It’s a different battlefield from what they’ve known before, and a different kind of movie set too. Perched atop a series of trampolines, with bouncy surfaces beneath their feet, and red dodgeballs in their hands, Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken are standing side by side on screen for the first time since 1978’s The Deer Hunter. In that film, they played young men who eagerly went off to war, but now they’re in a different kind of conflict here. They’re in the midst of The War with Grandpa’s biggest battle.
The scene in question occurs at the midpoint of the new family film starring De Niro as Ed, a retired grandfather who’s reluctantly forced to move into his adult daughter’s family home. With the move, he’s displaced his grandson Peter (Oakes Fegley). This is the inciting dispute, which has led to the generational pair doing covert battle over a single bedroom that only one of them can have. Their prank war began as a secret, but by the time Peter’s roped in his school friends, and Ed has brought in buddies Jerry (Walken), Danny (Cheech Marin), and Diane (Jane Seymour), things have escalated quickly. When we sat down with De Niro and Fegley, as well as co-star Laura Marano, we asked De Niro about working with Walken in a different kind of war movie so many years later.
“Well, I was happy that Chris did it,” De Niro says in our interview below. “We’ve known each other a long time, we worked together and just have been friends. But it was great that he was part of it. He was very funny, he’s always great to watch. And he and Cheech Marin, my two cohorts if you will, it was fun.”
It also makes for an amusing juxtaposition, with the pair throwing dodgeballs at children versus when they were forced to play Russian roulette against each other in The Deer Hunter.
“Listen, life goes on, things change,” De Niro laughs. “What can I do?”
About filming the sequence in question, Fegley recalls it being a long focused day that included throwing dodgeballs at screen legends like De Niro, Walken, Marin, and Seymour.
“Yeah, I think if it was not one long day it was multiple days of filming that sequence,” says Fegley. “It was a lot of moving parts and a lot of chaos that needed to be controlled and directed in a certain way. It definitely took a long time and a lot of tension focus, and understanding from everybody, and it was definitely certain times of ‘everybody be quiet, we got to start thinking about what we’re doing and how we were shaping what was happing.’”
The result is one of the more amusing comedic highlights in The War with Grandpa, and a moment that might have an extra bit of humor for the actual parents, and grandparents, in the streaming audience.
The War with Grandpa premieres on VOD on Friday, Oct. 9.