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When you think living Hollywood legends, your mind is likely to wander pretty quickly to Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. The two stars have recently come together yet again to star in Martin Scorsese’s latest, The Irishman.
But as incomparable as we might consider these highly esteemed actors, a flip through their IMDb profiles reveals a list of roles in the last decade that represent slightly more, shall we say, peculiar material.
For De Niro, that’s meant playing a lot of fathers and grandfathers of the creepy or curmudgeonly variety, or straight-up past-their-prime types. For example, Dirty Grandpa, Grudge Match, Last Vegas, New Year’s Eve , something called The Bag Man , the list goes on. Apart from a few gems sprinkled here and there – Silver Linings Playbook, The Intern — it’s seemed De Niro has pretty much traded in his legacy for a paycheque.
Pacino, on the other hand, has stuck with either the eccentric wise man ( Danny Collins, Manglehorn, The Humbling ) or HBO biopics ( You Don’t Know Jack, Phil Spector, Paterno ), making his recent work slightly more respectable than De Niro. But, in either case, both actors seem to have gravitated away from critical gems and more toward box-office stinkers.
Maybe that’s because, according to Pacino — in a new, delightful GQ interview with him and De Niro — he likes to think of his recent string of acting choices as providing a service to otherwise inferior films.
When asked why he keeps saying yes to that kind of work, Pacino professed, “I may be falling into a bad habit now. I think I’m starting to get a little perverse . I’m starting to want to do films that aren’t really very good and try to make them better. And that’s become my challenge. I don’t think I go in thinking it’s not gonna be very good, but it’s like Bob said: ‘Sometimes they offer you money to do something that’s not adequate.’ And you talk yourself into it. And somewhere within you, you know that this thing is gonna be a lemon. ”
But then, when it comes full circle, and you see it, you say, ‘Oh, no. I’m gonna make this better.’ And you spend a lot of time and you’re doing all these things, and you say, ‘If I can just get this to be a mediocre film,’ and you get excited by that. It’s an impulse that I’ve got to just put that away now. ‘Every time I get the urge to exercise, I lie down till it passes.’ That’s Oscar Wilde, I think. But the point is that it’s true.”
Of course, it’s impossible to mention the recent string of bad movies both of these actors have been in without bringing up 2008’s Righteous Kill, the first film where the pair were able to share more than two scenes. It wasn’t a hit, but De Niro remembers the press junket well: “We went to Europe, a couple of cities, for the premiere, and I said, ‘Well, look, Al, one day let’s hope that we’re gonna be here for a movie that we can really feel great about.’ That’s all. Nothing against that movie. But it wasn’t what this one is.”
“This one” being The Irishman , currently in theatres; it represents something both are, for once, “very proud of.”
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