Tribeca: Robert De Niro Talks Covering Trump's "Dangerous" Relationship With the Press
The actor and co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival opens up to The Hollywood Reporter about this year's politically charged lineup, including the Liz Garbus-directed doc 'The Fourth Estate.'
Robert De Niro is still as anti-Trump as ever.
Months after criticizing Donald Trump in an impassioned speech at the National Board of Review awards, the veteran actor continues to speak out against the reality star turned president. De Niro, who on Wednesday kicked off the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival with co-founder Jane Rosenthal in New York City, tells The Hollywood Reporter why it was important to highlight Trump's tense relationship with the press in this year's lineup.
"[Closing night doc] The Fourth Estate is an obvious one and a necessary film to see. … It's about The New York Times and following the various reporters around and what they're dealing with on a daily basis," he says of the Liz Garbus-directed documentary, which will close out Tribeca on April 28. "It's just important to watch that, to see how they deal with the truth and how the truth is distorted and to see how they're just trying to keep things in balance."
De Niro adds: "It's insanity with Trump and his gang. They all buy into it. The only one I think who has any kind of dignity in his whole group is [Defense Secretary James] Mattis. The rest are all hopeless."
According to Rosenthal, The Fourth Estate takes a closer look at the stories that Trump has irresponsibly labeled "fake news" since taking over the Oval Office in January 2017.
"It really looks at how you have a president who has no regard for the truth. This is about the actual newsgathering and to see what goes on. What is our fourth estate in our country?" she says. "What are our rights to know and to gather the real facts? And just because you don't agree doesn't mean that it's not the truth."
Echoing Rosenthal, De Niro tells THR that Trump "has no respect for [the truth]. … It's very dangerous what he's doing."
The Oscar winner, who recently played special counsel Robert Mueller in a Saturday Night Live sketch taking aim at Trump's administration, doubled down on his remarks while speaking to a room full of journalists at Tribeca's kick-off lunch on Wednesday afternoon.
"America's being run by a madman who wouldn't recognize the truth if it came inside a bucket of his beloved Colonel Sanders Fried Chicken. When he doesn't like what he hears, he dismisses it by saying it's un-American and damning it as 'fake news.' But we know the truth. All thinking people do know the truth. Your job is difficult enough without being attacked by our lowlife-in-chief," he quipped. "That's the new name I have for him."
Asked if The Fourth Estate feels like a real-life counterpart to 2018's The Post — which illustrated former president Richard Nixon's equally fractured relationship with the media — Rosenthal tells THR that "it's all in the newsroom, so you can't help but think of All the President's Men or The Post."
However, "this is more about the process of covering news in Trump's administration," she adds. "It's about the process of what it takes to cover someone who doesn't respect the truth. It's also about trying to keep a news institution alive during these crazy times. You have a prestige of journalism and getting at the truth as the model has changed for newspapers."
Aside from tackling Trump's presidency, Tribeca will also host Time's Up's inaugural NYC event on April 28. Four months after the organization was founded in response to Harvey Weinstein's sexual assault scandal and the #MeToo movement, notable names — including Ashley Judd and Sarah Jessica Parker — will gather to discuss the current state of its campaign against harassment in Hollywood and other industries.
"Our goal for this day is to show more than what is happening in the entertainment industry — to go deeper into the conversations that are happening in other industries," says Rosenthal. "And to invite anyone who wants to come and listen and to really be able to show their activism [and] participate in any way. If you have an idea, come and we'll help you activate."
De Niro, an early supporter of the fund, tells THR that he is "happy that Tribeca is a vehicle to keep the momentum going and to continue the conversation." De Niro is even open to discussing Time's Up, #MeToo and Weinstein during his upcoming Tribeca Talk with Bradley Cooper on April 21.
"We could, if he brings it up. I don't know. Or maybe if there's a Q&A and the audience might bring it up. Harvey, that was something that I was not aware of obviously," he says. "I don't think a lot of people were aware. It's beyond my wildest thoughts. It's just awful."
De Niro and Cooper co-starred in 2012's Silver Linings Playbook, which was produced by the Weinstein Company. Though it's been six months since Weinstein was accused of sexual misconduct in bombshell reports published by The New York Times and the New Yorker, Cooper has yet to comment on the allegations.
De Niro was also set to star alongside Julianne Moore in a Weinstein-produced, 16-episode drama for Amazon from director David O. Russell, but it was shelved in December due to its association with the disgraced exec. At the time, De Niro insisted that he fully supported the indefinite halt on production.
"We support Amazon's decision as in light of recent news and out of respect for all those affected we have decided together that it is best to not move forward with this show," he said in a joint-statement with Moore and Russell.
And, as he tells THR, De Niro will continue to support Time's Up and advocate for women working in film, television and beyond. "I think it makes people really worry and wonder if they're going to get outed, so they better stop it," he says. "But it will change things. That's the whole point."