You talkin' to Robert De Niro? Better not be talkin with "negative inference" or he will not stand for it, darling. De Niro is promoting "The Intern," because that's part of the job, and the 72-year-old actor walked out of an interview with the U.K.'s Radio Times after an interview started to rub him the wrong way. After reading the rundown from Radio Times, many fans are backing De Niro, arguing that the reporter editorialized and framed things in a negative light when writing up the story of De Niro's ill-fated interview.

For example, the interviewer wrote that De Niro looked "depressed" and said something "glumly," which already has a negative connotation. Here's a portion of the write-up, shortly after De Niro answered the reporter's question about how he preserves against "autopilot" when he's been doing his job for so long:

...De Niro swivels his eyes up from the floor and asks me to pause the voice recorder.

"Why?"

"Could you just do it?"

I do it. He then pops up out of his chair, starts pacing madly and says he's cutting short the interview because of the "negative inference" of what I just said.

"What, about the bankers?!" I am genuinely amazed.

"All the way through," says De Niro. "All the way through, negative inference."

"Er, like where else?"

"The whole way through and I'm not doing it. I'm not doing it, darling."

"But," I suggest, "all I've been doing is asking you reverential questions about your methods as an actor."

"You're probably not even aware that you're doing it, the negative inference, the negative inference."

"That's quite a presumption."

"I'm a very good reader of character."

"So am I."

De Niro has paced all the way to the door by this point, and is sticking his head out, looking in vain for an aide to come along and save him. Walking into the corridor alone doesn't seem to be an option.

"Hang on," I say, "so where else am I being negative?"

"The question about being on auto-pilot - negative inference."

"Wait, but I asked that question to establish how it is you manage not to be on auto-pilot."

"There's a negative inference."

"I have to say, now that you're going on about it, it makes me think you were on auto-pilot and you're super-sensitive about it."

His jaw starts working and he looks wildly around the room as if in search of a window to jump through. "I'm not doing this, darling," he says.

"I think you're very condescending."

"Oh, you think 'darling' is condescending?"

I suppose this is what's called the artistic temperament..."


It goes on, but based on reaction to the original story and others, readers seem to be Team De Niro, and not just because he's a famous actor and therefore can do no wrong. Things definitely get heated in the comments at the reporter's expense, fairly or unfairly, but here's a polite response that sums up the consensus: "You did have a negative inference. Sorry." However, not everyone supported the legend. As one reader put it, "I can't believe there are so many negative comments aimed at the interviewer here, I say good on her for Robert De Niro on his spoiled brat behaviour. As far as I could make out there was nothing wrong with the question she asked, she was simply trying to understand his process."

What do you think?


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