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Jennifer Garner Tells the Truth About "Lying"

Coming to video on January 19 with no extras whatsoever — sorry ... we're lying — British comic and Golden Globes host Ricky Gervais' directorial debut, The Invention of Lying, posits an alternate earth where humanity lacks the capacity for prevaricating. But while people speak only the truth, they have no sense of humor and no idea of fiction. As a result, they reveal more than they know — including how inflated their views of themselves can be.

As Mark Bellison (Gervais) struggles to survive at a mediocre television company, the pug-nosed, pudgy writer endures a rivalry with the better looking, more successful and far more arrogant Brad Kessler (Rob Lowe). Mark suffers through miserable dates his mother encourages him to go on. When he meets tall, gorgeous Anna McDoogles (Jennifer Garner) on one of those dates, he falls for her and she tells him that despite the fact they get along, and that he's a nice guy, she can't continue to see him let alone marry him because she's way too out of his league; she'll never have his children. Since he's just not up to her in looks or physique, their relationship has to remain platonic.

Whether you think the creator of the English, original version of  TV's The Office is or isn't in her league, he's so frustrated by her refusal and other factors that when his mother is on her death bed he has a brainstorm and tells her one big lie — the first  — that death is not the end of things. She will go to a nice place where everything is wonderful. Unfortunately, his comment is overheard by the nurses and doctors and his words are spread everywhere — that he knows things no one else in the world knows.

Soon Bellison becomes an international phenomenon, making proclamations on the afterlife and just about everything else. He lies up a storm to help friends; lies to get money from the bank; cheats at the casino; and eventually, to win the affection of Anna. People start camping out on his lawn to learn more, so he develops a strangely familiar story about the "Man in the Sky," who does all these mystical things, and is kind and wonderful. When he pastes a set of rules on two pizza boxes and reads out his Commandments, we get the message.

Though The Invention of Lying falls flat in places by the time it ends, this fascinating idea show how Gervais is leading the charge to create comedy that requires more than an endurance for bodily function jokes and absurd R-rated sight gags. In turn, his ability for the right comic moves, has led him to host
The 67th Annual Golden Globe Awards  (to be broadcast in HD on Sunday, January 17, 2010 from 5-8 PM PST and 8-11 PM EST live coast to coast on NBC).

The 38-year-old Garner — wife of Ben Affleck, former star of the spy series Alias, and who was much-drubbed when she played the titular anti-heroine in Elektra — does a great job as the ingenuous Anna. The almost 5' 9" actress enlightens us about Gervais, the film and the art of lying in an exclusive one-on-one interview.

BB: Did it feel to you as if this movie was an episode of The Twilight Zone?

JG: I think that's what they were going for. So, yeah, it did feel like that, except that it was the funniest episode of The Twilight Zone that was ever invented.

BB: When you got this script, did you think of it as a science fiction idea or more of a parody?

JG: I liked the questions that it brought up. I liked the conversations that I felt would start. I thought that it was funny. Really, when I first read it, I just laughed out loud, and that's the most important thing. I loved the way my character was introduced. I loved the challenge of looking at a scene and thinking, 'I have to play this with no subtext, no irony, no sarcasm and just be as straightforward as I could possibly be.' I think that's a really interesting acting challenge.

It wasn't until I read it again and then thought about it a little more that I thought that. As soon as you read it or see it, you can't help but think about the world and think about all these advertisements that I see, one way or another, are lies. We're sold lies all the time and it's so much a part of our society. But we edit out [a lot] of what we can say. I like that the film is provocative in that way.

BB: Do you think this film has a British point of view or a British tone to it?

JG: I feel like it has Ricky's sensibility, but no, I feel it's pretty universal. Matt Robinson co-wrote and co-directed the script and the movie with Ricky. I think that they didn't really seem to have, "Oh, that's too British" or "You're trying to pull it to the American." There were a couple of references or words that of course you have to switch, but no, it does not seem British to me.

BB: It's got a great cast.

JG: There are some of the greatest comic talent alive and a lot of them are in this film, from Tina Fey to Louis C.K. to Christopher Guest...

BB: And Jonah Hill.

JG: You could go on and on and on. I signed on before all of those people. So I had the benefit of being on the film and hearing more and more about how great the cast was every day and how it was growing and growing. I felt like, "Wow, I signed onto this tiny independent movie, and now it's turned into this whole thing." It's just a lucky coincidence for me.

BB: And when they saw your name on it, did they jump onto it because you were signed already?

JG: [laughs] Yeah. I don't flatter myself to think that I was the draw there. I think that Ricky Gervais definitely has quite a following and is very, very respected.

BB: When Ricky asked you to be in the film, did you ask why he wasn't putting you into the British episodes of The Office?

JG: I do ask Ricky all the time why I haven't been invited to be on Extras or The Office or anything else. I bug him about it all the time and I'm still waiting. They're both done. They're speedy over there.

BB: You've done a lot of rom-com. What do you think of Gervais and his universe of humor? It's not the obvious humor, it's more realistic. Is there a trend towards this sort of comedy?

JG: I think there are a couple of different trends in humor. One is the Judd Apatow kind of humor of embarrassment [through] gross-out. Then there's the humor of embarrassment with reality, using real relationships and situations.

That's what Ricky does. I think part of what he does so well is that his humor is never mean spirited. It's very honest. He's very interested in what's honest, and he finds the truth to be the funniest. I loved working with him because he's so clear about what would make something funny, and he's always right. He's so funny and so incredibly good at what he does.

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BB: Do you think Bellison deserved to get what he got in the ending?

JG: I think he had earned it by then, certainly, because he's the kinder one. The interesting thing about Anna in the film is that she's the first woman to make a choice romantically.

In a world where women are driven by evolution and by the quest for the best genetics for their offspring, she's the first woman in this world who knows that something is different here. She's the first woman to say, 'No. I love this man. That's a good enough reason to be with him and have kids with him.'

BB: Both you and Ben [Affleck] have been leaning towards humor after you both started out in more serious roles. Do you find that you started to trade quips at home, reading each other the funny lines from your projects?

JG: Yeah, we'll tell each other the funny scenes or whatever. But as far as trading quips, I don't know if we actually are living the life of His Girl Friday or something like that. It's probably much more boring and banal than that.

BB: Right, but I just assume that he beats you out with the laughs. He's a smart and funny guy.

JG: Are you saying that you think he's funnier than I am? Are you challenging me, saying that you think that my husband would come up with the funnier quips than I would? Because I will tell you that is certainly not the case.

BB: Oops! Are you picking projects now that mix it up for you; are you trying to show different aspects of yourself? Where do you think you're going in your career?

JG: The whole point of being an actor is that you don't do the same thing every day. So I'm just interested always in finding something that feels like, "Oh, wait. I've never done this before. This is different. This will be a real challenge." Luckily, all different kinds of things have come my way and so I've been able to pick and choose.

BB: If you had your ideal choice, what would be the thing that you'd like to do next, the most contrasting thing to follow this up?

JG: I just want to do something that's good. Nothing has to come next. I would love to do a musical, but if that happens five years from now, I'm fine with that. I don't feel like, "I have to accomplish this right now." It's much more that I just love whatever it is that I do. I don't just say yes to everything.

What I'd love to see happen next is a film that my production company has been working on for a long time called Butter. It's this little movie that takes place in the world of butter carving at the Iowa State Fair. So if that could happen next I would be thrilled.

BB: Do you ever think that Ben should direct one of your projects or even cast you in one of his, or do you guys try to stay as far from that as possible because of the scheduling issues?

JG: Of course, I wish that he could direct everything. There's no one better. Scheduling is definitely a big factor for us. If we were both on the same set at the same time all day — our kids are too young for that, so it's something that doesn't come up right now. But who knows, maybe we'll revisit it in a few years.

BB: Do you find now with kids that your outlook on what you want to do in film has changed, either wanting to do family-friendly projects or going in the opposite direction?

JG: I don't really feel like I'm driven away from doing family stuff or towards it. I look at the scripts that come my way. I look at the script that we're developing in my production company. It's much more about finding something that I like to do than it is about some overall thing like, "I better stay away from family movies" or "I'd really like to do a family movie." I mean, if a family movie came along and it was great, then I wouldn't care if I had no family or a family of ten kids, I'd still want to do it.

BB: But you're not inviting superhero costume films?

JG: Sure. If one came along, and it was great, I would suit right up.

BB: Which hero would you have in mind? Do you have a favorite?

JG: I don't know who she would be. It would have to surprise me. I don't have a particular favorite.

BB: Wonder Woman?

JG: Sure.

BB: Are you good at lying?

JG: I'm a horrible liar. I can exaggerate. I can definitely make a good story better, but as far as just telling a lie, not very good.

BB: So you would've been good for a world where no one lied?

JG: No, because I do think there's real value in a white lie to save someone's feelings.

BB: Are there some people that you'd like to tell the truth to, since it's perhaps a world in which you can't lie?

JG: Yeah, there are one or two that I'd like to get ahold of.

BB: What would you tell them?

JG: Wouldn't you love to know [laughs]?


For more by Brad Balfour:


Star Penelope Cruz Is on Cloud "Nine"

The Madrid-born Penelope Cruz, a standout star in the Rob Marshall musical Nine, came to American attention with the steamy seriocomedy Jamón, Jamón (1992), in which she co-starred with future boyfriend Javier Bardem. After he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for 2007's No Country for Old Men, Cruz returned the volley with her Best Supporting Actress win for 2008's Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

In the interim, Cruz made such middling U.S. movies as 1998's The Hi-Lo Country, 2001's Blow, Captain Corelli's Mandolin and Vanilla Sky – which sparked a three-year relationship with Tom Cruise –  and 2005's Sahara.

But she became a signature screen persona for acclaimed director Pedro Almodóvar, starring in his Live Flesh (1997), All About My Mother (1999), Volver (2006) and his latest, the recently released Broken Embraces -- which was the closing night film for the 2009 New York Film Festival. She now co-stars with an international pantheon in Nine, an adaptation of the Broadway musical inspired by Federico Fellini's classic film 8 1/2. Cruz speaks about her two latest movies, her cameo in Sex and the City 2 and much more in this one-on-one interview.

FL: You've said that Almodovar knows how to push your buttons to get the performance he wants. How did he do that in Broken Embraces?

PC: He knows me very well, but he is that way with all actors – he knows how to take you to the place that he needs, in a way that is a beautiful dance. He can be very tough and very demanding, but in the end for me it has always been an experience where I go home and feel happy about what everybody did on the set.

FL: But for an example.

PC: It's hard to explain; it's hard to put it into words. But sometimes he would play [the filmmaker character] Mateo in the rehearsals. We had a moment looking at each other in the mirror when the relationships were mixed together – the relationship between Lena and Mateo, and the one that I have with Pedro and what he means to me in my life, my career. It was a beautiful mix of reality and fiction. I have to say that was my favorite moment in the whole process of making this movie

Penelope CruzFL: In Broken Embraces we see snippets of the film-within-the-film, Girls with Suitcases. Was there any talk of releasing it as, say, a half-hour TV film or a DVD extra?

PC: No, but because we shot stuff for Girls with Suitcases that didn't make it into the movie, [those scenes] will be in the DVD extras.

FL: In your major dance number in Nine, you do a lot of rope work without gloves, and endured a lot of calluses and bleeding. Did you realize that would happen when you decided against gloves, or did you realize it as it was happening and continued anyway?

PC:  No, I knew it would happen because I trained for three months to do the number, and I knew I would be living with blisters during those months and I was used to it. During those months you rehearse, like, four hours a day of dancing, and when you get to shoot the number, you do 12 hours a day of dancing for three days in a row, and that's when you get all the bruises and blisters and everything open. But I didn't even feel that much physical pain because I felt like flying!

FL: According to reports, all the actresses in Nine had to do singing and dancing auditions. You haven't had to audition for movie roles for a while. What was that like? Were you out of practice?

PC: No, because I took a lot of lessons before the audition. I auditioned one time for the dancing and one time for the singing., I think it was very important to be able to go through that for the movie because Rob had to see that we could really do it, so most of us had to get in the room and audition. I mean, there was no other way to get the movie.

FL: Did you say to yourself, "Wow, I thought I didn't have to audition anymore?"

PC: No, because I know that sometimes I will have to, when it's something like that. Look, I've never sung before and nobody has every seen me dancing, really dancing – I've done something here and there, but this is a difficult solo number and I had to prove that I could do it. So of course I had no problem with getting in the room and auditioning. I was nervous about it, but I was happy they gave me the opportunity

FL: Different reports say that in your cameo in the upcoming Sex and the City 2 you play either yourself or a character named Lydia.

PC:  No, I don't play myself. It's a little character [role]. I only was on the set for three hours. I did this collaboration because I'm a big fan of the show and the movie.

FL: You're listed as working on two upcoming features, Lasse Hallstrom's Rain in Spain and Sergio Castellitto's Venuto al Mondo.

PC: I'm not making Rain in Spain. I don't know why somebody wrote that somewhere. Venuto al Mondo, if that movie gets made, I think I will do it.

FL: And you're producing Haunted Heart?

PC: That's for the future. It's the first movie I have with Fernando Trueba [who directed Cruz in her second film, 1992's Belle Epoque, and in 1998's The Girl of Your Dreams] he wrote [as well as directed], and we want to do it sometime in the future but not yet.

FL: What is this eight-minute Almodóvar short, "The Cannibalistic Councillor" that you're in?

PC: That is one thing that we shot for Broken Embraces that didn't make it in the movie, so he released it as a short film. In Spain it played on TV.

FL: I'm not going to pry, but why do you suppose the public cares so much about whether a celebrity has a baby or not?

PC: It's all because of the Internet, because there are more and more shows and stuff to fill with material. A lot of the press is losing so much credibility that people don't know anymore what to believe and what not to believe. I have a couple of great friends who are journalists, who are very serious journalists, and at the end that affects them and their work.

FL: Yet when People magazine, say, pays a million dollars for a baby picture, those covers apparently sell well because the public, for reasons I just don't know, wants that.

PC: I don't want to talk about it.

Ed Helms' Happy "Hangover"

It may not have played a lot of film festivals, other than the Old Town Taito International Comedy Film Festival in Japan, but the rude, raucous and surprisingly very funny bro comedy The Hangover did make it onto at least one august film body's top-10 list of 2009: No less than the American Film Institute placed it on a rostrum that includes the likes of Up in the Air, Precious and The Messenger. This, for the cinema's second-highest-grossing R-rated comedy? Hang that on your critical clothesline!

Variety announced back in July that director Todd Phillips has the go-ahead to shoot a sequel, with production commenting October 6, 2010, for a Memorial Day 2011 release. With The Hangover now out on DVD, what better time than to revisit Ed Helms, who stars with Justin Bartha, Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis in this comic misadventure about the aftermath of four friends' inadvertent drug-blackout in Las Vegas.

Helms, who plays the obnoxious Andy Bernard on NBC's The Office, is in person actually a pretty nice guy. Born and raised in Atlanta, Ga., he first rose to fame as one of the satiric "correspondents" on comedian Jon Stewart's faux-news program The Daily Show.

In The Hangover, he plays a bland dentist bullied by his girlfriend (Rachael Harris) and who, with his buds, must deal with a lost night, a found tiger, a baby, marriage with a stripper (Heather Graham), and Mike Tyson lip-syncing Phil Collins.

FL: Your character through most of the movie has a missing tooth, which happened during their missing night. How'd they do the effect? CGI?

EH:  No, it's not CGI. I'd gotten an implant when I was a teenager, and cut to 20 years later, this part and this movie called for a missing tooth. And I asked my dentist and he was able to take it out!

FL: Ah, c'mon. For real?

EH: I'm dead serious! And if you really look closely, it's pretty clear it's real. When (the idea) originally came up, we did camera tests with some alternative processes. We tried to black it out and then they made a prosthetic that sort of covered my teeth but had a gap in it, which it made me look like a donkey, so I vetoed that. We were sort of talking about losing the joke altogether and I said hold on a second, and that's when I called my dentist. And it worked! It would have been really expensive to digitally remove it.

FL: Speaking of that, were you ever physically on the set with the tiger, or digitally inserted later?

EH:  It was an actual tiger and I was on the set with the tiger – actually three tigers. You can't work with a tiger for longer than a certain amount of time, so they had three of them there. We were on set with them together way more than we should have been!

FL: How close does one get to a tiger?

EH:  Bradley fed the tiger a baby bottle full of chicken blood. I am not kiddin'! I was sitting next to Bradley when he did that. That's actually not in the movie, oddly enough. But it was ridiculous – it's a baby bottle full of blood, for God's sake! And the tiger is slurping on the bottle nipple, and it's chicken blood! Strange [laughs]. That was routine, to be, like, two or three feet away. Routine and crazy, let me put it that way.

FL: Routine and crazy – the actor's motto.

EH:  That sort of typified the movie – the utterly insane became mundane [laughs]. At all times the tiger was on a leash and it was quote unquote restrained by a trainer. However the tiger weighed three times more than the trainer and the leash might -- might -- have been able to hold a border collie.

One of the first nights that we worked with the tigers ... all the trainers were way more nervous than usual. And of course it turns out tigers hunt at night. So at night they get basically, like, horny for murdering humans. It was really sketchy because they were in their trailer pacing and grunting and snorting and there was just something really foreboding about the whole night. We only lost about six crewmembers… [jokes]

FL: I assume the Humane Society was on set.

EH:  Sure, yeah. Even for the chicken [the guys find in their room]. They're on the ball. There's a lot of supervision. But they looking out for the animals, not for the actors!

FL: What was scarier, the tiger or  Mike Tyson?

EH:  The tiger. Mike Tyson was just great.

FL: A pussycat, you might say.

EH: I'm not sure I'd go that far! [

FL: How do you channel your inner asshole to play Andy Bernard on The Office?

EH:  That's exactly what I do – I just channel my inner asshole, I guess. That character is really just an amalgamation of every asshole I've ever known and everything that I find annoying in other people or that I'm insecure about in my own life or find annoying about myself. I just sort of heighten all that with Andy. The fun thing about him, too, is he's not self-aware at all and yet he's incredibly earnest. It's really fun.

FL: In the middle of The Hangover, your character sits at a piano and sings this song recapping the movie so far. How'd that come about?

EH:  That was really cool, actually. That piano was just on the set, and I used to sit at it and just play around and make up stupid songs to try to make the crew laugh between takes or whatever. And Todd [Phillips, the director] was really tickled by that and said, "Hey, we should put that in the movie – there's a prefect place for it right after you guys roofie the tiger where the narratives kinda needs to take a breath. Why don't you write a song and we'll stick it in there?"  So I went off and wrote the song in about an hour and we shot it right then.

FL: You were raised in Atlanta. Where you born there?

EH:  I was born in Piedmont Hospital [a major hospital in northeast Atlanta] and grew up in the same house my whole childhood. My parents just moved out of the same house where I was raised.

FL: In suburban Atlanta or in the city?

EH:  Very much Atlanta proper.

FL: What did your family do?

EH:  My dad was an attorney and my mom worked at a school in Atlanta. She was a development coordinator – a fundraiser kind of person [at] a school for kids with learning disabilities in Atlanta.

FL: And you got your start as a comedian in New York after college?

EH: Yeah. I studied film at Oberlin [College, in Ohio] and then moved to New York City and started doing standup right away. Actually I started [while] in college – I lived in New York City (during) my summers.

FL: After college you worked at a film post-production facility, as your day-job?

EH: Actually, I stated out doing technical support for Avid [film-]editing systems, because I was way into editing and stuff from my studying film in college. So I was trained as an Avid support tech. Through the company I worked for I would service these post-production companies. And one of them hired me because I was always there and always fixing their machine. So they hired me as an assistant editor … at a sort of boutique little company called Crew Cuts that catered to high-end advertising. It was super fun – we worked on a lot of really cool commercials. A lot of the Super Bowl commercials came to our shop.

And I was way ahead of the curve since I knew all of the hardware and  software. Then I just had to learn the drill of being an assistant editor and eventually I  became what's called a cutting assistant, where I was actually editing some commercials.

FL: That's when you started doing voiceover work, which is how you then made a living.

EH: Yeah, I would put my voice down on all the commercials I worked on, as a placeholder while I worked on it, and I started to book a couple of accounts that way. And I actually got an income from that at a certain point, and realized this could enable me to quit working full-time so I could be in the comedy clubs all night.

FL: What was that like, starting out as a standup comic?

EH: When you start out, your first five, six years in New York City, you're doing just the shittiest shows. A lot of open mics, a lot of amateur nights. A lot of shows you do when you start out aren't even at comedy clubs – they're at bars where comedians made a deal with the owner to have an open-mic night, and so comedians produce these shows all over the city and you try and get into the loop and into the network, and everybody's kinda putting each other up in each other's show.

I ran a show at the Boston Comedy Club on Third Street in Greenwich Village, and there was also this crazy place called Surf Reality that was more of a performance-art place. They had this famous open-mic night run by this guy called Faceboy and you would go up and do eight minutes of standup and after you would be some weird guy chanting and piercing his nipples onstage or something.

And it was totally insane yet totally supportive.  Like it was all there just for the artist, for the performers. We had a lot of  comedians down there along with crazy performance artists.  It was an inspiring, weird, distinctly New York joint.

Oscar Winner Robert De Niro Makes Sure Everybody's Fine

On the heels of his Kennedy Center Honors (along with Bruce Springsteen, Dave Brubeck, Mel BrookRobert De Niros, and Grace Bumbry) this last week of December, 2009, legendary actor Robert De Niro can be seen on the silver screen again. While he's being lauded for past laurels, he's also garnering kudos for his latest film, Everybody's Fine, a comparatively modest work that has recently been released after making a festival circuit tour — most recently, it had a special feature screening at the 2009 Denver Film Festival.

Based on Oscar-winning director Guiseppe Tornatore's 1990 hit Italian film, Stanno tutti bene (which starred Marcello Mastroianni as an Italian bureaucrat on a veritable travelogue across Italy in search of his adult children), English director Kirk Jones transfers the story to the States and De Niro.

The 67-year-old actor plays retired widower Frank Goode who used to string telephone wire -- a job that encouraged interaction -- but is a guy not good at communicating or even knowing what's going on with his kids. When his wife was alive she handled his quartet of kids; now, as adults, they are spread across the country, so Frank goes on a surprise tour to re-connect with them.

Though the narrative falls flat at times, De Niro makes up for it with his passion and understanding of his character. And the interplay between him and the trio of actors playing his kids — Drew Barrymore, Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale — is authentic and affecting. A great turn this late in his career, De Niro shows a softer side and redeems himself for some of his recent, lesser movies.

Ever since he established himself through his breakout performance in 1973's Bang the Drum Slowly, De Niro has racked up quite a track record of cinematic achievements — culminating in various Oscar nominations and two wins. In 1974, De Niro received an Academy Award for best supporting actor for his role in The Godfather: Part II and won Best Actor for Martin Scorsese's 1980 boxing film, Raging Bull. The New York-born and bred De Niro has made a unique partnership with fellow Italian-American Scorsese, establishing quite a catalogue together from 1973's Mean Streets to the two Oscar noms for Best Actor in two of Scorsese's greatest films, Taxi Driver (1976) and Cape Fear (1991).

In 1993, De Niro made his directorial debut with the touching A Bronx Tale, and he later directed the epic CIA historical film The Good Shepard. Now De Niro heads his own production company, owns various restaurants and other real estate in lower Manhattan, and, in response to the 9/11 attack, co-founded the Tribeca Film Festival.

At least in Everybody's Fine, he plays neither a character who kills someone or a parody of Robert De Niro as either a crook or cop who kills someone. Instead, he has made a seasonally appropriate movie about a parent's loss and the enduring relationship with his adult children.

Getting De Niro to speak on much of anything is a bit of trick — not unlike his character in this film. So when a crop of journalists sat down for an Everybody's Fine press conference with Jones and actor Sam Rockwell and this the veteran New Yorker, they were seriously tested.

De Niro deferred to Jones unless they were directly addressed to him (and Rockwell wasn't asked much anDirector Kirk Jonesyway). Fortunately. enough questions were asked to produce some decent answers, but nobody will ever call Bob De Niro long-winded....

Q: When did you get involved with the process of making this film?

RD: Kirk and I had a meeting and he told me the story and what it was based on. He had photos of the whole project  — the traveling across the country — and I was impressed with how passionate he was about the project. I could see that he was special and doesn't do movies often. This will have been his third [after two long hiatus between each of his other films, Nanny McPhee and Waking Ned Devine]

So that informed me obviously [about how] he cares so much. I saw the original [Italian film] and [Kirk's] other two movies, and then I read the script. We then just decided when to do it.

Q: How does your personal life affect the roles you pick and the way you play them?

RD: Obviously, I related to Frank and drew on my own experiences like I do in all my parts. You draw on whatever's relevant to the part you're playing; it makes it more personal. There was a lot here of course.

I have five children, and two grandchildren. But also, going back to Kirk being the director and his caring [about the project], that's the anchor of the whole thing [here]. So that's really, really important.

Q: More important than the role itself?

RD: Well, yeah. It's not more important but it's equally as important. He has to steer the ship, it's his baby, so he's got to make choices and all that. I put myself in his hands so to speak.

Q: You watched the original Italian movie; how did you relate to the Marcello Mastroianni character? What do each of the fathers have in common?

RD: It was just a different type of movie. I love Mastroianni. Since I was kid I always watched his movies. He's been in great films, part of the great Italian tradition, obviously. But it was a different thing, totally. Kirk made it his own. The structure was there and all that stuff. But it was totally different.

Q: Possibly the most moving moments in the film are when we see Frank's telephone calls to his kids. When was the last time you heard a busy signal? Do you get nostalgic for those times or are you into the techno-gadgets?

RD: [Like] Twitter?

Q: Do you tweet?

RD: I don't Twitter. Somebody told me about it. I didn't know what it was.

Q: How do you feel about new technology?Robert De Niro

RD: I only know how to use a computer. I don't even know how good I am at it. I slowly use the little things and get e-mails and look at videos on the computer and use an iPhone. I guess I use it adequately.

Q: Did anything in this movie remind you of an experience you had with your own father  — after all he was a major abstract expressionist painter — or as a father with your own children?

RD: My father was pretty easy on me about what I wanted to do, to be an actor and stuff like that. My grandfather was much more strict, more old-school, old-time Italian than my father ever was. That was my impression of him.

My father came from that to New York City to get away from certain things, and they raised me kind of easily. And the fact that I wanted to be an actor, well, that was okay with them and my father.

And I try not to be too strict with my kids because certain things they have to do. But at the same time I don't want them to get away with anything. But I think I try to rationalize with them, and argue, "Now look I'm very good with you about certain things unless you do this. You have to now do this. That's only fair."

Of course, there are times when that stuff doesn't work. I'm not the all-knowing, all-seeing... But in general it works pretty good.

Q: You mean like the curfew kind of things?

RD: I don't put a curfew — you know, [I tell them] "do this" — I'm flexible with certain things that the kids have to do. It's not like a curfew where they have to go to sleep at a certain time.

Q: Do you approach your comedic work differently than your dramatic work?

RD: Well, this is a more gentle sort of — what would you call it — comedy than say, Meet the Parents. It's more of a dramedy.

Q: You've worked on every scale of film from mega-productions to an indie-budgeted one like this film, as a producer, director or an actor. What's the difference in working in indies versus large films?

RD: Well, the difference is you have more time. When you have more — just a lot more — then there are a lot more people on the set, a lot more trucks, [and such]. It's a big production. I don't know. I mean, making movies that are very simple, ultimately  — I always wonder when I walk around a big movie and you see all these trucks and this and that — I think, "Just to get this, you've got to get all these people."

And of course, those are only certain movies that do that. It was good. This to me is a normal time to shoot — I think we shot eight weeks? So eight weeks is a pretty good schedule. It's an independent film. An independent is going to be less than what goes on this film I think. It costs less to make. And a shorter schedule, like five weeks. Four weeks.

Q: Will you be doing more films like this?

RD: I will.

Q: Do you have some things in mind?

RD: Some, yeah...

Q: You signed a deal with CBS for three pilots to be shot in New York City. What kind of shows do you watch and will we see you taking a part on television?

RD: Maybe. I don't watch much TV other than the news. Really. I'm busy and I'd rather be reading and doing stuff. There's good television. I just don't watch a lot of it.

Q: So your interests are in producing?

RD: Yeah, we're producing these shows. That is — that's good. But to this point — and once those start happening I will watch them. Work on them. But in general before that, I'm not that tuned in to television and such. But there's a lot of good stuff.

Q: Are you doing another Meet the Parents?

RD: We're doing a third one  — Meet The Little Fockers.

Q: You've built a career on playing tough guys, gangsters, police officers. How important is it to you to do something different, something softer? Do you think about how people perceive you from movie to movie; does that concern you at all?

RD: No, some people do that and sometimes I play off that because it's a certain thing you do — you can make fun of it in certain movies. Like in Meet the Little Fockers, it's also titled, orThe Godfocker. And I asked Greg [Glienna, one of the writers] — because I have a feeling if something happens to me — will he [De Niro's character Jack Byrnes] be the Godfocker?

Q: The film deals with lots of adversity in many ways. Do you have any ways that you deal with adversity in your own life?

SR: Depends on the adversity, I guess. I do different things to calm myself down. Exercise. That's a good thing. [There are] different ways to battle adversity. I can't think of any other ones [right now].

Q: You've dealt with a lot of adversity. You've overcome 9/11 nearly devastating your beloved Tribeca. How do you deal with it?

RD: Which adversity are you talking about?

Q: Any adversity...

RD: I'm here, aren't I?


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