Robert De Niro Got Candid About His Career and Aging on “Real Time”

Bill Maher hosted a post-State of the Union, pre-Oscars episode

March 9, 2024 3:28 pm
Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro appeared on this week's "Real Time With Bill Maher"

There aren’t many actors who could get wild applause simply by having a list of their credits read out loud. But then, Robert De Niro, as the saying goes, is not most actors. He also joined Bill Maher for a candid conversation on this week’s Real Time With Bill Maher — and when Maher read a list of highlights from his filmography (and, somewhat esoterically, Dirty Grandpa), the crowd went wild.

De Niro is one of five actors contending for Best Supporting Actor at this year’s Academy Awards, and his work in Killers of the Flower Moon has been hailed as a high point even in his own impressive body of work. That led Maher to ask his guest how he goes about choosing projects. 

“These are films that I see the potential in,” De Niro said. He also admitted that he’s been in some less-than-great projects.“I’ve done some not-good ones,” he said, “but I think I have a pretty good average.” 

He also pointed to a good rule of thumb for his career: “If it’s [Martin] Scorsese, I just go with him, no matter what he’s going to do.”

Did he have any regrets about roles not taken? De Niro mentioned that he was in contention to play Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs, but didn’t make a decision in time. “I don’t regret it,” he said. “That’s what happens.”

Maher and De Niro also discussed De Niro’s two forays into directing films, with De Niro explaining wat had drawn him to both A Bronx Tale and The Good Shepherd. “It’s a lot of work to direct a movie,” De Niro said. “And I love doing it.” 

The two men also discussed politics and the upcoming election — but the most resonant part of their conversation may well have been when Maher asked De Niro for advice on aging. The actor’s words on the subject were concise: “Just keep going.”

“I know if you don’t keep going, you’re going to atrophy,” he added. “You’re going to dry up, and I don’t want to do that.”

Some other notable moments from the episode:

  • Maher on Senator Katie Britt’s response to the State of the Union Address: ”[Republicans] introduce us to their new rising star, and America’s like, ‘Who the fuck was that?’”
  • Joining Maher for the evening’s panel were author Max Brooks and Puck’s Tara Palmieri.
  • Not surprisingly, this week’s State of the Union address fueled much of the discussion. Brooks argued that Biden should go further in terms of making the case that billionaires should pay more in taxes; Palmieri referred to Biden being on the “anti-zombie tour.”
  • Viewers hungry for a good policy discussion got plenty of it, with both Brooks and Palmieri discussing the Democrats’ approach to crime and Brooks explaining policy shifts as a series of overcorrections in response to overcorrections.
  • Maher mused about whether Donald Trump might go on OnlyFans to deal with the debt he’s amassed via his legal cases. Confidential document-shredding ASMR was a particular highlight of the bit.
  • Maher, during New Rules, but otherwise sans context: “I don’t need to get my erotic kicks pretending I love golf.”
  • Maher on Jason Kelce: “Where’s your mouth? Do you even have one? Or is it just more beard?”
  • New Rules closed out with a reprise of last year’s “Cojones Awards,” essentially a riposte to cancel culture featuring an award in the shape of, well, testicles. Maher was relatively bipartisan in dispensing the awards, arguing that cancel culture can come from the political right as well as the left, and praising Garth Brooks for refusing to buckle to the right-wing culture wars over Bud Light last summer.
  • On the other hand, the segment ended with a rousing defense of J.K. Rowling, so — your mileage may vary, as the saying goes.

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