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Robert De Niro’s co-star in Midnight Run was perfect for one reason

Robert De Niro had the ideal scene partner for classic '80s movie Midnight Run because of one distinct comedic talent that Charles Grodin happened to possess.

Robert De Niro in Midnight Run

Acting opposite Robert De Niro must be tough. He’s a living legend, and has been for decades. The process for finding Robert De Niro‘s scene partner has to be rigorous, and for one of the best ’80s movies, only one actor cut the mustard.

Speaking to Variety, Martin Brest talked about Midnight Run for its 35th anniversary. He explained that even choosing De Niro for the thriller movie wasn’t obvious. “The idea of De Niro in this role, it wasn’t really conceived for somebody like that,” he says. “But Jack Rapke, my agent at the time, said, ‘What about De Niro?’ and I thought, ‘If I could work with Robert De Niro, I’ll figure out the rest later on’.”

Once De Niro was on board, though, another challenge emerged: someone who could handle sharing the camera with him on a comedy movie. “It was really hard to find somebody to complement him, and everybody wanted to play the part,” Brest remembers. “It was a role that we needed people to read for it because it was really a question of micro-chemistry.”

Eventually, in walked Charles Grodin, and Brest knew from the jump this was it. “Charles Grodin came in, and I remembered a scene in Heaven Can Wait where he just turned to another character, it was a deadpan reaction that knocked me off my chair,” Brest says. “I remember thinking at the time, ‘He’s doing nothing. Why is that so genius and funny?’ When he read with De Niro, everybody was intimidated by De Niro — and Grodin wasn’t at all.”

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Lo, one of the best movies for either star was made. Midnight Run follows De Niro as a hitman, who’s charged with bringing an accountant, played by Grodin, to LA. Hilarity, very literally, ensues. Written by George Gallo, Midnight Run has gone on to be favorite of De Niro’s incredible career.

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