R. Colin Tait: Fellowship Recipient

R. Colin Tait: Fellowship Recipient

My dissertation project is called “Robert De Niro’s Method: Acting, Authorship, and Agency in the New Hollywood.” And, basically, the point of it is, The New Hollywood is an era that’s really been considered a director’s cinema. What I’m trying to do, and what I’m doing with the aid of the Harry Ransom Center’s archives, is really looking at De Niro’s materials and reinserting him into a history that he’s largely been omitted from at this point. When you open up a script or a shooting script, it’s almost this living document, where it’s not only the script or the words on the page, it’s not only his notations, it’s all of these notes stuffed into corners, and it’s all of these kind of dog ears, and it’s all of this research that goes into it. And, you know, we tend to think about production only happening on set, but I think probably the most surprising thing about all of this material is it reveals an intellectual process that is something that we don’t necessarily always associate with actors. Certain films that aren’t necessarily as important in the traditional histories became more important to my project. One of these films is Bang the Drum Slowly, is a film about baseball, which is very different from the type of roles that De Niro became famous for. It’s a very sensitive portrait of a Georgia back catcher who is not necessarily the smartest person. This film really allowed me to investigate the moment when De Niro put everything together and came up with his technique. What this cross-section, I hope, will eventually provide is our opportunity to view De Niro not as simply an actor, which is what he’s known for, but more of an enterprising entrepreneur, along the lines of someone like Warren Beatty or Robert Redford. When you get to someone like Robert De Niro, who’s made almost a hundred films, or has been behind the scenes, who’s made at least a film a year for the past fifty years, you have this much more accurate body to draw from. The example I always think of is the explorers in the north who do environmental science. They drill in and they get a core sample. I think that when you have a core sample across a consistent body of work, you have a much more accurate description or a much more accurate record of what actually occurs.

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