Robert De Niro hasn’t made a decent comedy in years – a flurry of big paychecks in exchange for humorless cinematic crapola.
The drought of yucks, however, is over, though it’s not coming to a theatre near you.
It’s unfolding this week in a Manhattan courtroom as the A-list actor faces off in an absurd civil trial against his former longtime personal assistant, Chase Robinson over back scratches and air miles – with the backdrop of a simmering cat fight between the women in De Niro’s life.
As a bonus, it includes a few plugs for bingeable classic shows.
Even De Niro’s attorney acknowledged in court that, “This trial is going to be a little bit like a movie.’’
And it’s already given the focus group, otherwise known as the jury, some decent chuckles, according to those who saw their reaction.
Usually in cases like this, it’s the celebrity getting sued (think Lizzo being sued by her dancers for allegedly body shaming them and making them attend a sex show in Amsterdam) This time it’s De Niro doing the suing.
In 2019, the Oscar-winner actor’s production company sued Robinson, his assistant of 11 years, alleging she raided company coffers for Ubers and floral arrangements, took his airline miles without permission and binge watched “Friends” and “Schitt’s Creek” during work hours.
She countersued, saying he was the boss from hell, citing bullying, misogynistic behavior and workplace harassment.
According to Robinson, the Hollywood legend asked Robinson to scratch his back, cracked jokes about his Viagra use, called her twice during her grandmother’s funeral because, well, he wanted her to book a ticket for his son, and made her Uber him a martini from Nobu at 11 pm, one of the many round the clock requests he regularly made.
Yes, it’s as petty and entertaining as the sensational Gwyneth Paltrow trial – minus the parade of shoppable high fashion.
In an explosive moment while on the stand, he copped to asking for her to personally relieve the nagging itch on his back.
“OK, twice? You got me! I’m saying this is nonsense,” fumed De Niro. “It was never done with any disrespect. Shame on you, Chase Robinson!”
Their working relationship ended when she quit in April of 2019, and the aggrieved ex-assistant said their relationship took a nosedive when she tried to negotiate a two year severance, asking for health care, and even a press release announcing her departure from the company.
But according to testimony and court papers, frictions first started when his new girlfriend Tiffany Chen entered the picture in 2018.
“She thinks she’s your wife and I’m tired of her rearranging things and throwing my stuff on the floor in chaos whenever she decides she wants to be the ‘lady of the house’ it’s very bizarre and it really has to stop,” Chen texted, according to court papers.
But it was De Niro, Robinson claimed, who had made her his “work wife.”
De Niro for his part, who since 2016 has been on a self important “I hate Donald Trump” media tour, comes across as rather Trumpy: self-centered and lacking in self control.
During his testimony on Tuesday, De Niro conceded that he called Robinson “petulant,” “snippy” and a “f–king spoiled brat.”
“The whole case is nonsense, it’s ridiculous. I wanted my things back, that’s all I’m asking. Return my things, return my air miles. Enough is enough. I wanted her to do it in reason — not take 5 million miles,”
The indignity of the Oscar winner, who according to his ex-wife, was worth half a billion, dragging his former assistant to court, to betray his privacy and whine about air miles.
It’s almost as bad as making “Dirty Grandpa” or whatever Jada Smith is currently doing.
Maybe Robinson took some extra airlines. Maybe she took liberties with her expenses. Maybe she binged “Friends.”
But it was De Niro who also took advantage of her, requiring her to work from early morning until late at night. He made her his emergency contact.
He thought nothing of ringing her twice during her grandmother’s funeral or ringing her around 4:30 am in 2017 when he had fallen and needed to go to the hospital.
Why didn’t he ask Hightower, who took a vow to care for him? “She was sleeping, I didn’t want to bother her,’’ the actor said on the stand.
He also berated Robinson because he missed a meeting “in Malibu” when she didn’t wake him up. Imagine amassing all that fame and wealth and losing the ability to use an alarm clock.
Imagine not seeing your entitlement.
Robinson was paid an annual salary of $300,000 for her troubles and many folks would be willing to scratch De Niro anywhere for that kind of cash.
For charity’s sake, let’s say boundaries were crossed on both sides. Familiarity bred contempt and lawsuits.
Lawsuits which wound and embarrass are commonplace in celebrity culture — mostly initiated by the staff themselves.
However, rarely do they go to court.
And this is self-inflicted on De Niro’s litigious part. But as the saying goes, it’s so hard to find good help these days, darling.
This story originally appeared on NY Post