During the mid-1960s, the New Hollywood era blossomed, introducing cinema lovers to some of the biggest names in the film industry. Directors such as Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola rose to prominence. Inspired by European and avant-garde filmmakers, these directors were keen to move away from the tried and tested studio system.
This period also gave rise to a collection of young actors that became frequent stars in New Hollywood productions. From Sissy Spacek to Robert Duvall and Harvey Keitel, these stars were icons of the movement, repeatedly working with the same directors. However, two of the most significant actors to earn widespread recognition in the early 1970s were Al Pacino and Robert De Niro.
The actors first appeared together in The Godfather Part II in 1974, although their scenes were filmed separately. However, they first met in the late 1960s, with De Niro recalling in a GQ interview, “Well, when we met, I think I was in my mid-20s. And you were maybe a couple years older than me. And that was about 50 years ago.”
Pacino chimed in, adding: “I remember the meeting very clearly. Unbelievably, I saw this guy, I thought, Wow, he’s got such charisma. He wasn’t doing anything. He was just walking. Remember? You know, he was Bob. But you felt something from him.”
Since then, their friendship has spanned over 50 years, and they remain close to this day. They’ve also starred in Heat and The Irishman together, with the latter being Pacino’s first collaboration with De Niro’s frequent director, Scorsese.
In a recorded interview with GQ, Pacino and De Niro discussed their favourite movies that the other has starred in. Pacino spoke proudly about his friend, referring to De Niro’s role in Raging Bull as “one of the greatest performances in film history”. He explained that De Niro’s portrayal of the middleweight boxer Jake LaMotta was “beyond belief,” before adding: “Pretty much everything Bob does [is beyond belief]… pretty much… everything I’ve seen,” he said, before joking, “640 films.”
De Niro’s performance in Raging Bull is widely considered to be one of the finest in film history, winning him the Academy Award for ‘Best Actor’. After reading LaMotta’s autobiography, the actor even suggested the concept for the movie to Scorsese, although the director was initially hesitant to make a sports film. However, after a near-death experience, Scorsese agreed to make the movie, subsequently creating a masterpiece.
As for De Niro, his favourite Al Pacino movie is The Godfather, referring to his friend as “unique and special”. The actor explained that he auditioned for Pacino’s role in the movie. Although initially upset that he didn’t get it, he was relieved that Pacino gave such an incredible performance.
Watch the full interview below.