fired CAA last week, commenter “A CAA Agent” wrote an angry post on Nikki Finke’s blog explaining how an ungrateful De Niro ran his career into the ground. It warmly concluded, “Good luck in the Hotel Business, pal.” Whether the comment was tapped out from inside CAA’s luxe Century City headquarters or not, it hit on the truth: The great De Niro’s career has hit a dry patch. Stardust bombed, What Just Happened? has no distributor, and his most significant recent pop-culture exploit was posing next to a baseball-bat-wielding 50 Cent on the cover of Vibe.

So, how to make the bull rage once more? “CAA Agent” suggested that De Niro’s fatal error was in forsaking “the Nicholson route — very selective, very particular, protect the brand.” But if De Niro were the kind of guy who’d choose to act in only six movies over ten years, he never would have co-starred in Godsend. Let’s face it: The man likes to work. So the issue becomes, how can he work smarter?

Step 1. Work With the Greats. Scurrilous Internet rumor has it you turned down the Martin Sheen role in The Departed. Bobby, bubbeleh: Take the next role Martin Scorsese offers you, even if it involves wrangling Keith Richard’s giant scarf. Reuniting with Heat director Michael Mann in the upcoming Frankie Machine is a good first step. Now let’s see what the Coens, or Spielberg, or a reteaming with Alfonso Cuarón would do for you.

Step 2. Work With the Young. Analyze This and Meet the Parents got the box office, but De Niro’s most adept comic role was actually as the terminally slow-witted Louis in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown. There is a generation of directors like Tarantino who grew up worshiping you. Find the most promising ones — the millennial Michael Ciminos — and take what they’re selling. It would be a different movie, granted, but if you had starred in Tom McCarthy’s The Visitor instead of Richard Jenkins, you’d be a lock for an Oscar nomination — and the movie would have opened in more than four theaters.

Step 3. If All Else Fails, Make a Sequel to Midnight Run. We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: Grodin’s due for a comeback.

Good luck in the movie business, pal.

How Robert De Niro Can Save His Career