Comedian, The: Hackford’s Dramedy Starring De Niro

The world premiere of Taylor Hackford’s The Comedian, starring Robert De Niro, took place at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood as part of AFI FilmFest.

More than three decades after starring in Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy,” De Niro returned in another role as a troubled stand-up comic.

The supporting cast includes Leslie Mann, Danny DeVito, Edie Falco, Patti Lupone and Cloris Leachman. “This has been a passion project of mine for many years,” he said on the red carpet.

De Niro has won two Oscars: Best Supporting Actor for The Godfather, Part II in 1974, and Best Actor for Raging Bull in 1980), and has been nominated seven times.

He  admitted after the screening that getting honest laughs was a serious challenge.  “It was good but it was not an easy experience” he allowed. “Sometimes the extras didn’t realize they were supposed to laugh.”

De Niro, who was a major Hillary Clinton supporter, was asked about “The Comedian” opening on January 13,  just a week before the Presidential Inauguration of Donald Trump. “That’s too big a question,” De Niro said with a grin.

Director Taylor Hackford, who once was a part owner of the Storyville comedy club in New Orleans, reiterated the inherent difficulty of stand-up.

“It’s really hard because if they don’t laugh, then you die,” he said. “It’s so dark when a comedian doesn’t get laughs, so this has some really dark moments.”

Hackford noted that the film was shot in 27 days and needed much of the shooting to take place in the middle of the night — when comedy clubs are in operation.

“We did a lot of this by the seat of our pants because the comedy needs to feel spontaneous,” he added. “And nobody could complain when the star is working harder than anyone else.”