Robert De Niro on 'Saturday Night Live' Mueller Skits: "I Consider It My Civic Duty"
The actor and co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival talks taking aim at Trump on 'SNL,' telling The Hollywood Reporter that it feels like a form of activism.
Robert De Niro's impressions of special counsel Robert Mueller on Saturday Night Live are meant to be funny, but the actor also sees his political skits on NBC's long-running comedy series as a form of activism.
In a recent Hollywood Reporter In Studio interview, De Niro — a vocal critic of President Donald Trump — said that the appearances on SNL feel like his "civic duty."
"I consider it my civic duty to do that part — just to be there because [Mueller] doesn't say much, but he doesn’t have to. It's that simple," said the star, who added that he still has hopes that the president will serve jail time for suspected collusion with Russia in the 2016 election. "I might even be happier the day that Mueller puts him in handcuffs, takes him in an orange jumpsuit and puts him away for a long time."
Asked if viewers can expect more Mueller sketches in the future, De Niro — who last played Mueller on SNL's March 30 episode and appeared in several cold opens last year — said that while he is unsure, more performances are not out of the question. "I don't know. That's a good question," said De Niro. "If Mueller testifies in front of Congress, then maybe there will be some skits that we'll see."
Sharing his thoughts on attorney general William Barr's four-page summary of Mueller's report, which was released last month, De Niro suggested that Barr's account downplayed details of the report to make Trump appear more favorable.
"It's pathetic," he said. "You know what's interesting is that Democrats are trying to do the right thing and say, 'We're waiting for justice to come,' and then it doesn’t come. Or it will come in a way, Mueller presented it in a way that's up to us and Congress to make, come up with the results, but now it’s being barred by Barr. And that's to be seen now what Congress will do and how effective they're going to be."
Continued De Niro, "But I think there's going to be a lot of mass demonstrations, a lot of protests if this is not resolved. We have to know what went on. We have to know. The handwriting's on the wall."
De Niro has criticized Trump at several public events since the former Apprentice host took over the Oval Office in 2016. Speaking to a room full of journalists at last year's kickoff lunch for the Tribeca Film Festival, the Oscar winner called Trump "our lowlife-in-chief." In response to De Niro's jabs, Trump has called him "a very low IQ individual" on Twitter, among other insults, but De Niro remains unbothered — and told THR that he will continue to "represent" those who don't subscribe to Trump's politics. "[I] just [want] to be present, to represent," he said of his efforts, pointing back to the significance of playing Mueller on SNL. "Mueller represented justice. And he still does. He's been muted by Barr and what's going on."
De Niro sat down with THR alongside his Tribeca Film Festival co-founder, Jane Rosenthal, as they gear up for the 18th edition of the annual two-week event in downtown Manhattan. Though last year's closing night film, documentary The Fourth Estate, explored Trump's fraught relationship with the media, this year's lineup isn't as politically charged. In fact, there's a lot more music, an unexpected theme that De Niro and Rosenthal welcomed with open arms.
Tribeca 2019 will open with the world premiere of HBO's documentary, The Apollo, which chronicles the unique history and contemporary legacy of the iconic New York performance venue. And the fest will close with Danny Boyle's Yesterday, which stars Himesh Patel (BBC’s Eastenders) as a struggling singer-songwriter who, after a freak accident, wakes up to discover that The Beatles never existed and is credited for penning their catalog of hits.
"This year, there was nothing Trump-specific. But there are so many films about music this year," said Rosenthal. "It just seemed to happen and it is fun for us to have some nice music. And you'll eventually get to see these films again, but here at Tribeca, there are some pretty fun performances happening after some of the premieres that you can’t really experience anywhere else. It'll be a good time."
The 2019 Tribeca Film Festival begins on April 24. For more from De Niro and Rosenthal, watch the video above.