“Are you talking to me?”
That’s basically what Robert De Niro said to Slack’s Stewart Butterfield from the stage at Wednesday’s WSJ. Magazine Innovator Awards held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
“We are a long way from San Francisco,” said Butterfield in accepting his award, which was presented by Jared Leto, who not only knows who Butterfield is but is a Slack investor who has also made a habit of photobombing Butterfield during press interviews.
Butterfield went on to say, given the context, that he was accepting the “nerd award” before pointing directly at De Niro and offering, “I watched Godfather II on the plane . . . when you killed Don Fanucci, I liked that,” reports Page Six.
De Niro, who got up immediately afterward to present an award to Angelina Jolie, was not amused.
“Whoever the last speaker was… I thought you were a bit condescending to us actors… celebrities. I’m gonna go on record with you just to say that. And I don’t give a fuck who you are,” growled the actor.
Butterfield took the mean-spirited jibe as a badge of honour, tweeting afterward, “I literally just got trash-talked by Robert De Niro. ‘I don’t know who the FUCK you are.’ #lifegoals”
Which is appropriate. For decades, people used to brag about being insulted by Groucho Marx in the street. There are some jerks whose verbal assault you’ll cherish for the rest of your life.
Butterfield’s reference to the death of Don Fanucci in Godfather II was probably a light allusion to his own role as a tech disruptor.
Fanucci is the walking embodiment of power and money, strolling down the street in a white suit while having his hand kissed by terrified sycophants and being applauded for sticking a dollar bill on an effigy of Jesus during a street parade.
The lengthy tracking sequence depicting De Niro stalking Fanucci before shooting him in a hallway is one of the most celebrated scenes in film history.
The way in which De Niro disrupts, or as we used to say in the 20th century, kills Fanucci is especially brutal, popping him twice frontally before sticking a gun in the mouth of his slumped body to blow his brains out.
So if Butterfield is De Niro in Godfather II, then Fanucci represents email. De Niro (Butterfield) kills (disrupts) Fanucci (email) in a brutal fashion before claiming power himself as the new Don.
One can imagine Butterfield sitting on an airplane and thinking, “I liked that.”