While Robert De Niro’s film roles have been cemented into filmmaking folklore (can you cement something into folklore?) since he first walked down those Mean Streets back in 1973, anyone who has met the man in person might agree that he isn’t exactly the most vibrant of personalities off-screen. Which is why few of us in Doha were expecting him drop a joke during his ‘In Conversation With’ on Sunday night.
“There’s an actor who can’t remember his lines, so he can’t work in theatre or anywhere anymore. So he’s working in a gas station. This director friend comes up and says ‘I want you as an actor in the third act of this Shakespearean play, I just want you to come on and say ‘Hark, I hear the cannons roar’, that’s all you have to say. So he thinks he can manage that and goes through rehearsal and in his dressing room he has ‘Hark, I hear the cannons roar’ written everywhere, in every emphasis. Then on the opening night, he’s getting ready. ‘Hark, I hear the cannons roar. Hark, I hear the cannons roar. Hark, I hear the cannons roar’. First act, second act. Finally, the third act starts and he hears his cue. He goes on stage and all of a sudden hears this boom and turns around and goes ‘what was that?”
Okay, it was really just a joke to offer an amusing look at issues regarding acting, but given the round of applause and hearty belly laughs from the audience, you’d have thought he was channelling 1970s Richard Pryor.