Students queued for hours to see De NiroTobia Nava

Sunday, at midday, the queue in front of the Union stretched out beyond the corner of the street, wrapping around the now-closed Patisserie Valérie, and continuing well into Jesus Lane. People were chattering excitedly ahead of Robert De Niro’s visit to the Union.

An overrun lunch and the elaborate security surrounding the actor’s talk meant Varsity only had a five minute chat with him, followed by the chance to observe his calm demeanour and joking tone from the gallery of the chamber.

On his early interest in acting, De Niro starts, then starts again, before mumbling a sentence about how as a kid he used to enjoy going to the movies.

Changing tack, Fergal asks a more specific question: “In an interview for Heat, Michael Mann described how Al Pacino prepared two weeks in advance for the coffee shop face off while De Niro performed it unrehearsed. Do these two approaches in one scene enhance its quality?”

“I’ve never talked to Michael Mann about it – it’s my favourite scene in the movie,” De Niro says. “We went through it once before, with Michael trying to work out what the background of the shot might be. You don’t want to waste yourself during a scene. We didn’t start shooting until midnight and by that time we were already tired, I was concerned about having enough energy.

“Whatever preparation Al did before, when you come to do it in the moment, that’s what it’s all about. Some directors like to rehearse, tape out the area where the scene takes place; I like to just sit down, make adjustments, work it out with the director the morning before you shoot it – that’s kind of what most actors that I know are used to, everything else that interacts.”

On that note, De Niro was whisked into the chamber. While addressing members, his tone was optimistic, and reflective.

When asked what’s the best piece of advice he’s ever received, he pauses. “Something about paying attention to the truth, to facts – being honest,” he says.


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This feeds into his previous mentions of the “madness” of Trump’s America, and of the moral imperative to “say something, or do something”, in the face of such shocking politics. “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem,” he repeats twice.

He touches on Ukraine, strongly condemning the aggression. “We have to do something to stop the aggression,” he says.

“You see what’s happening in Ukraine now, you have to stand up and say ‘you can’t do that – it’s wrong.’

“It’s that simple. It’s not even about democracy. It’s about right and wrong – the truth.”

He states that future generations will judge us on our reaction to the crisis, on the level of solidarity we choose to display.

When asked what advice he would give aspiring actors, he says to go to every audition possible, so people from the industry start remembering the actor’s name, even if they don’t end up selecting them.

“I haven’t done an audition in a while, though,” he adds, at which point the audience starts laughing and clapping.