It isn’t discussed all that much, but actor Robert De Niro and director Brian De Palma—both Hollywood titans—worked together at the start of their careers, when both were unknowns. De Niro appeared in the first three De Palma films, which have been recently restored and packaged together for an upcoming boxed set. Dangerous Minds has a preview.
Brian De Palma produced, directed, and edited his first film, which would be called The Wedding Party. Shooting began in 1963, but the movie wasn’t completed until 1966. Three more years would pass before it was released. The Wedding Party is about a man facing doubts about his imminent marriage. Shot in black and white, De Palma’s film is a comedy that is, at times, experimental.
Robert De Niro first heard about the production via an ad in the casting weekly, Show Business, and went to De Palma’s studio to audition. The director noticed De Niro was shy, but was subsequently blown away by his acting chops. When De Niro received the call that he got the part of groomsman, he was so excited that he misheard what his compensation would be. He thought he’d be getting $50 a week, but it was actually $50, total, for the role. Still, De Niro was thrilled. It was the first time he’d be paid for acting. He was nineteen.
This was also the debut for another future star, Jill Clayburgh, who’s the bride-to-be. The other groomsman is played by quirky character actor William Finley, who is surely memorable to many of our readers as Winslow/the Phantom in De Palma’s awesome cult classic, Phantom of the Paradise (1974).
Four months before The Wedding Party was released in April 1969, another De Palma movie, Greetings, hit theaters. Greetings, a satirical picture, was the first film to receive an X rating.
De Niro had a meatier role in this one, playing a voyeur, which he reprised for De Palma’s sequel, Hi, Mom!.
Arrow Video has restored all three films, which are featured on the upcoming Blu-ray box, De Niro & De Palma: The Early Films. The set will be released in a limited edition stateside on December 11th. Pre-order a copy by way of MVD or Amazon.
Arrow has provided us with a clip from their restoration of The Wedding Party. In this segment, De Niro and Finley’s characters try to convince the groom he shouldn’t get married. De Niro has a buzz cut and looks very young, This is his first scene in the movie. As for De Palma, he’s really playing around with film conventions here, incorporating jump cuts and violating the 180-degree rule. At the start of the clip, there’s a title card, one of the silent film elements seen in The Wedding Party.
We’ll leave you with Arrow’s trailer for De Niro & De Palma: The Early Films.