"Sometimes people don't recognise me on the street" – How Robert De Niro went from a $50 pay check to fame and fortune
The actor on Nobu, the Oscars and The Godfather
obert De Niro is a man of few words off screen, an award-winning actor on screen and a businessman in the kitchen. Recently the 72-year-old was in Doha to officially launch the latest Nobu in the Middle East, he then jetted off to Moscow where Buro 24/7 spoke to the forward-thinking American about cooking, how he made his first paycheck and why the world needs technology to move forward...
You're an actor but you're also a businessman. How did you move into the restaurant business?
Yes, business is a big part of my life. It all came about when Nobu asked if I wanted to take part in opening a bunch of his world famous restaurants in New York. I'd already done the Tribeca Grill so I decided to take the offer from Nobu.
You're Nobu Matsuhisa's business partner, how are his acting skills?
He is pretty good actually! He's even played in a movie I produced, plus if I convinced Martin Scorsese to take him he must be really good.
Are there any plans to use him as an actor in your future projects?
You never know. There's always a part where someone gets shot so maybe I'll use him for that.
And what about your cooking skills?
Oh no, I don't cook. The guys I work with are doing a much better job. The more I learn the more confusing it gets.
When did you realise you'd made it as a movie star? Was there such a point where you said: "There's no turning back now?"
I probably realised it after I did the God Father 2, but believe it or not I used to worry about it before I made that film. It takes a lot to be recognised, especially by people in New York. Although even now people sometimes people don't recognise me on the streets.
Do you remember how you earned your first paycheck?
I made money delivering packages around the city.
I didn't do my first movie until I was 19 and my mother had to sign a contract for $50 per week. I was thrilled. Back then you had to be 21 to sign something serious like a contract.
You are known to be a man of very few words, how is your relationship with the media?
As a man of a few words I will say it's OK!
Do you read the news everyday? What are you interested in?
I like to keep up what with what's going on in the world. It's important to know what's going on around you.
What do you like about the modern world and what disappoints you about it?
When I was younger I used to see conflicts around the world and that still seems to be the situation nowadays too. Everyone talks about peace but it seems impossible to come to some sort of unity. It seems that this is the reality, all this about Isis. These wars between countries are no different between gang fights in New York, LA or Chicago - tribes that want control. How can that be minimised?!
What are the most important things to you right now?
My family, my children. That's my priority.
Do you spend a lot of time with them?
Yes. A decent amount.
Are you interested in the high life? Yachts, jets and all that comes with being in your position?
Sure, especially for my family. It's nice to give them that lifestyle. If it was me alone I could live more simply and even take a commercial flight, but I want to give them that life.
What do you appreciate in people most?
If people are nice and considerate, when people are genuine and not trying to be what they are not. It's important to be yourself and not arrogant.
Do you have all your awards stacked in one place?
I have them around in my home and I give some of them to my agents to have in their offices.
What do you think about the "academy" of the Oscars these days?
It's a good institution but sometimes I wonder how they choose the people who host the Oscars. It's a traditional ceremony but I know they have to take young hosts these days to draw a bigger audience because of the ratings.
Do you feel your own age?
I feel younger in some ways but sometimes I realise how old I am. Now if I have a project, I know it might take me longer to finish than before.
What do you think of the younger generation? Do they inspire you?
Sometimes when I see young actors or smart young people who create amazing things, that's inspiration to me. I hope they will be able to deal with all the conflicts of today maybe through technology and instant communication. Technology is just going to develop further. It's not going away. That genie is out of the bottle.