Robert De Niro defended the controversial anti-vaccine documentary Vaxxed: From Cover-Up To Catastrophe – which he pulled from the Tribeca Film Festival – in an emotional Today Show interview alongside Tribeca co-founder Jane Rosenthal. “I think the movie is something that people should see,” the actor said Wednesday. “There’s a lot of things that are not said. I, as a parent of a child who has autism, am concerned. And I want to know the truth. I’m not anti-vaccine, but I want safe vaccines.”
Vaxxed was originally set to screen Sunday, April 24th at the 15th annual Tribeca Film Festival, but De Niro and company removed the project last month after other filmmakers threatened to leave the fest. “I was shooting a movie. I was in the middle of a lot of stuff,” De Niro said of learning about the controversy. “There was a backlash, which I haven’t fully explored, and I will. But I didn’t want it to start affecting the festival in ways I couldn’t see.” Rosenthal added, “There weren’t sponsors or donors threatening to pull out of the film festival; it was our filmmakers. And we’re known for having amazing documentary films.”
While most scientific evidence has shown no connection between vaccines and the development of autism, De Niro urged that more research should be done: “There are many people who will come out and say, ‘No, I saw my kid change overnight. I saw what happened, and I should have done something, and I didn’t.’ There’s more to this than meets the eye, believe me.”
Asked whether he saw an overnight change in his autistic son, Elliot, the actor responded, “My wife says that. I don’t remember, but my child is autistic. Every kid is different, but there’s something there. There’s something there that people aren’t addressing … All I wanted is the movie to be seen. People can make their own judgment, but you must see it.”
De Niro said “part of [him]” regrets pulling the film, but he ultimately “didn’t want the festival to be affected in a way,” calling filmmakers’ objections “a knee-jerk reaction.”
The actor also noted he looks forward to reuniting with Martin Scorsese and the Taxi Driver cast to celebrate the film’s 40th anniversary at the fest, which runs April 13th-24th in New York City.