Robert De Niro Details How Richard Dreyfuss Took His Part in The Goodbye Girl, Reflecting on Hollywood Dynamics and Career Turning Points

“I couldn’t have felt worse at that moment,” De Niro said of not being a good fit for the rom-com

Robert De Niro and Richard Dreyfuss

Robert De Niro; Richard Dreyfuss. Photo:Dia Dipasupil/Getty; Daniele Venturelli/ Getty

Robert De Niro is looking back on his career.

De Niro, 80, and Quentin Tarantino, 61, appeared at the 2024 Tribeca Festival’s De Niro Con on Friday, June 14, for a screening of their 1997 movie Jackie Brown. After the screening, the veteran actor opened up about being fired from a project in the 1970s.

“I shot for about two weeks. It was the worst,” De Niro said of his time on the set of the 1977 romantic comedy The Goodbye Girl — only then the production was titled Bogart Slept Here.

Robert De Niro

Robert De Niro, 2024 Tribeca Festival.Rob Kim/Getty

He was replaced by Richard Dreyfuss, and the script was rewritten. After the title change, the rom-com became the motion picture that fans know it as today.

The story of how De Niro left the project has been reported in the past, including in Shawn Levy’s 2014 biography De Niro: A Life.

On Friday, the actor said there was only “maybe three times in my life I’ve ever had that kind of experience with [a] director,” referring to working with director Mike Nichols.

He clarified that even in those past instances, they were plays, and that he never had such an experience on the set of a film.

Robert de Niro poses during a photocall for the film "Killers of the Flower Moon" at the 76th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 21, 2023

Robert de Niro, May 2023.LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty

“I was sitting in my camper and you feel this dread of just, just not working,” De Niro recalled. He said he happened to hear some of the crew walk by outside of his trailer and say, “He’s just not funny.”

“That’s electric. I couldn’t have felt worse at that moment,” De Niro said.

The Goodfellas talent said that about three days later, he received a call from Nichols with the director expressing that he was headed in a different direction for the production.

“Somehow he said, ‘I think we’re going to end it,’” De Niro recalled.

According to De Niro, the decision wasn’t an easy one for Nichols. “He said he felt terrible. He was really upset,” he said.

The Irishman talent was also willing to try and resolve the situation before it got to the point of finding a new actor and rewriting the script.

“I was even going to offer some of my salary for keeping us going for another week in rehearsal to try and keep it going,” De Niro said. “I don’t know if I said that to him.”

Richard Dreyfuss

Richard Dreyfuss plays Elliot Garfield in the comedy romance The Goodbye Girl.Bettmann Archive

“It never happened,” he continued. “They got Richard Dreyfuss, they rewrote the script and retitled it.”

Still, De Niro seems to be a fan of the finished product, which was directed by Herbert Ross and was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.

“Richard was great, wonderful in it. And he won an Academy Award actually for that part,” he told the audience.

As for Jackie Brown, De Niro costarred alongside Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, Michael Bowen and Chris Tucker. The movie follows a flight attendant named Jackie Brown (Grier, 75) who is pulled into a federal investigation into illegal gun sales by Jackson’s character Ordell; De Niro plays one of Ordell’s accomplices, Louis.

De Niro Con is running from now through June 16 during the Tribeca Festival.

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