Robert DeNiro

Robert DeNiro

Robert De Niro needs no introduction.

The 72-year-old icon walks into a room at the Crosby Street Hotel in Manhattan’s Soho and all head’s turn.  What else can you do when the man who has starred in classics like “The Godfather” and “Taxi Driver” heads to the refreshment table and grabs a cup of coffee?  Robert DeNiro on Aging, Mentoring and The Intern | ACT TWO

A native New Yorker, De Niro is in his element on a cool fall day.  In blue jeans, a navy shirt and with his grey hair slicked back, he’s soft spoken when he approaches and says hello.

Robert De Niro is saying hello to audiences these days in the hit film “The Intern,” directed by Nancy Meyers (“Something’s Gotta Give.”)  In “The Intern,” De Niro plays Ben, a senior citizen who just lost his wife.  Tired of travel and classes, he applies for a senior internship program announced by Jules (Anne Hathaway) who runs a successful Internet clothing company.

Of course, Ben has to upload his application to the website in order to apply, which causes problems.  “I’m not as bad as Ben with the tech,” DeNiro said, laughing.  “I’m not great, but I can upload.”

Anne Hathaway on Robert DeNiro

Robert DeNiro on Aging, Mentoring and The Intern | ACT TWO

In the film, Ben becomes a mentor to Jules, who is a stressed out CEO, mother and wife.  Speaking of stressed out, Anne Hathaway said she was a little nervous when she began working with the one everyone calls “Bob.”

How did they bond?

“We went to the mall,” Hathaway joked.  “No, the truth is I trusted everything was going to be okay.  Bob and I bonded on the set because he’s insanely Zen and approachable.”

Of course, she had some early jitters.

“I didn’t talk around him for three weeks.  I just felt like an idiot,” Hathaway said.  “Then I trusted the words in the script.  Jules feels comfortable around Ben and I trusted that this would carry us.”

“I also had a lot of film history on my side,” she added.  “I knew Bob is great at having chemistry with people.  As long as I didn’t mess up, I knew we’d be okay.”

The Interview

De Niro in person is friendly and contemplative as he discusses his new film.

Is it possible that you still get nervous when you begin a new movie?

RD:  “Anxiety is always there as long as you’re alive.  The thing to remember in life is that what was important 20 years ago is no longer important today.  I know I can get the same results, but it doesn’t warrant as much angst and anxiety to solve the problem.”

What does this film say about aging in America?

RD:  “The sad thing is when you’re a certain age, you’re less relevant in certain ways—or that’s what people think.  We tend to disregard or dismiss people for getting older.  They’re side-lined.  In this movie, we show a young woman learning from this man because he’s older and knows things.”

Robert DeNiro on Aging, Mentoring and The Intern | ACT TWO

What’s Ben’s best lesson?

RD:  “Ben tells the younger Jules to stop, look and listen.  He has the advice that only someone who has been on this planet a lot longer can give.  It’s really that simple.”

Robert DeNiro on Aging, Mentoring and The Intern | ACT TWOWere you surprised that Nancy Meyers approached you for one of her films?

RD:  “I was honored and flattered when Nancy asked me to be a part of this movie.  What I really liked about Nancy is that she deals with what’s going on today.  The whole flip part of me being the intern makes it more interesting and fun while also bringing up real issues of how society retires people who might not be ready to retire.”

What was she like as a director?

RD:  “Nancy was very specific as far as telling us what she wanted.  And I like when someone is specific.  She did a lot of takes, but for good reasons.  We did have a long shoot schedule, which was great because these days, most movies don’t have that luxury or budget.”

You play a mentor to this young woman. Who are/were your mentors?

Robert DeNiro on Aging, Mentoring and The Intern | ACT TWORD (laughing):  “I mentored myself…  I do think it’s a great thing if you’re lucky to have anyone mentor you in life.  A mentor will change your life.  If you’re in a tough situation, a mentor can help.  At times, I have asked people who were further along in their careers, like Elia Kazan, for advice.  I’ve asked actors a generation ahead of me.  I appreciate their experience.”

When did you ask for advice?

RD:  “If I wanted to take a shortcut, I’d ask them.  Basically, I didn’t want to experience the negatives.  I’d rather have the voice of experience guide me.”

Do you mentor younger actors?

RD:  “I do give advice to younger people because now I have the voice of experience.  I give them a few words.  I always stop to talk.”

What do you tell them?

RD:  “Oh, it’s personal stuff.  So, I really can’t say.  I do enjoy doing it.”

Any final thoughts on aging?

RD:  “So here’s the thing about aging: you feel it.  Sometimes you don’t get it until you’re there.  There are a lot of people there and they can understand.  Someday they will.”


By Cindy Pearlman

CINDY PEARLMAN CHATS WITH THE STARS ABOUT LOOKING, THINKING AND FEELING GREAT AFTER 50.  She is a nationally syndicated entertainment and beauty writer and co-author of The Black Book of Hollywood Beauty Secrets and The Black Book of Hollywood Diet Secrets.  Cindy’s STARDUST column appears in ACT TWO weekly.  Send your beauty questions to

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