“You people should consider yourselves lucky that I’m granting you an audience tomorrow instead of 20 years from now.” Trust us, we do Mr. De Niro.
OK, OK, we’ll come clean: Robert De Niro did not, in fact, utter these words. You crafty little devils may recognize the quote from L. Frank Baum’s iconic novel, The Wizard of Oz. It’s fair enough to say that we feel like Dorothy, the Tin Man, Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion all rolled into one—and we’re not alone. On this November evening in Qatar, fans are lined up like Dorothy and Co. were at the Emerald City gate, waiting in turn with selfie sticks and smartphone cameras to seek the wisdom of Oz the Great and Powerful, who is residing on his throne (a patio couch) at the opening night party for Nobu, Doha.
We’re not sure how much wisdom De Niro, the upcoming star of HBO’s Bernie Madoff biopic Wizard of Lies, is dispensing, but he’s definitely keeping the hoi polloi happy. Instead of sequestering himself behind a red velvet rope or in a private room as he could have done—as is his right as one of the world’s biggest movie stars—he’s affably signing autographs and posing for a plethora of Instagram photos (including two party crashers who wanted to meet the man so badly that they pretended to be members of Qatar’s royal family), all with a smile on his face. We can’t say we’re not a little surprised—not because he isn’t a nice guy (and trust us, he is)—but because the De Niro we were expecting was the one we’ve read about: press-shy and a little aloof; the man Vanity Fair once dubbed “The Shadow King.”
Call him what you will—shy, strong but silent, Bob, Bobby or Ozzy (he prefers “Bob”)—but the fact of the matter is, De Niro is not a loquacious human. While it’s still true that the 72-year-old actor doesn’t like talking about himself—questions like “What would people be surprised to learn about you?” have him clamming up like a canary that refuses to sing for fear of being whacked Godfather-style— we can’t help but notice how open the actor is these days. Last November alone, the formerly press-shy star embraced both Angelina Jolie and husband Brad Pitt at the Wall Street Journal Innovator Awards followed by calling Dame Helen Mirren a “royal MILF” before smooching her onstage at the Gotham Independent Film Awards.