Quentin Tarantino Grills Robert De Niro in Lively Q&A: Actor Recounts Getting Fired by Mike Nichols, Playing a ‘Slow’ Stoner in ‘Jackie Brown’ and More

This year’s Tribeca Film Festival has launched its De Niro Con celebration of its iconic co-founder, and one of the first big events included a rousing discussion with verbal odd couple Quentin Tarantino and Robert De Niro.

The event started on Friday afternoon with a screening of “Jackie Brown,” Tarantino’s 1997 third feature — via a handsome 35mm print on loan from Martin Scorsese. De Niro has a key supporting role as the recently-imprisoned Louis Gara, a man of few words with an ability to conjure violence quickly.

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Tarantino, a notably quick-talking cinephile, peppered De Niro, a man of few words, with questions during their 40-minute post-film discussion, starting first with the actor’s ability to bring comedy to “Jackie Brown.” Tarantino praised De Niro’s portrayal of the “slow” ex-con — senses dulled from a post-prison daze and frequent bong hits during the movie.

“I’ve watched the movie with a lot of different audiences and they always respond so much to how out of it and stoned you are when they’re trying to talk, when they’re having the whole meeting about the money exchange,” Tarantino said. “You’re caught up in the phone cord and you realize that was a comedy scene going on right inside of there. You played it as a comedian. I think it was a situation where you just said, ‘Oh, I can do a little bit more here. I can have my own little bit going on while they’re doing the narrative.'”

Yet De Niro’s comedic chops have not always worked with every director. Tarantino asked the actor about other roles during his career, including the never-produced ’70s film “Bogart Slept Here.” Although the script would be reconfigured into the 1977 film “The Goodbye Girl,” which would win star Richard Dreyfuss an Academy Award, De Niro starred in and started filming the earlier version. Then-director Mike Nichols didn’t find the actor a comedic fit and eventually fired him.

“I blame myself,” De Niro said. “I didn’t know certain things. It was a certain type of comedy — Neil Simon — that had the timing that would be a certain way … It just wasn’t working. I shot for about two weeks. It was the worst … You know, I’ve had maybe three times in my life that I’ve ever had that experience with a director. You can’t make them happy and they’re not happy and you’re kind of feeling that. So this was one of them.”

De Niro said that he later ran into Nichols at a dinner. The director apologized, to which De Niro responded, “I’m OK. I did OK. No problem.”

De Niro Con is set to continue over the weekend with more screenings of films like “The Godfather Part II,” “Analyze This,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Goodfellas” and “The Deer Hunter.”

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