7 Things We Learned From THE FAMILY Press Conference

Click here for our review of The Family, out today in theaters everywhere! 

To promote The Family, its four members Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiifer, Dianna Agron, and John D’Leo reunited for a press conference in New York City and answered a few questions about the film. We were there, and it was a fun one. Here are 7 things we learned about the film, and its stars:

1. The Family is a successful action/comedy, and dark themes are appealing.

What are some elements that turn an action/comedy into a classic, Robert you were in one of them, and what is so appealing about dark themes? 

De Niro: “Which one? [laughs] Everybody’s interested in dark themes, and especially if humor is a part of it. An organic part of it. The human element is so important, and some grounding in reality. Not that you can’t go off in certain directions, but even that has to be grounded. I don’t know, you tell me.”

Michelle: “It’s what taboo. It becomes tittilating. In civilzed societies we try to become what is socially acceptable. We’re dark and we’re light. We have both sides to us, and it’s sort of living vicariusly through these characters on screen. You’re horrified and laughing at the same time. 

Dianna: Escapism. You go to movies to laugh, and see things you don’t normally see in real life.

Michelle: [on what makes a film a classic] Covering new territory that hasn’t been covered before, and good story. Those two elements, whatever genre it is, the film will become a classic.

2. The film pays great homage to Goodfellas, and is based on the novel Malavita. 

In my review, I say that perhaps the best scene in the film is when Robert De Niro is basically forced to watch Goodfellas as part of a film club’s screening. If that comes across as a cheap laugh; it is not. Goodfellas was referenced in the novel it was based on, Malavita by Tonino Benacquista, and it just so happened Mr. De Niro himself was in the film.

[To Robert] Did you re-watch Goodfellas? 

De Niro: I did, I rewatched it. And looked at the DVD where there was a lot of stuff that I had not seen, interviews with Henry Hill and other characters. And I just wanted to make sure because we were doing the last part of it, I wanted to make sure I had everything covered. I spoke to Nick Pileggi a few times, and he talked to Luc. But there was a monologue that was connected to going back to the neighborhood, and some specifics that weren’t there that had to be fixed. And just to look at the whole movie  to refresh my mind.

3. Swearing is fun. 

[To Michelle] How do you feel about cursing in real life? Do you like it?

Michelle: Yes.

Goodfellas holds the spot of #12 on the list of films’ most frequent use of the “F word.” The term Malavita, the name of the book the film was based on, has adopted the loose translation of “Badfellas.” So The Family has some big shoes to fill. D’Leo’s character, Warren, says that his father has the masterful talent of saying that expressive word in an infinite number of ways, to convey any meaning. Having seen the film, I can promise that he’s completely correct.

4. There is excellent chemistry between Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro.

[To Michelle] What were your thoughts on having Robert De Niro as an on-screen husband?

Michelle: It was a dream come true working with him, sorry to embarrass you [talking to Mr. De Niro, sitting right next to her] but you know, as an actor it doesn’t really get much better than that. The third time was the charm. It took three movies to finally be on-screen with him. We’d only met on the red carpet saying “cheese,” opening two films. He was just delightful in every sense of the word. I was so relieved to see how generous he was with us as actors. Our only regret was that we didn’t have more scenes together.

De Niro: Yup.

Mr. De Niro is a man of few words, but the scenes between them (especially one of them; the “couch scene” as they referred to it) makes very clear that the two film veterans have excellent chemistry.

5. Robert De Niro’s characters are always unique.

[From Screen Invasion, to Robert De Niro] We see so many elements of your violent characters from the past we know so well, but also the patriarchal family manwe’ve seen more recently. But what we get is sort of a unique combination that we haven’t seen yet. So can you shed a little light on how you came to that end, and what draws you to the more patriarchal characters?

De Niro: Luc Besson approahced me and sent the book, Malavita, and the screenplay and we talked about it. He was just going to produce it after he wrote the screenplay and we found the weay I saw it, it was harder to get a director that can really intepret the way he saw it, not the way I saw it. And so he said ‘I’ll do it myself’ and I was very happy because it was a lot simpler. Not that he couldn’t have had a handle on it as a hands-on producer, but it’s tricky.

–He sandwiched the response with, “Patriarchal? You thought I was patriarchal..well, this kind of patriarch.” I can only presume, by that, he meant that he doesn’t think of his character as patriarchal, and instead, favors the violence.

6. Dianna Agron, the actress and her character, can hold her own against anybody. 

Dianna, you play a character that is physically strong, but also emotionally vulnerable. Can you talk about that? 

Dianna: Yea, she’s the consumate dreamer. She doesn’t want anything to do with the habits that her family perpetuates. She wants to fall in love, she wants a fairy tale. Maybe she watched a lot of Disney movies. But anyway, she also flips on a dime because that’s what she knows how to do. I just love the duality of her. Who doesn’t want to fake beat people up for a job? It was really fun!

7. Young or old, you can always learn something new.

Dianna and John, you work with absolutely incredible icons of film. What did you pick up from them with your time on set? And Mr. De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer, what did you learn from your younger cast members?

Dianna: I’ve seen probably almost everything these two have done, same with Luc, so you have that going into it. Obviously it’s what you aspire to be. But that was my biggest learning curve, looking at all the strokes they’ve been painting on this canvas and then seeing what they do with these characters.

John: It was really fun to witness them professionally on set because I felt it helped me a lot as an actor, because they lead by very good example and it made my time on set very enjoyable.

Michelle: The youngins have been filming for a couple of weeks already when I came on board, so they were already in their rhythm. So when you come in late on that, it’s a little intimidating and their work was just already at such a level that frankl I was a little inimidated! And I was really reminded to keep everything fresh, and not rely on old bags of tricks. John was my dialect coach. I actually have a dialect coach but he wasn’t on set, so my dialect is really from where John is from.”

John: From Joysey. I made shaw she tawked like she was from Joysey and Staten Oylind.

–Each actor also shared their favorite scene, but I won’t divulge that here. If you see the film, tell us what your favorite scene is on Facebook and Twitter, and please follow @MattBenincasa and @ScreenInvasion!

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The Author

Matt Benincasa

Matt Benincasa

Matt is an actor and writer from NYC, attending Fordham University with a Major in Communications and Minor in Theatre.