American Express Offers Tribeca Talks with Robert DeNiro and Judd Apatow

Yesterday marked the first full day of the Tribeca Film Festival. Independent film fans flocked downtown to attend the first panel of the celebration: 100 Years of Universal, which was offered exclusively to American Express cardmembers via its Premium Access program. The panel featured the festival’s founder and film icon Robert DeNiro and director Judd Apatow with moderator Mike Fleming of Deadline Hollywood.

It opened with a video that featured clips from Universal’s most iconic films, including Cape Fear, a film that oddly contributed to Judd Apatow’s start. “One of the first important milestones in my career was I created The Ben Stiller Show with Ben, and the sketch that got us picked up was our Cape Fear parody, Cape Munster,” he explained. “We studied that movie shot for shot with Ben dressed up as Eddie Munster, and that’s how we got the show picked up.”

The group focused on DeNiro’s films with the studio, including The Deer Hunter, as well as comparing the independent spirit of the movie market between the ’70s and today. “I see a lot more independent films now than when I started out,” DeNiro said. “There were hardly any independent films, like Greetings and Hi, Mom! – I did those. There was Robert Downey, Sr., some I can’t remember, and Shirley Clarke who were independent filmmakers, but it was not like today. Now you can get decent financing for independent films.”

Apatow had been criticized for creating weak female characters in his films, but he noted that there were stereotypes for both genders. Because of this, he wanted to ensure both genders were equally flawed in his films. With his work on Bridesmaids, he beat the stigma but didn’t realize the film would have such an impact on audiences and critics. “I never thought, ‘Oh, we’re doing a movie with all of these women in it, and this is a ground-breaking idea,’” he said. “I just thought, ‘I want to make a movie with Kristen Wiig.’ There’s tons of hilarious women, there always has been, so it didn’t connect with us that anyone would think we were doing anything. I mean I like Private Benjamin as much as the next guy.”

With DeNiro’s iconic dramatic roles, one would believe the transition to comedy was a difficult process, but no so. “Well, Taxi Driver had a lot of funny things in it,” he said. “Mean Streets, The King of Comedy – they weren’t obvious comedies, but it was funny because of the situation or the irony. With Analyze This, Billy [Crystal] felt that I would be okay with it, and I never had a problem with being funny, especially with that character – he’s bigger than life anyway.”

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