Robert De Niro Talks Scorsese’s New Jesus Film, Says ‘Flower Moon’ Premiere Was Always Set for Cannes Instead of Tribeca

Robert De Niro is going from Cannes to Tribeca, as the world-renowned actor prepares to kick off the 22nd edition of the film festival he co-founded in 2001 with Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff. It runs from June 7 to 18 across New York City.

De Niro recently appeared at Cannes Film Festival for the world premiere of Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” in which he stars opposite Leonardo DiCaprio. The Oscar-winning actor said there were conversations about premiering the Western crime epic at Tribeca, but that idea never materialized.

“We did talk about it a little bit, but it was always Cannes,” De Niro told Variety. “There was talk about whether it should go in competition or out of competition. And we decided out of competition. It made more sense.”

De Niro also addressed whether he would be interested in starring in Scorsese’s next film after the director announced earlier this week that he had met with Pope Francis and will make a film about Jesus Christ.

“I don’t know who I’d play. He might — if he asked me, at the end of the day, I don’t know,” De Niro said, to which Rosenthal quipped, “I’ve always thought you walked on water.”

“I don’t know what would happen. He [Scorsese] knows, he’ll think of something for me that I would do,” De Niro continued. “Marty is very concerned about time, as he should be. More so, say, than me. I’m an actor, basically. So I can do more things in the time that — I don’t want to say [the time that] I ‘have left,’ but I have to say it like that. Marty also — he said the other day in Cannes — he only has so much time. So when he does a project, it’s a couple of years. So every one is very, very important. So that could be his. He hasn’t told me anything about it, but that doesn’t mean… [trails off].”

De Niro and Rosenthal sat down with Variety to discuss Tribeca’s diverse array of events, which include the premiere of Chelsea Peretti’s directorial debut “First Time Female Director” and talks featuring Paul McCartney, Conan O’Brien, David Letterman, David Fincher and Lin-Manuel Miranda. The festival will also feature “Expressions of Black Freedom,” an evolution of Tribeca’s Juneteenth programming with this year’s theme being Black music.

Of course, the festival will continue its tradition of hosting anniversary events (Tribeca organized reunions for “The Godfather” in both 2017 and 2022) with a special focus on “A Bronx Tale,” De Niro’s directorial debut. After a 30th anniversary screening of the coming-of-age drama, he’ll be in conversation with writer and co-star Chazz Palminteri and Rosenthal, who produced the film, at Tribeca’s closing gala on June 17 at the Beacon Theatre.

“I am anxious to see this new print and the sound system at the Beacon, which is a beautiful theater,” De Niro said. “And the conversation we’ll have after that. It’ll be great. It’ll be a nice experience for me.”

Rosenthal also touted Tribeca’s other reunions, adding, “We are excited that ‘New Jack City’ will be here… We also have ‘How Stella Got Her Groove Back.’ We’re trying to look at Black excellence, and looking at the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. Those are two reunions that will be really special events.”

Asked if there’s another reunion he has been chasing over the years, De Niro shied away from revealing specifics but said, “I was talking about something with Marty [Scorsese] and Leo [DiCaprio]. I’ve had an idea for years, and Marty and I have been talking about it for years. We should talk about that one more time and see if we can really go anywhere with it. Hopefully something will come out of that.”

Part of this year’s lineup is Marvel’s first original documentary “Stan Lee,” about the company’s legendary comic book writer. Asked if the festival would ever premiere another Marvel superhero tentpole as they did with 2012’s “The Avengers,” Rosenthal said Tribeca is “always” interested in serving as a launch pad for major studio movies in addition to its rich assortment of indie programming.

“We’ve had ‘Spider-Man’ here. We’ve had big movies here. It depends on what the release date is,” Rosenthal said. “I think studios have become cautious of how early they’re going to put something in a festival, and especially in New York City.”

Addressing the most pressing issue looming over Hollywood, Rosenthal affirmed that she and De Niro are “100% supportive of the Writers Guild strike, and hopefully it gets resolved soon.” Asked if any writers or filmmakers were hesitant to promote their films at Tribeca, she said, “It wasn’t so much individual writers. We did have two programs that we pivoted and did so in consult with the Writers Guild.”

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