Freudian Slips: My Dinner with De Niro

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Location: Irony, New Jersey, United States

Life takes us many places. It's a box of chocolates and a Hansel and Gretal trail of candy wrappers. I have filmed as an actor in The Happening, Invincible, The Lovely Bones, The Bounty Hunter, The Greek American, Bazookas, Limitless, TV's Its Always Sunny in Philly, Outlaw, New York, The Warrior, The Nail, Game Change, Cold Case, & commercial work includes The Philadelphia Eagles, Septa, Coors, Turbo Tax & Carnival Cruises. Freudian Slips spotlights irony in short story format.

May 11, 2010

My Dinner with De Niro

Robert De Niro

As a bit actor, I have compiled a list of revered actors I dream of sharing space on a movie set. Call it my bucket list. I have always considered Oscar winner Robert De Niro as one of the greatest actors of all time. His acting superiority in the movies Raging Bull and Taxi Cab alone are ranked #10 and #22 on the One Hundred Greatest Performances of All Time list.
My bucket list got a name shorter after recent invitation to the movie set of The Dark Fields starring iconic Robert De Niro and hunk Bradley Cooper. While De Niro presents more salt than pepper in his hair now, he carried enormous class and trademark confidence on the set of this thriller.
I got handpicked from a contingency of about two hundred largely unused extras holed up underground inside a former bank vault. I became a restaurant patron in a scene that filmed for several hours. As part of a group of five actors waiting to be seated next at the hostess station. Neil Burger, (The Illusionist) tapped me on the shoulder while the crew flipped the camera to a new position. The director instructed our party to greet De Niro with admiration and recognition as he cavorted into the upscale restaurant. It was explained that De Niro’s character commanded our awe. I almost blurted out that my reaction would hardly be acting becauseI had been bowing to De Niro like a demigod all day.
I quickly took inventory of the moment at hand. Albeit an uncredited role, I will be in frame with a living legend in a major motion picture. All I got to do is act like De Niro is one of my favorite actors on my bucket list! As cast and crew setup for the first take of this scene, I thought of everything that could go wrong until something unexpectedly did.
The nagging allergy cough that I suppressed during filming returned with a vengeance. I actually needed to flee the restaurant through the front turnstile doors in an embarrassing coughing stupor. Outside on the streets of Philadelphia, I hacked up dozens of congested coughs. Doubled over and worried another extra in holding would take my coveted place, my uncontrollable coughing began to resemble a panic attack. The large group of adulating fans gathered across the street made catcalls.
Somebody shouted, “Hey, that’s not Bradley Cooper!” Another commented, “It’s certainly not De Niro.” A young girl asked, “Who is it?" “I dunno, probably a nobody.” Some quick thinker wondered, “Wait a minute, I bet this is part of the movie?” Another said, "I don’t know but I’m recording it anyway."
A crew member, assigned to crowd control, called a medic on the walkie-talkie. About the time, my watery eyes could make out cameras and handheld video recorders pointed my way across the street, the medic arrived. I rose up from a doubled over position trying to resume normal breathing. I had no voice but I kept pantomiming whether they were filming yet. De Niro was supposed to start the scene outside the restaurant but as far as I knew he had yet to report outdoors to his first mark. The medic told me to save my breath and tilt my head back. Down went cough medicine. A cough drop was plucked into my mouth. I was handed a towel to dry the cold sweat from my face. Another arm appeared out of nowhere to hand me a water bottle. I drank chilled water in double swallows.
My lungs gradually opened and I could open my mouth without coughing, positive signs that I was on the road to recovery. A couple of smart aleck fans gave me an awkward cheer, something my acting career had never seen. I asked another crew member if they started filming the scene.
“I think they’re waiting on you.” he responded.
I coughed up spittle. “Always leave them wanting more.”
I returned inside the restaurant to my first mark, my eyes still watering from the coughing spell. De Niro passes by to report outside the restaurant. I must have became some hack to him. Be careful what you wish for. Although I resumed my fortunate mark in the film, I had become the actor who choked working with Robert De Niro.



Anonymous Jim said...


De Niro must have thought you were a mother "focker" for keeping him waiting.

2:23 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

well put...

6:48 PM  
Anonymous Marcus said...

So'll be ready the next time on the set of a thriller where the impending doom is a toxic gas attack.

7:13 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

Amen, Mark. Mighty fine work I'm doing out there. lol

8:01 PM  
Anonymous et said...

Did you have fun?

1:47 PM  
Blogger Honeybmse said...

There is no DeNiro unless you hit your mark!


4:23 PM  

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