Oscars then and now: Irishman stars Robert De Niro and Al Pacino talk campaigning in 2020
Ask Robert De Niro and Al Pacino about campaigning for an Oscar, and they laugh — loudly. “It’s a little overexposed,” De Niro, 76, says between chuckles. It’s been a long few months since The Irishman‘s September premiere at the New York Film Festival; along with director Martin Scorsese and (less often) costar Joe Pesci, the pair have covered virtually every stop on the awards trail, appearing at Q&A’s and ceremonies, sometimes without even a day to separate them. “To me this is all very new,” Pacino, 79, says. “I haven’t been out and about [this] much for years.”
De Niro and Pacino have known each other for 50 years and made several movies together; feeding off that familiarity, The Irishman has a worn-in, almost wistful quality about it that audiences have embraced. (Academy voters too: The movie is up for 10 awards, with De Niro and Pacino nominated for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor, respectively.) The attention has allowed them to spend more time together than ever before — off set, anyway. “We get to see each other, which we never do,” Pacino says.
Granted, this is hardly the pair’s first time around the awards block. Both were nominated back in 1975 for Best Picture winner The Godfather Part II (Pacino scored his first nomination for the original Godfather film in 1973). “There was not as much of a focus [on Oscars],” Pacino says. “And we weren’t as well-known then.” So what about now? Did they feel prepared for this campaign? Booming laughter, again, from both. Pacino interjects: “How do you prepare for this?”
De Niro, also a producer on The Irishman, has certainly appreciated the recognition, given the many years it took to get the film made. He’s been beside Scorsese every step of the way on the circuit. “I’m just so happy we actually did it,” he says. And in what’s certain to be a busy Oscar evening for The Irishman, this provides a nice bookend for De Niro, too; he missed attending the 1975 Academy Awards, despite winning Best Supporting Actor. “I was shooting 1900 with [Bernardo] Bertolucci in Italy,” he recalls. (Pause for humblebrag.) “So, I got the call at six in the morning.” (He was, fortunately, present to accept his 1981 Best Actor trophy for Scorsese’s Raging Bull.)
Pacino and De Niro have enjoyed racing around Hollywood on the movie’s behalf, but sound ready to let it go. “Maybe we’ll stay at the same old-age home,” De Niro cracks. Pacino roars: “I’d think of that fondly! You know how you [hear of people] thinking of the next project? I’m out there thinking, ‘What’s a good place I can go to rest?'”
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