The Tribeca Film Festival (TFF) provides attendees more than just a sneak peak at movies before their theatrical release; it’s also about celebrating the people who have made film history. In a sequence of discussions, appropriately named Tribeca Talks: Director Series held at the BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center, famed actor Dustin Hoffman interviewed filmmaker Noah Baumbach in front of a live audience.
The Spring Creek Sun was on hand at the event, and its red carpet as the stars strolled toward the venue amidst camera clicks and flashes. The media covering the affair were in for a big surprise— Robert De Niro crashing the party. Some may be wondering why De Niro attended a red carpet to an event he was not taking part in. The answer is found 16 years prior. After the tragedy of September 11th, Robert De Niro co-founded the Tribeca Film Festival with Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff in an effort to rejuvenate the city’s economy and confidence, creating an annual tradition that is now in its 16th year and is a staple of New York City. It is with this in mind De Niro joins and promotes special projects held by the festival that he helped create, leaving spectators wondering where and when he may appear next.
Hoffman, Baumbach, and De Niro looked jovial while posing for pictures, as did members of the media who were eager to see the cinematic powerhouses together. The trio joked and had their heads on swivels as photographers vied for their attention. During this star-studded affair, audience members filed into the auditorium mere feet away from the stars themselves, showing that this is a celebration of the art and not of stardom itself. After the flashes had died down and the lavish carpet had been abandoned to memory, Jane Rosenthal introduced Dustin Hoffman and Noah Baumbach. They took to the stage through an unrelenting wave of applause. The pair sat contrary to another and absorbed the welcoming atmosphere.
“This is supposed to be a Q&A, so my first question is: What do you think about your career?” Hoffman asked of Baumbach, to which he responded: “Well, seeing as I am on stage talking to you it’s gone pretty well.” This brief exchange set off a cavalcade of laughter and put the room at ease for the next hour of conversation, which included their personal takes on film making and acting, as well as comical anecdotes.
Baumbach is renowned for his films such as: Kicking and Screaming, The Squid and the Whale, Margot at the Wedding, Greenberg, Frances Ha, While We’re Young, Mistress America, and the upcoming The Meyerowitz Stories. During the talk, Baumbach discussed his script writing and filming methodology, which Hoffman, who previously worked with him on The Meyerowitz Stories, found his directing to be precise.
One of the highlights came toward the end of the night when the duo received audience questions and Hoffman revealed the origin of one of his most famous onscreen moments. “I love your line ‘I’m walkin’ here!’ [from Midnight Cowboy,]” a gentleman commented.
“Do you want to know that story real quick?” Hoffman asked with a smile. “We were walking down 6th Avenue and the director had a van across the street with a one-way camera. We get to the corner and he [the director] wants the traffic light to turn green so we can keep the dialogue going, so we kept doing take, after take, after take, and every time the light turns red. So, he says cut and he comes out of the van. We start further back and even further back [up the street.] Finally, on the 15th take, the light turns green—we are so happy—and we are able to keep walking, then a cab drives in—I thought: We are makin’ a movie here! Just as I am about to say it I realize, ’oh you can’t do that.’ So, my brain changed it to, ‘I am walkin’ here!’”
Not only did the crowd revel in this story, there was also a sense that they were privy to a special moment—a long awaited revelation from the annals of film history, and that’s what the Tribeca Film Festival is all about: rejoicing in an art form that has become ours as much as it is the authors’, actors’, and directors’ who shaped it.
Photos by Dean Moses