SAYS DE PALMA & SCORSESE ARE SUPPORTERS OF IMPROVISATION
Thanks to Rado for sending in this great interview with Robert De Niro, conducted by Studio Ciné Live's Thomas Baurez. Baurez asks De Niro about making comedies with Brian De Palma early in his career:
"The first time I auditioned for Brian, I was 19! It was for his student film The Wedding Party, then we made Greetings and Hi, Mom! I remember very clearly how I ended up at the audition. I saw the ad in a trade newspaper. Brian’s number was there. I called him. He set up a meeting in a small apartment. He watched me play and then hired me. I was very excited. That was my first real role. The tone of the film alternated between drama and comedy. Brian is essentially a spectator. He reacts directly to your acting. If he isn’t laughing while shooting, it means you haven’t been funny. He doesn’t hesitate to make you improvise until you find the right tempo. In those days, an overwritten script would shut me off, I had to get out of it and let myself go. Brian De Palma loved that."
Baurez then asks De Niro if such improvisation is essential to his natural approach to acting. De Niro replies, "Yes, but I have to have respect for the words of my script! When working from a script by David Mamet, for example, you must follow the rhythm, the beat of the language, otherwise it creates an imbalance. A filmmaker like Michael Mann may have a surgical accuracy. It's not an obsession, but simply a requirement of the script. The structure of Heat was completely chiseled that my character should remain cold. The role required great self-control. No filmmaker is obtuse, a priori, otherwise it would break the spontaneity of the actor. De Palma and Scorsese are supporters of improvisation. If they are quick to rewrite some things during filming, they have the general structure of the film in mind.
This past summer, De Palma told George Stroumboulopoulos his recollections about that first audition with De Niro:
"He came in to an audition. We were in a loft in the Village and we put an ad in the Village Voice and we were just seeing one actor after another then this sort of timid kid came in, the last one in. We had him do a little improvisation and we thought 'Hey, this kid is pretty good' and he said ok, but there's something I've been preparing in my class can I show it to you. The kid had the part, I mean, okay. So he goes outside and we're sititng around and it's like 5, 10 15 [minutes], we figured he had gone home and then he came in a did this incredible scene from 'The Strike', the Clifford Odets play about the taxi strike. He was ranting and raving and [yells] and you think, holy mackerel. That's Bob De Niro."