Actor takes stand against any work stoppage

Robert De Niro weighed in Saturday on the debate over a possible strike by actors in Hollywood, coming down firmly against any work stoppage.

The actor, director and producer, whose “What Just Happened,” opened the Karlovy Vary Film Festival on Friday and who received a lifetime achievement award, told a packed news conference the next day that now is not the time to take to the barricades over residual payments for DVD and other media exploitation of movies.

“I do not think it is a good time to strike now. The issues could be resolved over the next couple of years (without strike action),” De Niro said.

He contrasted calls by SAG to strike with the deal done by the DGA on the same issues, suggesting that directors had “done their homework” to get a decent deal.

“I do not think the actors have done that,” he said. “I do not know if it is the right time to be doing this at all with the economy the way it is.”

De Niro’s comments followed those made by George Clooney last week, when in a two-page letter released Thursday, Clooney took a neutral position, laying out the pros and cons both of SAG’s strike stance and AFTRA’s opposition to it.

Turning to more professional issues, De Niro said he would like to make two sequels to CIA Cold War drama “The Good Shepherd” — one bringing the action forward from 1961 to 1989, the other following its hero, Edward Wilson (Matt Damon), up to the present day.

Although he is not working on research for the concluding parts of the hoped-for trilogy, De Niro said being in central Europe offered a good opportunity to begin thinking about the material.

“I had not been planning to do research on that while here, but it is a good idea,” he said.

His long collaboration with Martin Scorsese — which he ascribed to the fact it’s always been “a lot of fun to work” together — should produce at least two more films, De Niro said.

His next project with Scorsese, which he declined to detail, is one on which he’s already working and should be ready by 2009, he said.

Earlier in an interview with the festival daily newspaper, De Niro had said he was “superstitious about talking about it.”

De Niro had little to say about “What Just Happened” — which has enjoyed less-than-effusive reviews — and was greeted by a lukewarm audience reaction at Karlovy Vary, with scattered applause starting only well into the credits.

He did praise Bruce Willis — who plays a truculent prima donna actor who refuses to shave off his beard, putting a film production in danger of shutdown — saying Willis “had a real good sense of humor about himself.”

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