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My Dad Taught Robert DeNiro How To Fish

Robert De Niro Jackknife
Cineplex-Odeon Films – © 1989

My dad is cooler than your dad, he not only met DeNiro, but taught him how to fish. Robert DeNiro is my favorite actor of all time and I still can’t get over the fact that my old man actually taught him how to fish! Here’s the story:

I grew up in Meriden, Connecticut and the year was 1987 when a film crew came through town that was filming a major movie that had Robert DeNiro, Ed Harris and Kathy Baker in it. ‘Jacknife’ centers around the two main characters (DeNiro and Harris) who are fellow veterans that served together in the Vietnam war. After being reunited, they attempt to help one another deal with their impending demons. Another thing the two have in common is their love for fishing.

So my dad owned a bar at that time in Meriden called the Sportsman’s Cafe. Producers from Jacknife came by one day to talk to him about possibly shooting some scenes in his bar. They surveyed the bar but decided that the location was too small. Before leaving, however, they asked my dad if he knew any good fishermen in the area. It just so happens that my dad has a passion for fishing and has been fly fishing for most of his life. He didn’t hesitate to tell the producers that him and his buddy were the best fishermen around.

The film’s producers asked him if he would be interested in teaching Robert DeNiro, Ed Harris and Kathy Baker how to fish. The old man agreed and the first “class” was set up along the Salmon River in East Haddam, CT. My dad met the three actors there on several occassions. I’ve only heard the details surrounding these meetings. For some reason I was not interested in coming along? I don’t know, I was 10 at the time. Either I was too cool for school or my parents didn’t properly explain exactly what was happening. My recollection is the latter.

JacknifeMy mom went along and was star-strucken with silence, but her accounts of how my dad acted still cracks me up. First of all, I get the feeling that he could have had more to do with this movie if he wanted (but that’s just not my dad). Apparently the cast and crew had to go around his schedule for these fishing meetings. And when he was there, it was just another day to fish for him. He was more concerned about the fish than anyone else. He did joke around with DeNiro a lot (and sat in his chair without permission), but basically just acted really cavalier about the whole thing (classic, it really is).

Dad must have done good, my parents (thanks to mom) still have the hand-written letter from Kathy Baker thanking him for his time and expertise. He said all three actors couldn’t have been nicer. I still love watching Jacknife and seeing Castle Craig in one scene (a castle in Meriden’s Hubbard Park that I grew up down the street from). Anyway, that’s my prized story of my connection to my favorite actor. Who loves ya Bobby?

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