Memo to De Niro and Pacino - indies or bust

Screen icons like Al Pacino and Robert De Niro shouldn't need advice at this stage of their illustrious careers. But how do you explain “Little Fockers,“ “88 Minutes” or their recent joint mediocrity, “Righteous Kill?”

It's getting harder to understand why two acting giants are wasting their golden years with movies far beneath their talents.

Aging actors simply can’t match the box office clout of modern stars like Brad Pitt, Ryan Reynolds or Reese Witherspoon. A few exceptions do exist, namely Clint Eastwood, who packed theaters with his gritty urban hit "Gran Torino” back in 2008. Not every 70-something actor can pull off such a feat.

For the rest of the acting community, the plum roles go to the newer kids on the block.

What's plan B?

That leaves former giants like De Niro and Pacino to sift through a secondary pile of scripts they wouldn't so much as glance at 30 years ago. But they take them anyway, apparently, if films like “City by the Sea“ and “Gigli“ are any indication. It's still a paycheck, and it often means they get to see their names above the title just like old times.

And just imagine how their fellow actors treat them on the set.

"Gosh, I worked with Pacino on 'Righteous Kill’ and it was amazing!'"

Here's some advice for old timers like Pacino and De Niro who show no signs of retiring. Skip the mainstream entirely. You've done it all, and your legends are secure. Why not try some independent film roles on for size?

Young, hungry filmmakers would kill to cast you in their films. Heck, your name alone might help them green light a project or squeeze a few extra millions out of the boutique studio in question. Simply put, that's your best chance at making more great movies. And you might help discover this generation’s Scorsese or Coppola, the directors who helped forge your careers back in the 1970s.

Working the film festival circuit, a must for many indie films eager to find distribution, would also yield the requisite ego boost these stars might need.

Imagine Pacino walking around at an after-party and soaking up the adulation.

So how about it, Robert and Al? Do you still have the hunger to make more great movies, or are you satisfied with paycheck parts which chip away at your icon status?

The world doesn’t need a fourth “Fockers” film. But it sure could use another masterpiece starring someone like De Niro or Pacino.