Published20 hours ago
Robert De Niro took the stand on the first day of a civil trial against a former employee who sued the actor over claims of gender discrimination.
Graham Chase Robinson says the star underpaid her, made sexist comments and assigned her “stereotypically female” tasks while she worked as an executive.
De Niro said her allegations were “all nonsense” in testimony that reporters described as “grumpy” and “grouchy”.
He has accused her of misusing company funds and watching Netflix on the job.
The double Oscar winner has also sued Ms Robinson, his long-serving executive assistant, and both sides’ lawsuits are being heard in a trial in New York that is expected to last for two weeks.
De Niro was the first witness on Monday, and was asked about claims that he required her to be on call at all hours and asked her to do “anything and everything”.
“I asked her to do anything within reason – within the confines of her job,” the actor replied, according to Deadline, who said he “snapped at the lawyer”.
He said her tasks included scheduling, arranging travel and buying gifts for loved ones. She has said he also asked her to do things like mending clothing, doing laundry and scratching his back.
“It’s not like I’m telling her to go out and scrape floors, mop floors,” he told the court.
He said he would only call Ms Robinson at “civilised” hours, except on an occasion when he called her at 04:00 to help him get to hospital after he had an accident.
The Associated Press said he “angrily snapped” when asked about that. “That was one time when I cracked my back falling down the stairs!”
Ms Robinson has also alleged that De Niro and his company Canal Productions allowed the actor’s partner Tiffany Chen “to target her with false accusations about a romantic interest in De Niro”, which led to her being stripped of her job duties in retaliation.
“I wanted everybody to be happy and play nice,” he said, according to the Hollywood Reporter. “Unfortunately that didn’t happen.”
At one point, Judge Lewis J Liman told De Niro and Ms Robinson’s lawyer not to raise their voices and speak more slowly, the outlet said.
Ms Robinson became the actor’s assistant in 2008 before being promoted to vice president of production and finance at Canal.
She left in 2019 and has claimed he made “vulgar, inappropriate and gendered comments” to her and treated her like an “office wife”. De Niro denied her allegations and is due to continue giving evidence on Tuesday.
The 80-year-old is known for films like The Godfather Part II, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, and can currently be seen in Martin Scorsese’s latest film Killers of the Flower Moon.
Ms Robinson is suing the actor for $12m (£9.8m) in damages for severe emotional distress and reputational harm.
Canal sued Ms Robinson for $6m (£4.9m), accusing her of improperly transferring more than $450,000 (£370,000) in airline miles to her personal account; spending tens of thousands of dollars of company money on food, travel and other personal services; and binge-watching Netflix at work.
Her lawyers have said his lawsuit is full of “false allegations designed to inhibit Ms Robinson from pursuing her claims, destroy her reputation, and obliterate her job prospects”, Deadline reported.