Robert, since you have appeared in several Martin Scorsese films, including Goodfellas, does Hollywood have its own mafia?
Robert De Niro: Well, it has its groups that hang out together. Like any profession, business and community, it has its groups that work together.
Michelle Pfeiffer: They also beat each other up. (laughs)
Robert, did you re-watch Goodfellas, which is mentioned in The Family, before you began shooting this film?
Robert De Niro: I did re-watch it. The DVD also has a lot of stuff that I had not seen, such as interviews with Henry Hill and the other characters. Doing the CinemaTech scene for The Family, I wanted to make sure everything was covered.
I also spoke to (Goodfellas screenwriter and novelist) Nicholas Pileggi a few times. I also spoke to Luc, to make sure the monologue was accurate. While the Goodfellas monologue was in the book version of The Family, there was also a monologue about going back to the neighborhood. It wasn’t connected to what Goodfellas was. There were specifics that had to be fixed. I wanted to look at the movie and interviews with people, just to refresh my mind.
What do you think Martin’s reaction would be to Giovanni’s take on Goodfellas?
Robert De Niro: I don’t know. Marty told me he liked the movie. I don’t know if he saw it with an audience or not, but I know he liked it.
Michelle, how did you keep the chemistry between Maggie and Giovanni alive throughout the film?
Michelle Pfeiffer: It was a dream come true working with him. Sorry to embarrass you. As an actor, it doesn’t really get much better than working with De Niro. The third time was the charm–it took three movies to actually be on screen with him. So I didn’t really know what to expect from him.
Robert, your character combines elements from your past films that audiences know so well, with the patriarchal family man you’ve taken on more recently. How did you come to combine those two types of characters?
Robert De Niro: Luc Besson approached me with the book and screenplay. At first, he was just going to produce the movie, after he wrote the screenplay. The way I saw it, it was harder to get a director who could interpret the way he saw and wanted it. So he said, “I’ll do it myself.”
So I was happy, because it made everything a lot simpler. It was his vision, as he started the whole thing. Not that he could have had a good handle on it as just a producer, but it’s tricky. Then Michelle and Dianna and John came on board. I don’t know if that’s answering your question. (laughs)
Dianna, your character starts off as being strong, but as the film continues, shows how vulnerable she really is. Can you talk about that?
Dianna Agron: One of the things I love about her so much is that she is a dreamer, and doesn’t really want anything to do with what her family perpetuates. She wants to fall in love, and wants the fairytale. That’s when she flips, because that’s what she knows what to do. So I loved the duality to her. Who doesn’t want to fake beat people up? (laughs)
What was it like working with your co-stars?
Dianna Agron: I have probably seen everything that Robert and Michelle and Luc have done. Seeing their characters, it’s obviously what you can aspire to be. My biggest learning curve was looking at all the strokes painted on the canvas, and seeing what they do with these characters. It was more about just being in the moment; it’s about how much I look up to them.
John D’Leo: It was really fun to witness them professionally on the set, because I felt like it helped me as an actor. They lead by a very good example, and it made my time on set more enjoyable.
Michelle Pfeiffer: The younger actors had been filming a few weeks before Robert and I came on board, and they had already found their groove by the time we started. So when you come in late to something, it’s a little intimidating.
Robert De Niro: John and Dianna were great, that’s all I can say. We had a good time together.
Coming in to this film, what were you most looking forward to?
John D’Leo: With this one character, I got to do so many different things on so many different levels that most actors don’t get to do in several films. This is not just a normal mob movie. It’s a fish-out-of-water story.
All the people I got to work with obviously, and filming in France for three months was unreal. It was my first time out of the country. I had to get my passport and everything.
What are you doing next?
John D’Leo: Lots of auditioning, lots of studying, but there’s nothing solid or on paper yet. What would I like to do? I feel like I’ve satisfied a lot of my career needs in this one movie. A Western would be great.
I’d really like to try to be on Hawaii Five-O. I’d like to take my mom to Hawaii; that would be a great trip. The biggest step I could do to next would be working with Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Robert Downey Jr. and Johnny Depp.
That concludes our interview, but we’d like to thank Robert De Niro, Michelle Pheiffer, Dianna Agron and John D’Leo for taking the time to speak with us. Make sure to catch The Family when it hits theaters on Friday, September 13.