Aubrey Plaza said in a new interview that she “freaked out” Robert De Niro on the set of Dirty Grandpa by staying in character as a woman who “had one goal: To have sex with him.” Plaza, who played the aggressively flirtatious Lenore, said she was committed to the role, but that De Niro didn’t understand she was acting because they had so little interaction off-set.
“I didn’t really have a relationship with him off camera because he’s him,” Plaza said in a London Film Festival ScreenTalk session with Leigh Singer, pegged to Plaza’s film Emily The Criminal. “I didn’t have time to get to know him, he shows up in a puff of smoke and there’s no chatting at the water cooler.”
She added: “By the time he’d show up, I’m in character. My character had one goal: To have sex with him. I was acting totally insane as the character because we were about to shoot. I don’t think he understood that wasn’t me. You’d think he would, because he’s an actor, and an amazing one.”
Plaza told Singer that one of her agents “heard Bob’s a little freaked out” by her behavior. Later, he hosted a lunch for the cast and crew and didn’t recognize Plaza out of character.
“I showed up and he’s like, ‘Who are you sweetheart?’ and after that he was normal. At first I think I came on really strong. I did some questionable things I wouldn’t do anymore.”
While De Niro is known for total commitment — gaining and losing weight for roles, prosthetics, intense research — Aubrey Plaza told us for our summer cover story that her technique involves drawing on her past. She explained that she works consistently with acting coach Ivana Chubbuck — “so I guess I work in the Ivana Chubbuck method, if you want to get really technical about it.”
“My approach is definitely immersive and personal and involves a lot of working through my own issues and my own life, my own childhood traumas, my own pain,” she added. “I find acting to be a really cathartic way to deal with it, and I know that’s not really how everybody does it, but for me, I spend so much time in my acting and on sets and working as an actor that I almost feel like it’s necessary for me to use the work, in a way, to help me work through my own stuff and to help me navigate my way through life.”
Plaza has spoken before about awkward moments with Robert De Niro on Dirty Grandpa. When the film was released, she recounted how she accidentally flashed him due to a wardrobe malfunction. She was wearing a bra that had been rigged to pop off, but wasn’t supposed to pop when it did.
“The very first take, they were like, ‘Action!’, and he went towards me and it just went, ‘Pop off!’, and I was like, ‘Argh!’ So that’s how we started the day. At least we broke the ice!”
Aubrey Plaza will next appear in Season 2 of HBO’s The White Lotus, premiering on October 30.