On-the-fly interviews at Sundance can be strange, especially when you haven’t seen the movie beforehand. But since What Just Happened? star Robert De Niro was only available to do press the afternoon before his film’s premiere, we had no choice. Surprisingly, the notoriously press-shy legend answered not one, not two, but three questions. Joining him at the noisy, bustling EW photo studio were director Barry Levinson, writer Art Linson, and, eventually, costar Bruce Willis, who really just wanted to go inner-tube in the snow.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How does it feel premiering this movie at Sundance?
ROBERT DE NIRO: We’re all happy to bring it here. It’s the first time I’ve been here. And so, it’s great. Barry?
BARRY LEVINSON: I think it’s exciting for this movie, to have done it the way we did it, as an independent film. So ultimately to get it on its feet and come here is very exciting.
EW: [To Robert De Niro] Do you find yourself comparing this festival to your own Tribeca fest?
DE NIRO: No, I mean… I’m happy to be here. I always think of Tribeca as being a great festival, but Sundance is a great festival. So I’m happy to be here.
EW: Do you have any first impressions?
DE NIRO: Oh, not really. At this point.
LEVINSON: A lot of altitude.
EW: Yeah, I get winded just walking across the room.
ART LINSON: I’m glad you said that, because I walk up two flights of stairs and feel tired.
EW: Oh God, I’d need to take a nap after two flights of stairs.
[Bruce Willis walks up and joins our huddle]
BRUCE WILLIS: [Extending his hand] Hello. I’m Bruce Willis. Television’s Bruce Willis.
EW: I think I’ve heard of you. How are you enjoying being at Sundance?
WILLIS: Never happier than you see me at this particular moment. Really.
WILLIS: It’s a tribute to a lot of things, some of them I can talk about… I’m here with my pals, we did this funny movie. I haven’t seen it yet, I’m excited to see it.
EW: You’ve been here before, right? You came with Alpha Dog in 2006?
WILLIS: No, I haven’t. This is my first trip to Sundance ever.
DE NIRO: Yeah, it’s the first time for me.
LEVINSON: It’s the first time for all of us.
Willis: You’re not going to plan any, like, practical jokes on us are you, are you? First time people — push ’em down in the snow. Are you from the East Coast?
WILLIS: The good packing kind of snow?
WILLIS: Or the real wet kind of snow.
LINSON: Why don’t we continue this after you see [the movie]?
EW: Yes, the three of us [EW, Levinson, and Linson] will be speaking again tomorrow. But so, do you have time to see movies other than your own?
LEVINSON: We’re gonna try. If we can fit it in.
DE NIRO: Yeah, yeah.
WILLIS: It’s a pretty tight schedule. Plus, there’s the inner-tube slides we’re gonna have to make. [Laughter] Did you go on them?
EW: Me? No.
LEVINSON You have to spread the word.
EW: What are they?
WILLIS: Oh man, you gotta check it out.
LEVINSON: Apparently, he’s discovered this place where you get an inner tube and you slide down the hill in the inner tube. With somebody. That’s what Bruce looked for right away when he got here.
EW: What is it called?
WILLIS: I don’t want to get it wrong, but I want to say Gorgoza. [Turning to the crowd of people near us] Who lives here? Who’s from here? [He wanders off.]
EW: Do you have any nerves about tonight’s premiere?
LINSON: [Laughs] Yeah, yeah. I can speak for some [nerves]. Yeah, we have to play in front of a thousand people. It gives you tension.
EW: There is speculation that the writers’ strike will create a bigger acquisitions market. Does that add more pressure?
LINSON: I don’t think it’s gonna matter. I mean, the strike, I’m hoping it’s gonna end really soon. It looks like it’s close to ending. People usually buy things because they want to. Not ’cause they have to.
WILLIS: And it’s a fun story. It’s a good, fun story. Plus, we’re guys, we compete at everything. We just wanna win! So yeah, we’re excited!
EW: Well, there are high expectations. It’s a hot ticket tonight.
DE NIRO: [Smiles]
LEVINSON: Well, I hope you enjoy it.
WILLIS: Maybe there will be tickets on eBay.