The Oscar-winning actor was speaking onstage at the BFI London Film Festival ahead of the international premiere Sunday of “The Irishman,” Martin Scorsese’s crime drama, in which he plays the mob hitman believed to have slain Jimmy Hoffa.
De Niro told a packed theater in the British capital: “Today, everything’s been turned upside-down because of Trump because he’s such a dirty player. It’s amazing to me that’s he’s…getting away with it. He won’t get away with it forever, but he is getting away with saying these things about every institution.
“We have to defend these institutions, plus the Fourth Estate, the press, because he’s trying to destroy them and for only one reason: to save himself. And we all know this.”
In a conversation that traversed De Niro’s career, from his early performances in “Mean Streets” to his work in “Raging Bull,” “Taxi Driver,” “Heat” and “The Irishman,” the actor responded in his familiar understated and brief manner. But he became animated when given the opportunity to talk politics.
“It’s pretty disgusting that we’ve got Republicans there who are just so afraid to do anything, so afraid to stand up,” said De Niro. “They could be stars in their own communities. They are. They could go into private practice, make more money and stand up and still be very vocal against him, and I don’t know why they don’t do that.
“Certain senators have pulled out…but others could pull out, get out and say, ‘I can’t be in this administration. I’ve got to speak out constantly against this administration because we have to right this wrong.'”
De Niro has used his platform while in the U.K. to repeatedly target Trump, telling the Guardian newspaper that the U.S. has “a gangster president,” adding: “I can’t wait to see him in jail.”
The “Goodfellas” star is also set to be seen on British television Friday on the BBC’s “The Graham Norton Show.” In the pre-recorded show, he said: “Today, we have a weird, twisted president who thinks he’s a gangster, who’s not even a very good gangster….Gangsters have honor, you shake a hand and they have your word and you have theirs and that’s it. But with this guy, it’s not the case.”
The 63rd BFI London Film Festival closes Sunday evening with “The Irishman.” Financed by Netflix, the film will also be screened in 88 U.K. theaters simultaneously with the international premiere before being released in select U.K. cinemas on Nov. 8.