Robert De Niro Reflects on Losing Role to Richard Dreyfuss in ‘The Goodbye Girl’

De Niro reflects on being replaced by Richard Dreyfuss in “The Goodbye Girl” at De Niro Con

Robert De Niro and Richard Dreyfuss. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, DIA DIPASUPIL/GETTY; DANIELE VENTURELLI/ GETTY)
Robert De Niro and Richard Dreyfuss. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, DIA DIPASUPIL/GETTY; DANIELE VENTURELLI/ GETTY)

Robert De Niro recently opened up about a career setback that led to Richard Dreyfuss replacing him in the 1977 romantic comedy, “The Goodbye Girl.”

Speaking at the 2024 Tribeca Festival’s De Niro Con, where he appeared alongside Quentin Tarantino for a screening of their 1997 collaboration “Jackie Brown,” the veteran actor shared insights into a difficult period in his career.

De Niro, now 80, revealed that he had been cast in a project initially titled “Bogart Slept Here,” which was later reworked into “The Goodbye Girl.”

Directed by Mike Nichols, De Niro was on set for about two weeks before things took a turn for the worse.

“I shot for about two weeks. It was the worst,” De Niro recounted, describing his experience on the film. He elaborated that during this time, he felt a growing sense of dread about his performance.

The actor recalled sitting in his trailer, feeling increasingly anxious about his fit for the role. The turning point came when he overheard crew members outside his trailer commenting on his lack of comedic ability.

Robert De Niro, 2024 Tribeca Festival. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, ROB KIM/GETTY)
Robert De Niro, 2024 Tribeca Festival. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, ROB KIM/GETTY)

“He’s just not funny,” they said, which De Niro described as an “electric” moment of realization. “I couldn’t have felt worse at that moment.”

The discomfort culminated in a conversation with director Mike Nichols, who informed De Niro that he wanted to take the project in a different direction. “He said he felt terrible.

He was really upset,” De Niro shared, emphasizing that Nichols struggled with the decision.

De Niro even contemplated offering part of his salary to extend rehearsals for another week in an attempt to resolve the issues, but ultimately, the production moved forward without him.

“Somehow he said, ‘I think we’re going to end it,’” De Niro recalled. 

Richard Dreyfuss was brought in to replace De Niro, and the script was rewritten to better suit the new direction of the film.

The retitled “The Goodbye Girl” went on to become a critical and commercial success, earning several Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture.

Dreyfuss won the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance.

Despite the disappointment, De Niro spoke positively about the final product and Dreyfuss’s performance. “Richard was great, wonderful in it. And he won an Academy Award actually for that part,” he told the audience.

Richard Dreyfuss plays Elliot Garfield in the comedy romance The Goodbye Girl. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, BETTMANN ARCHIVE)
Richard Dreyfuss plays Elliot Garfield in the comedy romance The Goodbye Girl. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, BETTMANN ARCHIVE)

This incident marked one of the rare occasions in De Niro’s illustrious career where he faced such a setback. He noted that while he had encountered similar experiences in the theater, this was unique in his film career.

The Tribeca Festival’s De Niro Con, celebrating the actor’s storied career, runs from June 14 through June 16. The screening of “Jackie Brown,” which brought De Niro and Tarantino together, was a highlight of the event.

In “Jackie Brown,” De Niro played Louis Gara, an accomplice of Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Ordell.

The film, an adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel “Rum Punch,” features Pam Grier as the titular character, a flight attendant entangled in a federal investigation into gun smuggling.

De Niro’s reflections during the festival provided a candid look at the ups and downs of his career.

While the actor is celebrated for his numerous iconic roles, his story about “The Goodbye Girl” offers a reminder of the challenges and uncertainties that even the most accomplished actors face.

The event also highlighted De Niro’s resilience and his continued passion for his craft. His willingness to discuss past difficulties openly resonated with the audience, adding a layer of depth to the celebration of his achievements.

As the Tribeca Festival continues, fans and attendees are treated to a comprehensive exploration of De Niro’s contributions to film, underscoring his status as one of the industry’s most respected talents.

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