May 26, 2008 / 12:37 AM / 10 years ago

De Niro sends up Hollywood and Cannes in new film

CANNES, France (Reuters) - Robert De Niro plays a movie producer whose professional and personal life lurches from crisis to crisis in a new comedy on the cut-throat world of Hollywood and its relationship with the Cannes film festival.

Cast member Robert De Niro attends a news conference for the film "What Just Happened" by U.S. director Barry Levinson at the 61st Cannes Film Festival May 25, 2008. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

The final scenes of “What Just Happened” play out in the Riviera resort where De Niro’s picture has its premiere, making it a fitting closing film for the festival on Sunday.

Sean Penn and Bruce Willis also send themselves up in the satire based on the memoirs of veteran Hollywood producer Art Linson and directed by Barry Levinson, who made “Rain Man.”

De Niro plays Ben, who must juggle two ex-wives and their families, a pill-popping bi-polar director, a ruthless studio boss demanding radical changes to his picture and Willis steadfastly refusing to shave his beard for an action hero role.

The film casts an ironic eye on the process of getting movies made, how cash outweighs quality almost every time and how no one in Hollywood is safe from the whims of studio bosses, superstar actors and the movie-going public.

“It really is a place where most people are not doing well,” said Linson, when asked about how Hollywood was perceived. “I know it’s hard to believe.

“Most people are there doing their best not to be asked to leave. I don’t care if you’re Steven Spielberg or some new director, everybody is like a snail on a glass trying to hang on and not to slip down and lose their standing.”


De Niro said he enjoyed playing Ben, because the troubled character combined the comic and dramatic.

“I like a mixture of both (styles), and I think with this movie there is a sense of the two together kind of like Italian movies,” he said. “Some great Italian movies have the comedy and the drama.”

While admitting he was in a better position professionally than most actors and directors, De Niro added: “I have my own anxieties and certainly nothing is perfect by any means.

“When you’re there (in Hollywood) ... there’s an anxiety about whether you can deliver, whether you can get another movie made, whether you can get the actor.

“Sometimes it’s hinging on one actor, like in my case that’s happened many times, they are waiting on me to make a decision to go or not,” said De Niro, who added that he would like to be head of the Cannes jury some time.

As well as having a light-hearted dig at Hollywood, Cannes comes in for some mockery.

One character explains how the movie De Niro’s character is producing made it into the program at the world’s biggest film festival: “The festival only took the film because they want the stars. They only saw a 10-minute clip.”

Reporters and critics at a screening applauded loudly, underlining the feeling among many that Cannes bends over backwards to accommodate star-studded films and ensure a glamorous red carpet while sidelining experimental pictures.

Flashes go off as cast member Robert De Niro poses at a photocall for the film "What Just Happened" by U.S. director Barry Levinson at the 61st Cannes Film Festival May 25, 2008. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

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