Robert De Niro worked the crowd at the Beacon Theater during the Tribeca Festival closing gala on Saturday evening, which served as a 30th anniversary celebration of his directorial debut, “A Bronx Tale.”
When asked about the film’s mild box office — earning about $17 million on a $21 million production budget — the director said, “How could you not be disappointed? You do all this work for it. At the same time, I was lucky to be able to make the movie I made.”
De Niro also admitted that “I never got asked to do movies after that,” and it was an effort to get his next directorial effort, 2006’s “The Good Shepherd,” made.
“That was another uphill battle,” he said.
Following a screening of the film, De Niro, who also starred in and produced the film, discussed the project with writer and co-star Chazz Palminteri in a conversation moderated by The New Yorker’s David Remnick.
De Niro said that, despite the rough fiscal opening, he has appreciated the cultural impact the film has held over the years, including some of his biggest collaborations with Martin Scorsese.
“Other movies are the same way,” he said. “With Marty, even ‘Raging Bull,’ you do the movie because you really love it and you know it’s what you want to do because you feel it has to be done. When it makes a lot of money, that’s great, because it’s a kind of validation; a lot of people see it. But at the same time, things become recognized in certain ways. Even today, with ‘Bronx Tale,’ I enjoyed doing it, and it was a great experience to have been able to do it.”
“A Bronx Tale” stars Lillo Brancato, Jr. as Calogero, a teenager growing up in the Bronx in the 1960s who is torn between the honest, hardworking values of his father Lorenzo (De Niro) and the lifestyle of mob boss Sonny (Palminteri).
The film was originally an autobiographical one-man show by Palminteri, who agreed to collaborate on a film version once De Niro showed interest. “A Bronx Tale” only made a modest dent at the box office, but received critical acclaim and is now discussed among De Niro’s best.
During the discussion, Palminteri recalled the chat he had with De Niro about “A Bronx Tale” that convinced him he was the right person to helm the film.
“He said to me, ‘Look, you can do anything. You can go with all these people that want to make the movie with you,’” Palminteri said. “He says, ‘But I’ll tell you right now: You’ll play Sonny, you’ll write the screenplay, and it’ll be honest because it’s your life. I’ll play your father and I’ll direct it.’ And then he put out his hand and he said, ‘And if you make it with me, I’ll make it fuckin’ right.’ And he really made it right.”
De Niro later co-directed a musical version of the show for Broadway, which opened in 2016 and ran for two years.