Billy Crystal’s Playful Jabs at Robert De Niro’s Acting Prowess Stir Up Hollywood Buzz and Laughter

Gayle King hosted a conversation between the two friends after a June 14 screening of the 1999 comedy

Billy Crystal and Robert De Niro on June 14

Billy Crystal (left) and Robert De Niro. Photo:Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

Therapy is back in session for Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal — and it’s full of laughs!

The Analyze This costars took the stage at Spring Studios’ Indeed Theater in New York City on Friday, June 14, following a screening of their hit 1999 comedy for a conversation and Q&A moderated by Gayle King.

Talking about their first few takes of the film, Crystal, 76 explained that De Niro, 80, pulled him aside and told him that he was open to feedback on his performance.

“He whispers because it’s like, mafia guys they speak in whispers because it makes you come to them,” Crystal recalled of the conversation. “And he says, ‘Listen. If you see anything I can do funnier, better, take me aside and just let me know.’ “

Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal in 'Analyze This'

Robert De Niro (left) and Billy Crystal in ‘Analyze This’.Moviestore/Shutterstock

Crystal remembered thinking, “Oh my God. What an amazing, generous thing to do.”

On the next take, their characters first encounter each other in a simple scene when a patient (De Niro) introduces himself to his therapist, played by Crystal.

At the Q&A, Crystal said that when the director yelled cut on the scene, in which De Niro’s character is reluctant to be receiving treatment and meant to play disinterested, he took De Niro up on his openness to being critiqued.

“I go, ‘Come here. Is that all you got?’ And then we just laughed and we just, throughout the whole movie you wouldn’t think that we would just laugh as much as we did,” Crystal recounted. “It’s hard to get through some of the scenes because they’re really funny, and he was extraordinary to work with.”

Billy Crystal (L) and Robert De Niro attend the screening of "Analyze This" during the 2024 Tribeca Festival at Spring Studios on June 14, 2024 in New York City.

Billy Crystal (left) and Robert De Niro participate in a Q&A following a screening of ‘Analyze This’ on June 14, 2024.Rob Kim/Getty

In the comedy, De Niro plays Paul Vitti, a mob boss who suffers a panic attack and reluctantly seeks the help of psychiatrist Ben Sobel (Crystal). Through a series of comical misunderstandings, the two men, who are polar opposites, form a bond and come to respect each other. The movie also stars Lisa Kudrow and Chazz Palminteri.

Analyze This was a hit with critics and viewers alike, and topped the box office on its opening weekend. It spawned the 2002 sequel Analyze That, in which De Niro’s character is released from prison into his shrink’s custody.

Billy Crystal and Robert De Niro at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2019

Billy Crystal (left) and Robert De Niro at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2019.Dia Dipasupil/Getty

De Niro and Crystal have kept in touch through the years. In 2022, they were photographed together in New York when the Raging Bull Oscar winner saw the City Slickers star on Broadway in a musical adaptation of his 1992 comedy Mr. Saturday Night.

In 2023, Crystal told PEOPLE that he hung out with De Niro and his partner Tiffany Chen shortly before they welcomed their daughter Gia in April of that year. “I was with him two weeks before the baby was born,” Crystal said, adding that the birth of their child was “amazing.”

He said at the time that De Niro and Chen “just love each other, and they want to do this together,” adding, “I think it’s a beautiful thing. It’s wonderful.”

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