Robert De Niro in Doha

Chris Anderson recalls the time he met Robert De Niro at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival Discuss this article

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I’m about to meet Robert De Niro. I’m about to meet Robert De Niro. How surreal that sentence seems to be. The time was Doha Tribeca Film Festival 2010, about 9.30pm. I think it was a Thursday. I’m not a stalker or anything, but like most people in this world just a massive, massive fan.

I was lucky enough to have access to the red carpet before a showing of De Niro’s new film, Stone. I arrived early, and was shown to the sectioned-off area for print media. I hopped inside, surveyed the red carpet before me and enacted in my mind our very first interaction – I was aiming for Michael Parkinson meets Mohammed Ali, maybe even Frost and Nixon. It wasn’t long before other journalists arrived.

Then a stern looking woman walked up to the barrier. ‘Your group will be allowed to ask him two questions.’ What? Just two questions for all of us? What do we ask him? Who gets to speak to him? We all started fumbling and muttering. Meanwhile, I was shouting out ‘There he is’ at any man with grey hair.

I wanted to open with a joke. Maybe say to him, ‘You talkin’ to me?’ Er, does that count as one of the two questions? Does the fact I just asked that count as the other one? Soon we had our questions ready, and it was decided the two men in the group – being the tallest, and therefore able to lean just the inappropriate amount into the poor man’s personal space – would be the ones to ask it. I could see De Niro making his way down. I was transfixed, until one of the journos pointed out I had a double-barrelled question, so could she ask the second half. Are you serious?

‘Why is it important to have a film festival of this calibre in the Middle East?’ I bellowed, while ‘And why Doha?’ echoed somewhere in the background. He shrugged in that typically De Niro way, and said ‘Yeah, you know, it’s good.’ Arrrgh, I’ve crashed and burned.

‘You’re known for putting your body through extremes for your roles,’ my companion to the right of me boomed, ‘have you done anything like that for this movie?’ Dammit, his question got a smile. De Niro replied: ‘Not really, I did a bit of research, though. I play a prison warden, so I spent some time in prisons.’

Then I couldn’t believe it – two questions and he was still here. He hadn’t moved. How is this part of the plan? Someone needs to take a stand. I piped up. ‘Er, with such a vast body of work, what would you say you were most proud of?’ I asked. De Niro looked at me, somehow surprised that I was still talking. Again he gave me that shrug. ‘My kids,’ he replied.

Swarms of people then enveloped him, ushering him into the theatre. I was left thinking, well, it’s not exactly an in-depth interview, I didn’t even get to touch him (I mean a friendly pat on the shoulder). I guess I spoke to him, so does that give me bragging rights? I suppose what I'm trying to say is: Mr De Niro, please let me apologise in advance for any discomfort I may accidentally put you through this year, should I speak to you again. I have a feeling I might, whether it’s on the red carpet or at Pinkberry – oh, and I’m working on much better questions.

By Chris Anderson
Time Out Doha,

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