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DeNiro and Pacino: Actors Second, Friends First

Credit: New York Times

Robert De Niro and Al Pacino both have long, prolific careers. For half a century, both men have become household names in Hollywood in landmark films like “Taxi Driver,” “Scarface,” “Raging Bull,” and the “Godfather” series, which they co-starred in.

The series known as one of the best series of films of all time forever entwined Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. When one invokes one of the men’s names, the other often comes up, despite the fact that the men have only shared the screen three times.

Credit: Variety

“The Irishman” reunites the legends in a crime drama about Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino), former president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and Frank Sheeran (De Niro), the mobster who claimed credit for Hoffa’s murder. The film came to fruition over the course of a decade. De Niro read Charles Brandt’s book, I Heard You Paint Houses, a novel that chronicles Sheeran’s rise to crime and how his life intertwined with the Hoffa and Kennedy families.

“It had this grand size to the story,” De Niro says. “It had historical figures whose outcomes had been unresolved, and this story had those answers, according to this character, which I believed.”

 The nearly four-hour drama seems like quite the undertaking for any actor, and it most certainly is. While most actors in their late 70s take on easier, more fun roles, Pacino and De Niro continue to take on roles such as these to hone their craft. The two actors see working together as a motivational challenge.

“It takes the edge off,” Pacino says about working together. “And puts the other edge on.”

Even though the two have only worked together a handful of times, the actors have a close and dear friendship. The pair met back when they were both young, struggling actors. They lost roles together. They experienced failure and success together. They even had similar upbringings— the men were raised in a post-World War II New York City, were children of divorce, and both attended acting schools.

Credit: USA Today

“We were in an unusual position,” Pacino says. “It was a whole different idea, being well-known. Not quite the way it is now. It was not as accessible, to be famous. It hadn’t caught on yet.”

“It was a good thing that we had each other to talk about stuff,” De Niro agrees.

Despite their similarities, the men have wildly different approaches to acting. “I suppose I could say that Al tends to go toward fluidity and music while Bob likes to locate states of mind and being, settling in,” Martin Scorsese, director of “The Irishman,” says. “But that’s just a matter of their instincts and personal orientations, I think. They’re both tremendous artists with powerful ‘instruments,’ as an acting teacher might put it.”

Michael Mann, director of “Heat,” a crime drama both Pacino and De Niro star in, echoes Scorsese’s sentiment. “They both have a total artistic immersion — the way they get to that is radically different.”

Credit: Polygon

For both actors, “The Irishman” explores a level of existentialism that they’d been starting to consider as they age. They agree that looking back is “natural” at their respective ages, and that it is a film that couldn’t have done, and wouldn’t have even considered, even ten years ago.

To learn more about the film, read the New York Times interview with the two iconic actors.

Film

Brad Pitt on Life in Hollywood

Credit: People

Brad Pitt isn’t the attention-seeking Hollywood superstar many people assume leading men and women in the film industry are. That much is clear from his recent interview with New York Times writer, Kyle Buchanan. He didn’t dress in flashy clothing to their meeting at the Los Angeles Griffith Observatory. He wore a gray newsboy cap, a t-shirt, and was unshaven. Pitt is quiet, reserved even, and proves to us that even though he knows how to play a motormouth, that’s all he’s doing—playing, acting.

Credit: Micaiah Carter

He attests this to his upbringing in Springfield, Missouri. Like many men who grew up in the 1960’s and 70’s, Pitt was raised with a “be-capable, be-strong, don’t-show-weakness thing,” as he so eloquently puts it. That sort of upbringing molded him into that sort of man, and while he is thankful for some aspects of it, he is fully aware problems have arisen as a result.

“I’m grateful that there was such an emphasis on being capable and doing things on your own with humility, but what’s lacking about that is taking inventory of yourself,” Pitt says. “It’s almost a denial of this other part of you that is weak and goes through self-doubts, even though those are human things we all experience. Certainly, it’s my belief that you can’t really know yourself until you identify and accept those things.”

Credit: Micaiah Carter

After years in the industry, Pitt doesn’t spend much time at fancy award shows and parties. He didn’t even attend the Oscars when a film he executive produced, Moonlight, was up for a number of nominations—instead, he was at James Gray’s house, a director and longtime friend of Pitt. He found out about the La La Land versus Moonlight Best Picture debacle second hand, so which he simply replied “Oh wow, that’s cool.”

“He wasn’t unappreciative, obviously,” Gray says, “but Brad won’t get caught up in pomp and circumstance. I think he knows to stay centered.”

The two have collaborated on a number of projects, but as the years have gone on, and Pitt has fallen out of the spotlight, so has the amount of jobs he’s willing to take on. Gray says that this is his “only quibble with Brad,” that he doesn’t star in enough movies despite the fact that he can “command the screen in a way very few other people can.”

Credit: Micaiah Carter

Pitt, however, says he isn’t as interested in acting as he once was. He’ll take jobs that call to him, but for the most part, the actor finds himself more drawn to producing. Many may not realize, but Pitt has backed a vast number of critically acclaimed films over the past several years—the aforementioned Moonlight, as well as 12 Years a Slave, If Beale Street Could Talk, and Selma with his production company Plan B.

“Producing just means you don’t have to get up really early and put on makeup,” he jokes. “It’ll be fewer and farther in between for me, just because I have other things I want to do now. When you feel like you’ve finally got your arms around something, then it’s time to go get your arms around something else.”

Read more of the beautifully written piece on the New York Times website.