Robert DeNiro's ex-assistant testified on Friday in her gender discrimination case against him.
Graham Chase Robinson, 41, said DeNiro forced her to work nonstop and made her scratch his back.
But things got much worse once DeNiro started dating his current girlfriend, Tiffany Chen, she said.
Working for Robert DeNiro was a little like working for the mob, a disgruntled former executive assistant for the "Godfather" actor testified in a Manhattan federal court on Friday.
Just when she thought she was out, he pulled her back in.
Graham Chase Robinson, 41, continued her testimony on the witness stand, telling the jury in her gender discrimination case against him that she tried several times to quit her exhausting 24/7 job with the two-time Oscar winner, but he insisted she stay, promising more money and greater responsibility in his vanity company Canal Productions.
DeNiro did honor his word on the higher salary. She was making $300,000 when she quit in disgust in March 2019. But his promise of giving her a bigger role in script and film development went straight to video.
"He goes back on every single deal he makes," she told the jury.
A tearful Robinson said that when she got fed up and promised to leave the company anyway after DeNiro went back on his word for the third time, he threatened to withhold a positive recommendation.
She began as a lowly executive assistant, but over the next 11 years, she continued to receive raises and title promotions at the tiny company, eventually rising to vice president of finance and film production.
DeNiro reminded her, however, that titles would mean little if she hoped to advance her career elsewhere.
"Chase, titles don't matter," she recalled him saying. "It's what I say about you that does [matter]."
The longer she worked for the "Cape Fear" actor, the more embroiled she became with his life, from rushing out to buy a baseball mitt for his son to researching his ex-wife during his divorce, she said.
She would accompany him to the doctor and the emergency room. She would pick up his prescriptions and remind him of anniversaries and meetings. She reviewed private schools for his kids and arranged medical care for his ex-girlfriend, she said. She would plan vacations and charter private planes. She planned parties for Halloween, Christmas, and Martin Scorcese's birthday.
"I worked for him seven days a week," she said.
The job didn't come without its perks. Robinson testified that after she became entrenched in the operation, she was allowed to take taxis and Ubers whenever she wanted. He paid for trips, rent, and internet service. One year, on her 30th birthday, he bought her a Rolex watch, she said. Her meal allowance, she testified, was $100 a day no matter if she was working from home, in the office, or out of town.
"He was really generous when it came to that type of stuff," she testified.
Though she says she never filed a gender discrimination claim against the "Raging Bull" star, she said that he was an old-school sexist, relegating her to female tasks, calling her "bitch," and on two occasions asking her to scratch his back.
"I told him there was a backscratcher that he could use, and he said, 'I like the way that you do it,'" she said. "Creepy — It's just disgusting."
The longer she worked for him, the more she pressed him for money and more responsibility in the film industry.
In November 2018, feeling burned out, overworked, and unsatisfied by her career trajectory, she said she forced DeNiro into an oral agreement that would begin her two-year transition out of the company. She said that he consented to limit her responsibilities to the production office and have his other assistants handle his personal affairs.
However, after the introduction of his current girlfriend, Tiffany Chen, those duties only got more intense, she said.
The two women clashed instantly as Chen testified on Thursday. She thought of Robinson as a "nasty bitch."
Robinson had her own choice words for Chen. In a recorded phone call played in court, she referred to Chen as a "fucking psycho."
Part of Robinson's claim against DeNiro is that she called her a "bitch" in the office, though she admits she threw the term around as well on occasion.
"It's a pretty commonly used word," she told the court.
As Chen moved into DeNiro's townhouse, she called on Robinson more and more to perform household duties.
In one instance that Robinson shared, she rushed over to the actor's home to rescue his two dogs after Chen left chicken burning in the oven unattended.
The episode landed her in the emergency room with smoke inhalation, she said.
The more Robinson resisted Chen's requests, the angrier the girlfriend got until she finally decided that the townhouse wasn't big enough for both of them.
According to emails read in court on Thursday, Chen decided, "This bitch needs to be put in her fucking place."
That marked the beginning of the end for Robinson's job with DeNiro, she said.
She said that the stresses of the job had left her an emotional wreck.
"I was having an emotional and mental breakdown," she said. "I wasn't eating. I wasn't sleeping — I was so stressed. Everything was overwhelming. I was just at rock bottom. I just cried."
After she quit on March 6, 2019, the company launched an investigation into her spending and accused her of racking up more than $30,000 in Uber and taxis, thousands for personal groceries, and stealing five million frequent flyer miles.
DeNiro refused to write her a letter of recommendation, and rumors spread that she had been fired from the production company.
Her plan of going to the London School of Economics was dashed, she said. Robinson said that she hasn't worked since then, despite applying for 638 jobs.
She's said she's taking three different anxiety medications and hasn't slept a full night in four years.
"I live with my mother. I have a lot of anxiety. I want to stay safe at home," she said. "I lost my career. I lost my financial independence. I lost everything."
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