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Jack Byrnes is Back with a Vengeance: Robert De Niro in Little Fockers



Robert De Niro’s formidable and well earned reputation as one of the greatest actors of all time can be a little daunting for those about to step up to the considerable challenge of acting opposite him. But the man himself is at pains to point out that he’s just one of the team - it’s all about the work, he says, and that brings actors together.



Now comes Little Fockers, the third, eagerly awaited instalment of one of the most successful franchises in contemporary cinema. Greg and Pam are now married and the proud parents of five year-old twins and at first, there’s an amiable truce between Greg and Jack but, unsurprisingly, it doesn’t last.


“It’s kind of going back to the first film and that uneasy relationship between Jack and Greg,” explains De Niro. “They’ve developed a kind of trust but there’s always something lurking beneath the surface with those two and Jack thinks he saw something and that gets in the way, destroys the trust they had, and sends everything back to where they started out where they’re kind of at war with each other. It doesn’t take much to get those two to get it going again.

This is the third time you’ve played Jack Byrnes. What was it like this time around?

Well you know, every time is different, but it’s the same characters. I think the hardest thing is to try to come up with a story that would hopefully hold the audience’s interest, and the dynamic between the characters within that family structure. I’d say basically we had a good time doing it.

What’s happening with Jack Byrnes this time?

It’s kind of going back to the first film and that uneasy relationship between Jack and Greg. They’ve developed a kind of trust but there’s always something lurking beneath the surface with those two and Jack thinks he saw something and that gets in the way, destroys the trust they had, and sends everything back to where they started out where they’re kind of at war with each other. It doesn’t take much to get those two to get it going again.

Time has moved on and Greg and Pam have kids now, so Jack’s a proud grandfather…

Yeah, and that’s very much part of the story, too. Jack is very aware of his legacy and he wants that legacy to be carried on and he bestows that on to Greg – he anoints him as head of the family but Greg disappoints him, or he thinks he does, because there’s a big misunderstanding and there’s all these antics going on during the movie and then, finally, we get a resolution and it’s happily ever after.

Is it true that you came up with the idea of the polygraph test in the first movie?

Yes, I did. And in the second one it was the whole thing with the camper and the high tech room that Jack has that Greg visits. But in this one I can’t remember if I had something that was that significant.

Both Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson said that if the vibe is right they like to improvise. Do you like doing that?

Yeah I do like doing that and we’ve done that in these movies especially and that’s good but it’s just that you just have to be careful that you don’t go too far. It’s like any improvisation you have to edit it but we did some of that and it’s fun. And, of course, Ben and Owen play off each other and have a lot of fun doing it and I’ve done that to a degree with everybody.


There’s a big fight scene in Little Fockers between Greg and Jack. What was that like?

It was fun, it took us about two weeks and it was all carefully choreographed, and set up really well – the beginning, middle and end and actually it was a lot of fun to do. .

You first worked with Harvey Keitel on Mean Streets back in the day - what was it like working with him again?

Harvey and I worked together on Falling In Love and that was maybe 26, 27 years ago and we haven’t done anything together since then until Little Fockers. And it was good to work with Harvey again. It was great to have him with us and I’m so glad they wanted him in the film and it was a lot of fun to have him there.

Jay Roach directed the first two movies and Paul Weitz took the helm for Little Fockers. He has to honour the other two films and at the same time bring his own ideas to the new one. How did he do?


Well Paul was himself and he has to put his own mark on the film. Not for ego reasons, just because he’s a different person and has different sensibilities as a filmmaker. And so that was his task – he has to service the franchise and at the same time put his own identity on the film. And it’s different in that way but he did a great job. I’m going to work with Paul on a movie called Suck City next Spring and that’s something that we wanted to do before he got involved in Little Fockers. That was already in place before the idea to approach Paul to do Little Fockers came along. And I said to him ‘no matter what happens with this, if you do it or not, we’ll do our movie..’ Because I didn’t want to put that pressure on him. But obviously I’m glad he did Little Fockers.

What do the new cast members in Little Fockers bring to the table?

Well, Laura Dern is a terrific actress. She’s great and perfect for this. I did Machete with Jessica (Alba) and I wasn’t sure about her for this and then she did a reading and she was terrific, she was great.

And do you get much to do with Dustin and Barbara’s characters?

We do a little, yeah but probably not as much as we did before. I think they are in it in the right way and very much a part of the whole family dynamic.

Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Jessica Alba all said that they found it a little intimidating when they first worked with you but that you quickly put them at ease. Do you consciously do that?

You know, that stuff goes away pretty quickly. Because you’ve got to get down to the work and then it all gets back to normal pretty quickly. And that’s the way I like it. You just get on with the job.



“Little Fockers” is released and distributed by United International Pictures through Solar Entertainment Corp. Showing on January 8, 2011.



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