Robert De Niro

Source: Screen grab / YouTube

Robert De Niro speaks at 2023 Gotham Awards

Robert De Niro rebuked the Gotham Awards and seemingly Killers Of The Flower Moon backer Apple during Monday night’s New York ceremony for what he said was an autocue edit of his remarks on intolerance and post-truth. 

On stage at Cipriani Wall Street to present Martin Scorsese’s epic crime drama with the Icon & Creator Tribute, De Niro faltered less than two minutes into his speech and rifled through his printed remarks as the audience sat in bemused silence.

“There was a mistake in this and I’m going to keep going,” said the two-time Oscar winner, before asking autocue operators to rewind so he could resume his address. 

Several minutes later, after a pre-recorded clip in which Scorsese – who was not in attendance at the ceremony – and Principal Chief of the Osage nation Geoffrey Standing Bear discussed the film, the cameras were back on De Niro.

“I just want to say one thing,” said the actor, who plays the villainous William Hale in the blistering chronicle of murders committed by white men against the oil-rich Osage Nation in the 1920s. “The beginning of my speech was edited, cut out, I didn’t know about it. And I want to read it.”

Amid a swell of whoops and cheers from the audience De Niro, who by this stage was reading from his phone, said: “History isn’t history any more; truth is not truth. Even facts are being replaced by alternative facts and driven by conspiracy theories and ugliness. In Florida young students are taught that slaves developed skills which could be applied for their personal benefit.

“The entertainment industry isn’t immune to this festering disease. The “Duke” John Wayne famously said of Native Americans, ‘I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them. There were great numbers of people who needed new land and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.’”

De Niro continued, “Lying has become just another tool in the charlatan’s arsenal. The former president [Donald Trump, who was often the subject of De Niro’s scorn during his first term] lied to us more than 30,00 times during his four years in office and he’s keeping up the pace in his current campaign of retribution. But with all his lies he can’t hide his soul: he attacks the weak, destroys the gifts of nature, and shows disrespect for example by using Pocahontas as a slur.

“Filmmakers on the other hand strive— this is where I came in and saw they edited all that, so I’m going to say these things to Apple and thank them and all that, Gotham blah blah blah, Apple – but I don’t feel like thanking them at all for what they did. How dare they do that, actually.”

At that point De Niro invited to the stage Killers Of The Flower Moon cast members Lily Gladstone, Leonardo DiCaprio, Yancey Red Corn, Talee Red Corn, Tantoo Cardinal, Cara Jade Myers, Jillian Dion, Janae Collins, and William Bellow to the stage. Gladstone spoke while DiCaprio watched on.

De Niro began his speech by saying: “Watching the news these days makes one think, from a political point of view anyway, that we actually are living in a post-truth society.

“Filmmakers on the other hand at least aim for the truth. We’re telling stories about real people, people we can relate to; we have no other agenda than to engage, enlighten and entertain, and through his films Marty Scorsese has illuminated the lessons of history with fascinating and absorbing stories. He treats his subjects with honest and respect.”

Apple and Gotham Awards’ publicists had not responded to requests from Screen for comment.

Killers Of The Flower Moon is an Apple Original Film distributed via Paramount Pictures. The awards contender with a $200m price tag has grossed more than $151m worldwide.