The actor, director and producer delivers another great performance in the upcoming film “Hands of Stone,” which is based on the true story of Panamanian boxer Roberto Durán and how he won his championship with the help of Arcel.
Check out what he had to say below.
(This interview has been edited and condensed.)
Why De Niro was attracted to taking on the role of Arcel:
I met him [Arcel] once or twice when I was around Jake [LaMotta] and certain fight people. And I was impressed by how he was, his whole demeanor. He was natty, dressed like -- people called him a banker, I heard. He was an interesting guy. He had over 20 champions, and I did a lot of research on him as much as I could. And I really was impressed. Even when I met him, I was impressed. There was something about him. He’s not like a typical trainer that you think of. He had a sort of elegance about him, and that was it.
Why it’s still difficult for him to get financing on movies:
It happens a lot, unless it’s a certain type of movie with certain actors. They take the chance. They know they’re a definite box office draw. With other people, it’s not so, you know, it’s not that easy. But it’s hard with everybody. You know, you have to fight the budget situation, the money, the budget, the schedule. Every bit of the process is difficult, and it’s a constant uphill battle.
What it’s like being an actor today vs. when he was younger:
It was what it was. When you were younger, it’s different. In some ways, it’s not so different, but some ways it’s easier. And some ways it’s harder. That was a great time when I was younger. That was then. Now is now.
If fellow actors ask for advice:
Some people do, and I like giving advice. Some young actor friends of mine will ask me for advice and I like to do it. I appreciate it. They listen, and they take what they want, what they can use, like I do.
What it was like to work with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence:
Bradley’s a very, very wonderful actor, very sincere, a good guy. I love Jennifer. She’s great. She reminds me of my daughter, you know. She’s a wonderful actor. I don’t know how she does certain things, with just like I think learning lines, especially working with [director] David O. Russell. Sometimes different things are thrown at her, and she manages to do it, which is great. It’s not easy.
Where his comedic roots come from:
My mother always thought I was funny. That’s always a good sign. My kids are funny. Some of my kids are especially funny.
Whether his kids criticize his work:
They’re not even critics. They just like, they don’t care, so they don’t say anything. They’re worse than being a critic.
Why he can’t name a movie he’s learned the most from:
Well, you always learn from every movie you do, no matter what it is. You learn things. You can’t help but learn: the way a director sets up the shots, the way you work with that director, and just everything, you know, the nature of the whole production, everything. So I can’t say that I learned more -- I probably could if I really thought about it and went through each movie and said, “I learned this." But it’s not that simple to say, “I learned this much on this film and a little less on that one.” ‘Cause you learn on all of them, really, and every experience, ‘cause they are experiences.
What the movie “Taxi Driver” means to him:
The movie, when we did it, you never can predict how it’s going to be perceived. We all really liked the script a lot: Marty [Scorsese] and Paul Schrader, who of course he wrote it, Michael and Julia Phillips. Everybody involved in the film just liked the story, liked the character, so we were all excited to do it, but how it will be received is another, you know.
Which directors he is inspired by when he directs:
I might take an element from everyone I’ve worked with in some way. I mean, the most general thing I can say is you have to allow an actor or anyone in a production to feel free to come up with ideas, try them and so on and not make them feel that they’re constrained. ‘Cause once that happens people shut down and say, “Well, what do you want me to do? I’ll do it.” It’s very important to have that give and take, and Marty’s great at that and David [O. Russell] and many directors I can’t even remember naming now.
Who does the best Robert De Niro impression:
Actually the person who I saw I thought was really funny was Alec Baldwin on Saturday Night Live. He was great. The rhythm is a certain thing. It’s flattering if you do it well. It’s funny.
Watch the full interview with Robert De Niro on ABC News' "Popcorn With Peter Travers" above.