It is, apparently, an era of Q-&-A interviews — which, as a journalist I understand (it’s quicker) but as an author I rather bridle against (it’s more work to write my answers out than simply to say ’em).
Anyhow, “De Niro: A Life” has occasioned two such interviews in recent days:
— One from Reuters which has been translated and published (often in print) all around the world.
I have a few thoughts to share on that last one. Yes, it all really happened and can be verified and was vetted by a lawyer prior to publication. And yes, I learned about it and wrote it. But it represents perhaps 1% of my work, as opposed to 100% of the Mail’s. My 600 pages are far more concerned, as the reviewers above have noted, with the working life of a great artist than with the private life of a man who was on top of the world through much of the ’70s and ’80s and lived the high life of that era as many others in his milieu did. These things happened; but they are not the whole man and they are most definitely not the whole story that I have written about the man.
There is no way to write a full biography without addressing the entire life of the subject. The biographer simply must report what is out there to be found (and, crucially, what can be verified). But I chose repeatedly in my years of research and writing to emphasize the thing that has made De Niro famous — his astonishing art — rather than the dirt I might have found under his fingernails; and I most assuredly did not follow every whiff of smoke that I cam across with the hope of finding the fire of scandal. I wrote about an artist, his choices, his technique, and his impact. Without De Niro’s art, after all, we wouldn’t know of him at all. And then what would the Mail’s headline be: “Unknown Man Indulges in Sex and Drugs”? I think not.
Anyhoo, as before, the book is available in print and/or in digital formats at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, and other purveyors of words-on-paper and/or -screens.
Shawn Levy is the former film critic of The Oregonian and KGW-TV. His writing has appeared in Sight and Sound, Film Comment, American Film, Interview, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Black Rock Beacon. He is the author of nine books, including Rat Pack Confidential, Paul Newman: A Life,King of Comedy: The Life and Art of Jerry Lewis, and Dolce Vita Confidential. He jumps and claps and sings for victory in Portland, Oregon.