Meet the brains behind the new Robert De Niro film: It's an NJ teen
Robert De Niro stars in the family comedy "The War with Grandpa" from 101 Studios, executive produced by Monmouth County's Tre Peart. Asbury Park Press
New Jersey kid Tre Peart wanted to see a movie based on "The War With Grandpa" when he was in elementary school — so he and his parents decided to make it themselves.
"The War with Grandpa," a family comedy starring Academy Award winner Robert De Niro as the title character engaged in a prank war with his grandson, arrived in theaters on Oct. 9, seven years after Tre, now 15, first read Robert Kimmel Smith's 1984 book.
"My mom had this rule whenever I was reading any book, whether it was for school or on my personal time, which was to read the book before I watched the movie," Tre said. "So it was a third grade assignment, to read 'The War with Grandpa,' it was one of my first chapter books. And once I got finished reading it, I was so excited to watch this movie — because I'm assuming that every book has a movie."
To the 8-year-old Tre's surprise, no film had been made out of Smith's book. So he turned to his parents, film and television producers Marvin Peart, CEO of Brookdale Studios and chief business officer and founding partner of 101 Studios, and Rosa Peart, co-founder of Marro Media Company.
The family, based in the Morganville section of Marlboro, produced and financed the film adaptation of "The War with Grandpa," with Tre serving as executive producer.
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"I figured out, 'Oh, maybe I can get my parents to make this movie,' " Tre said. "So once I told my mom, I said, 'I want this to become a movie,' that's the way I said it, and she actually took a look at the book. And she read it and she actually really liked it. She liked it enough for it to become her next project."
Directed by Tim Hill, "The War with Grandpa" stars De Niro as Ed, a widower who comes to live with his daughter, played by Uma Thurman, and her family. When Ed moves into the bedroom formerly occupied by Peter (Oakes Fegley), forcing Peter to take up residence in the attic, inter-generational hijinks ensue.
It was Ed and Peter's relationship, Tre said, that first connected him to the source material.
"Whenever my abuela would come over, she'd have to sleep in my room," he said. "Circumstances would happen. She'd always have to sleep in my room and I just didn't like it because I wouldn't be able to sleep in my room and my room was my sanctuary, just like it was in the movie. So that was just something I really related to."
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Once the Pearts optioned the rights to the book pre-production began, with Tre involved in the casting process and giving feedback on different drafts of the script.
De Niro, the two-time Oscar winner, was Tre's pick to play the titular grandpa.
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"I had always heard my parents talking about how great of an actor Robert De Niro was, and I was never old enough to watch any of his movies," Tre said. "So as I'm waiting for the opportunity to watch one of his movies, one just stumbled right upon me."
"The War with Grandpa" marks a reunion between De Niro and his Academy Award-winning "Deer Hunter" co-star Christopher Walken. They're part of an ensemble of show business lifers that also includes Cheech Marin and Jane Seymour.
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Tre, currently enrolled in film classes at Livingston's Newark Academy, said he wants to stay active in film production. He reflected on what he learned from his industry veteran collaborators on his first film.
"There's always a chance for something new," he said, "because I'm sure that was the first time they've ever worked with someone as young as me."
Alex Biese has been writing about art, entertainment, culture and news on a local and national level for more than 15 years.