How Aubrey Plaza Out Methoded Robert De Niro

Posted on 12 October 2022

Aubrey Plaza, who surprised Robert De Niro on-set.
Aubrey Plaza, who surprised Robert De Niro on-set.

Aubrey Plaza, who surprised Robert De Niro on-set.
Aubrey Plaza, who surprised Robert De Niro on-set.

De Niro is well known for his comprehensive character work.

For Raging Bull, he learned to box at a pro level and put on 60 lbs for the film’s second half to play the crestfallen Jake LaMotta.

For Taxi Driver, he became a fully licenced New York taxi driver and would put in night shifts to understand the world of Travis Bickle.

For The Godfather II, he spent three months in Sicily learning the language, the accent, and the mannerisms of that region of Italy to play the young Don Vito Corleone.

For The Deer Hunter, he travelled around the United States, learning about steel mills in different places and learning about the lives of the workers and what their shifts are like to play the character of Michael.

In short, he’s no slouch when it comes to prep and getting into character.

But, he met his match on the set of Dirty Grandpa. Which was not the best film choice he’s ever made, but that aside let’s focus on what happened on set.

His co-star Aubrey Plaza, also a method actor, went to town to get into her character, Lenore.

Lenore has the hots for De Niro’s character, Dick Kelly and spends most of her time trying to get him in the sack.

Before filming, she had never met De Niro, and there were no rehearsals. When he turns up to shoot, she is already in character and this is what she said happened:

“I didn’t really have a relationship with him [De Niro] off camera because he’s him. I didn’t have time to get to know him, he shows up in a puff of smoke and there’s no chatting at the water cooler.” By the time he’d show up, I’m in character. My character had one goal: To have sex with him. I was acting totally insane as the character because we were about to shoot. I don’t think he understood that wasn’t me. You’d think he would because he’s an actor and an amazing one.”

She didn’t stop there either. She then did this:

“I didn’t know him, we’d never talked, and I was really scared of working with him… but I was like, ‘I’m gonna do something really crazy’, and I took a real slutty picture of myself in my trailer, in character, and then I printed it out and I put it in a book of zen Buddhism. And then I slipped it under his trailer door with a little note that said, ‘Happy shooting’, or something, and then I waited.”

A week went by without De Niro saying anything about it. She was ‘terrified’ she had made a serious mistake, but then one day he “just casually came over to me and he was like, ‘I got your book…’ I put the picture on page four and he was like, ‘I only got to page four, but it was very good,’ and then he walked away.”

So here is the thing.

What these two are doing is advanced method playtime.

They know their craft, they have trained in it for years, and now they can play off-camera to enhance their work.

Whilst there is nothing in the process of method acting detailing you must do this sort of thing; there is an ethos of leaving no stone unturned and doing everything you can to get psychologically close to the character you are playing.

I love how Aubrey took risks and challenged him. She tried to out method the master. Good for her; I’m sure she won a lot of his respect in the process.

Something to think about!

Brian Timoney

The Master Of The Method


Yes, I’m over 18 years of age