Michael Douglas and Robert De Niro: Grumpy old men

Hollywood legends Michael Douglas and Robert De Niro are getting on a bit – and they don't like it. But being on screen together for the first time eases the pain, they tell Gill Pringle

Waiting in turn to talk with two of Hollywood's most celebrated veteran actors, there's a moment of unintentional hilarity when a very young journalist enthusiastically asks Michael Douglas, 69, and Robert De Niro, 70, to name the "best thing about growing old".

It's a fair question given that the two actors are co-starring in Last Vegas, a comedy about four best friends, now senior citizens, who escape retirement to throw a Las Vegas bachelor party for the one remaining singleton among them. However, a potent silence ensues, De Niro grimly looking at the floor while Douglas grimaces, solemnly wringing his hands.

"Nothing," Douglas eventually replies, cracking a smile. "It's very depressing, so you can make a comedy about it, and get it all out. But it's very hard to find anything positive about getting old. Nothing, really. Fortunately I've got younger kids," he says, referring to his children Dylan, 13, and Carys, 10, with estranged wife Catherine Zeta-Jones, "so it's wonderful to be able to share information with them, spend time with younger kids."

"When they want to listen to you," chortles grandfather and father-of-six De Niro, himself a late-in-life father, his youngest child born via surrogate two years ago, named Helen Grace for his second wife, Grace Hightower. Wed in 1997, the couple also have a 15-year-old son, Elliot. His first marriage to actress Diahnne Abbott produced son Raphael, 37, a successful New York estate agent, as well as adopting Abbott's daughter Drena, 42, from a previous relationship, while his long-term relationship with former model Toukie Smith resulted in twins, Julian and Aaron, now 18.

"As you get older you have this natural desire to make things better, if you can, before you're gone. But, beyond that, I don't see much benefits [to ageing]," concludes Douglas.

Nobody is excluded from the cruelty of age, not even a Hollywood superstar like De Niro. "It's a given, there's nothing you can do about it, so you may as well make fun of it. It's interesting when you walk down the street and you see younger people and they ignore you - their peripheral vision sees that you're one or two generations older than they are, so they're not interested. Otherwise, the grey hair... you become a part of another class of person," he says.

"Second class!" chimes Douglas, adding, "I don't see any advantages other than you're more comfortable with yourself; you don't have to prove anything; you accept who you are. Both of us have younger children and it's nice to have the time to spend with them. Even as we're all around 70, I think we're going to see longer and longer life-spans - and, with the digital age, he'll look like Raging Bull still! Inside, you feel like the child within you. I don't think there's a lot that changes, although the exterior changes a lot. That expression, youth is wasted on the young, is very true."

"Hopefully this film will find its audience because there are a lot of baby boomers out there," says De Niro. "You see it all over those TV commercials for medications, where you have the nice music playing while they give you all the down sides - you might die from it, you might this, you might that, but there are so many of these because they're appealing to the vast baby boomer population. When you're younger, you hear people talk about how it went by so fast but when you get there, you look back and find out its true. The kids grew up so fast, where did the years go? Now they're in college... its just true."

With Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline in 'Last Vegas' With Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline in 'Last Vegas' Described by Variety "as creaky as an arthritic hip", Last Vegas is a senior variation on The Hangover, equally with its own laugh-out-loud moments, finding mirth in the relentless tide of age as well as the nostalgia factor of the cast - co-starring fellow old-timers Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline - none of whom, remarkably, have ever shared the screen before.

Winning Oscars for Raging Bull and The Godfather: Part II, De Niro has carved out a serious reputation for loners and tough guys in Goodfellas, Taxi Driver and Cape Fear, although the past decade has seen him tackle more comedy - with varying success - starring in Analyze This and the Meet the Fockers franchise. "We're all very lucky and do very well as actors. You don't have much choice as you get older," he says bleakly. "So you better just go with the ride and enjoy it. That's it."

Later on, Douglas - who plays a spray-tanned, highlighted lothario looking to settle down with a woman half his age - confides how his cancer diagnosis was the biggest wake-up call of his life. "I take things much less seriously," he says. "Serious is when they tell you you've got cancer. Cancer is serious, but then the rest of it is not. I'm much more conscious of time. I know what year this is and I can adequately count how many years I think I have of good health. I'm watching the clock a little bit."

De Niro agrees. "I don't like to waste time. If I have a day off and I'm on a location somewhere, I'll take a trip and see something because I never know if I'll get back there again, especially as you get older. I like to travel and do things, and share it with my children, let them see things that I have the advantage of going to. The time is now, not next year," says the actor, who struggles with the myriad demands of parenting children whose ages range between 40 and two.

While much has been written about a supposed reconciliation between Zeta-Jones and Douglas, his positive affirmations have been vague at best - although today he's apparently in the mood to talk about love. "My idea of love has changed, because when I was 25 I was probably leading with down here," he says mischievously, pointing at his trousers. "Now love is probably much more in my head."

Still sporting his wedding ring on the day we meet in New York, he's been separated from Zeta-Jones since August. The status of the couple's 13-year marriage is the subject of almost daily scrutiny, with some tabloids reporting that he is trying to smooth troubled waters by visiting the family apartment each morning to make pancakes for his kids.

"You can't take love for granted, you've got to protect it, you've got to nurture it and take care of it. When you're younger, you just take it for granted," he says somewhat wistfully.

Thirty-two years old when he wed 19-year-old Diandra Luker, he was a largely absentee father to the couple's son Cameron, now 35 and currently serving a 10-year prison sentence on drug charges. The couple's divorce resulted in one of the biggest settlements of the day, with Luker receiving $45 million in 2000.

Today, Douglas offers this surprising piece of marital advice: "I think you should wait. Everybody has their own careers, their own ambitions. I think you should work on your own career, try and get some financial security and independence," says the actor who earned a Best Actor Academy Award for Wall Street in 1987, as well as a Best Picture Oscar for co-producing 1975's hit movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

"Women are now very comfortable to have babies into their late 30s. You can be a father in your 50s. I'm not saying it's for everybody, and I think people have to get their own life secure before they take on the responsibility of a partner and children. I guess there are some women who like older men, but it's a smaller group," he quips, poking fun at the 25-year-age gap in his own marriage to Zeta-Jones.

De Niro warms to the theme: "The only thing I would say is that if you get married, it's easier probably not to have children if you're going to split up - it makes life simpler later on in life."

Ask if either of them have retirement plans, and this, apparently, is more amusing than anything they've heard in a while. "No. What are you going to do?" De Niro asks Douglas with that famous shrug.

"Retiring gives the impression that you're relieved that your job is over," suggests Douglas, second-generation Hollywood royalty, the son of actors Kirk Douglas and Diana Love Dill. "We love our jobs. It's so much fun, to make believe - you go different places; people are happy to see you; you get into good restaurants. Hopefully, I can get a table at one of Bobby's restaurants," he smiles in reference to De Niro's expanding restaurant empire which includes shares in high-end sushi chain Nobu, together with his famed New York eaterie TriBeCa Grill and Locanda Verde, located in The Greenwich Hotel, in which he has also invested.

Fine dining is clearly something both men enjoy in their later years, and while neither of them enjoyed actually filming in Las Vegas, the food made a better impression. "For me, the worst experience is just the amount of people and the crowds. The best is the food - it's probably one of the best cities in the world for eating very, very well," says Douglas.

"I agree," says De Niro. "When I did Casino, there were a couple of good restaurants, but not the way there is today. It's really changed."

'Last Vegas' opens on 3 January

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Arts and Entertainment
Nicholas says that he still feels lucky to be able to do what he loves, but that there is much about being in a band he hates
musicThere is much about being in a band that he hates, but his debut album is suffused with regret
Arts and Entertainment
The singer, who herself is openly bisexual, praised the 19-year-old sportsman before launching into a tirade about the upcoming Winter Olympics

books
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher in the eleventh season of Two and a Half Men

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn