Robert De Niro

Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro

De Niro at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival premiere of The Bang Bang Club
Born August 17, 1943 (1943-08-17) (age 68)
New York, New York, U.S.
Residence TriBeCa, Lower Manhattan
Nationality American
Citizenship United States and Italy
Education High School of Music Art
Alma mater Stella Adler Studio of Acting
Occupation Actor, director and producer
Years active 1959–present
Home town Manhattan
Political party Democrat
Spouse Diahnne Abbott (1976–88)
Grace Hightower (1997–present)
Children 5 (including Drena De Niro)
Parents Robert De Niro, Sr.
Virginia Admiral

Robert De Niro, Jr. (born August 17, 1943) is an American actor, director and producer. His first major film roles were in Bang the Drum Slowly and Mean Streets, both in 1973. In 1974, he played the young Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II, a role that won him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

His critically acclaimed, longtime collaboration with Martin Scorsese began with 1973's Mean Streets, and earned De Niro an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Jake LaMotta in the 1980 film Raging Bull. He was also nominated for an Academy Award for his roles in Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976) and Cape Fear (1991). In addition, he received nominations for his acting in Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter (1978) and Penny Marshall's Awakenings (1990). Also in 1990, his portrayal as Jimmy Conway in Scorsese's Goodfellas earned him a BAFTA nomination.[1]

He has earned four nominations for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy: New York, New York (1977), Midnight Run (1988), Analyze This (1999) and Meet the Parents (2000).

De Niro directed A Bronx Tale (1993) and The Good Shepherd (2006). He has received accolades for his esteemed career, including the AFI Life Achievement Award and the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award.


Early life

Robert De Niro was born in Greenwich Village,[2] New York City, New York, the son of Virginia Holton Admiral, a painter and poet, and Robert De Niro, Sr., an abstract expressionist painter and sculptor.[3] His father was of Italian, Albanian and Irish descent, and his mother was of English, German, French, and Dutch ancestry.[4][5] His Italian great-grandparents, Giovanni De Niro and Angelina Mercurio, emigrated from Ferrazzano, in the province of Campobasso, Molise, and his paternal grandmother, Helen O'Reilly, was the granddaughter of Edward O'Reilly, an immigrant from Ireland.

De Niro's parents, who had met at the painting classes of Hans Hofmann in Provincetown (Cape Cod), Massachusetts, divorced when he was three years old. De Niro was raised by his mother in the Little Italy neighborhood of Manhattan, and in Greenwich Village. His father lived within walking distance and Robert spent much time with him as he was growing up.[6] De Niro attended PS 41, a public elementary school in Manhattan, through the sixth grade, and then went to the private Elisabeth Irwin High School, the upper school of the Little Red School House, for the seventh and eighth grades.[7] He was accepted at the High School of Music and Art for the ninth grade, but only attended for a short time, transferring instead to a public junior high school.[8] He began high school at the private McBurney School,[9] attended the private Rhodes Preparatory School,[10] but never graduated.[11] Nicknamed "Bobby Milk" for his pallor, the youthful De Niro hung out with a group of street kids in Little Italy, some of whom have remained lifelong friends of his.[12] But the direction of his future had already been determined by his stage debut at age ten, playing the Cowardly Lion in his school's production of The Wizard of Oz.[13][2] Along with finding relief from shyness through performing, De Niro was also entranced by the movies, and he dropped out of high school at age sixteen to pursue acting.[12] De Niro studied acting at the Stella Adler Conservatory, as well as Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio.[11]



De Niro's first movie role, in collaboration with Brian De Palma, was in 1963, at the age of 20, when he appeared opposite his friend Jill Clayburgh in The Wedding Party; however, the film was not released until 1969. He then played in Roger Corman's 1970 Bloody Mama, which starred Shelly Winters as Ma Barker. He gained popular attention with his role as a dying Major League Baseball player in Bang the Drum Slowly (1973).[2] That same year, he began his collaboration with Martin Scorsese, when he played the smalltime crook Johnny Boy, alongside Harvey Keitel's Charlie, in Mean Streets (1973).[2]

De Niro at the Cannes Film Festival, 2011

In 1974, De Niro had a pivotal role in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather Part II, playing the young Vito Corleone - the director having remembered his previous auditions for the roles of Sonny Corleone, Michael Corleone, Carlo Rizzi and Paulie Gatto, in The Godfather. His performance earned him his first Academy Award, for Best Supporting Actor,[2] although Coppola accepted the award, as De Niro was not present at the Oscar ceremony. He became the first actor to win an Academy Award speaking mainly a foreign language, in this case, multiple Sicilian dialects[2] (although he delivered a few lines in English). De Niro and Marlon Brando, who played the older Vito Corleone in the first film, are the only actors to have won Oscars portraying the same fictional character. Brando and De Niro came together onscreen for the only time in The Score (2001).

After working with Scorsese in Mean Streets, he had a successful working relationship with the director in films such as Taxi Driver (1976), New York, New York (1977), Raging Bull (1980), The King of Comedy (1983), Goodfellas (1990), Cape Fear (1991), and Casino (1995). They also acted together in Guilty by Suspicion and provided their voices for the animated feature Shark Tale.

Taxi Driver was particularly important to De Niro's career: his iconic performance as Travis Bickle shot him to stardom and forever linked De Niro's name with Bickle's famous "You talkin' to me?" monologue, which De Niro largely improvised.[14]

In 1976, De Niro appeared, along with Gérard Depardieu and Donald Sutherland, in Bernardo Bertolucci's epic biographical exploration of life in Italy before World War II, Novecento (1900), seen through the eyes of two Italian childhood friends at the opposite sides of society's hierarchy. In 1978, De Niro played Michael Vronsky in the acclaimed Vietnam War film The Deer Hunter, for which he was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

De Niro in 1988 during his New York tour

Fearing he had become typecast in mob roles, De Niro began expanding into occasional comedic roles in the mid-1980s and has had much success there as well, with such films as Brazil (1985), the hit action-comedy Midnight Run (1988), Analyze This (1999), opposite actor/comedian Billy Crystal, Meet the Parents (2000) and Meet the Fockers (2004), both opposite Ben Stiller.

Other films include Falling in Love (1984), Once Upon a Time in America (1984), The Mission (1986), Angel Heart (1987), The Untouchables (1987), Goodfellas (1990), Awakenings (1990), Heat (1995), The Fan (1996), Sleepers (1996), Wag the Dog (1997), Jackie Brown and Ronin (1998). In 1997, he re-teamed with Harvey Keitel and Ray Liotta along with Sylvester Stallone in the crime drama Cop Land. De Niro played a supporting role, taking a back seat to Stallone, Keitel, and Liotta.

In 1993, he also starred in This Boy's Life, featuring then-rising child actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire. Around this time, he was offered the role of Mitch Leary in In the Line of Fire, opposite Clint Eastwood. However, due to scheduling conflicts with A Bronx Tale, he turned the role down in favor of John Malkovich, who, himself, received an Academy Award nomination for the role. De Niro would later reference In the Line of Fire, along with Dirty Harry and Magnum Force, two more of Eastwood's films, in Righteous Kill.

De Niro with Matt Damon in Berlin in February 2007 for the premiere of The Good Shepherd

In 1995, De Niro starred in Michael Mann's police action-thriller Heat, along with fellow actor and long-time friend, Al Pacino. The duo drew much attention from fans, as both have generally been compared throughout their careers. Though Pacino and De Niro both starred in The Godfather Part II, they shared no screen time. De Niro and Pacino once again appeared togther, in the crime thriller Righteous Kill.[15]

In 2004, De Niro provided the voice of Don Lino, the antagonist in the animated film Shark Tale, opposite Will Smith. He also reprised his role as Jack Byrnes in Meet the Fockers, and was featured in Stardust. All of the films were successful at the box office, but they received mixed reviews. When promoting Shark Tale, De Niro said that was his first experience with voice acting, which he commented, was an enjoyable time.

Robert De Niro in 2008

De Niro had to turn down a role in The Departed (Martin Sheen taking the role instead) due to commitments with preparing The Good Shepherd. He said, "I wanted to. I wish I could've been able to, but I was preparing The Good Shepherd so much that I couldn't take the time to. I was trying to figure a way to do it while I was preparing. It just didn't seem possible."[16]

In 2006, De Niro costarred with Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie in The Good Shepherd (which he also directed). The movie also reunited him onscreen with Joe Pesci, with whom De Niro had starred in Raging Bull, Goodfellas, A Bronx Tale, Once Upon a Time in America and Casino.

De Niro announced that he would appear in Martin Campbell's film version of the classic BBC crime series Edge of Darkness in 2010, alongside Mel Gibson; however, just after he arrived to begin shooting, De Niro walked from the set due to creative differences.[17] He was then replaced by Ray Winstone.[18][19] He appeared as Senator John McLaughlin in the action film Machete, directed by Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis. De Niro starred in the thriller Stone (2010), along with Edward Norton and Milla Jovovich. The sequel to Meet the Parents (2000) and Meet the Fockers (2004), Little Fockers, starring De Niro, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Blythe Danner, Teri Polo, Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand, was released on December 22, 2010.

De Niro in 2011

In 2011, De Niro appearred in the action film Killer Elite with Jason Statham and Clive Owen, and in the film adaptation of the novel The Dark Fields, Limitless, with Bradley Cooper, directed by Neil Burger.[20]

Thirty-four years after Bernardo Bertolucci's 1900, De Niro will star in one of three episodes of the film Manuale d'amore 3, with Monica Bellucci, directed by Italian director Giovanni Veronesi.[21][22] De Niro is attached to star in the upcoming project The Irishman, that will be directed by Martin Scorsese and co-starred by Joe Pesci and Al Pacino.[23]

In January 2011, CBS picked up De Niro's crime pilot, Rookies.[24] In 2011, he was the President of the Jury for the 64th Cannes Film Festival.[25]

Film director

In 1993, De Niro made his directorial debut with A Bronx Tale. The film, written by Chazz Palminteri, was about Palminteri's turbulent childhood in the Bronx. De Niro agreed to direct the film after seeing Palminteri's one-man off-Broadway play. De Niro also played Lorenzo, the bus driver who struggles to keep his son away from local mobster Sonny, played by Palminteri.

De Niro did not direct another film until 2006's The Good Shepherd, which starred Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie. The Good Shepherd depicts the origins of the CIA, with Damon portraying one of the top counter-intelligence agents during World War II and the Cold War. De Niro has a small role as General Bill Donovan, who recruits Damon's character into the world of counter-intelligence.


His capital ventures have included: cofounding the film studio TriBeCa Productions; the popular Tribeca Film Festival; Nobu and TriBeCa Grill, which he co-owns with a developer Paul Wallace and Broadway producer Stewart F. Lane,[26] The Greenwich Hotel,[27] located in Tribeca, and the restaurant inside the hotel, Locanda Verde, formally known as Ago, which is run by executive chef and co-owner, Andrew Carmellini.[28]

According to the July 2010 issue of Gourmet magazine, De Niro is in negotiations with an internationally renowned chef, Natalia Jibladze, to launch a yet unnamed restaurant in Manhattan under his Tribeca trademark. He was in Malaysia recently, and while having lunch with the Malaysian Prime Minister's wife, was asked to open a Malay restaurant in Alor Setar, Kedah, Malaysia.[29]

Other work

In June 2006, it was announced that De Niro had donated his film archive — including scripts, costumes, and props — to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. On April 27, 2009, it was announced that the De Niro collection at the Ransom Center was open to researchers and the public. De Niro has said that he is working with Martin Scorsese on a new project. "I'm trying to actually work... [screenwriter] Eric Roth and myself and Marty are working on a script now, trying to get it done."[16]

Acting style

Praised for his commitment to roles, stemming from his background in method acting, De Niro gained 60 pounds (27 kg) and learned how to box for his portrayal of Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull;[2] ground his teeth for Cape Fear; lived in Sicily for The Godfather Part II; worked as a cab driver for a few weeks for Taxi Driver;[30] and learned to play the saxophone for New York, New York. He again put on weight for his performance as Al Capone in The Untouchables (1987).[31]

De Niro's brand of method acting includes employing whatever extreme tactic he feels is necessary to elicit the best performance from those with whom he is working. During the filming of The King of Comedy, for example, he directed a slew of anti-Semitic epithets at co-star Jerry Lewis in order to enhance and authenticate the anger demonstrated by his onscreen character. According to People magazine, the technique was successful. Lewis recalled, "I forgot the cameras were there... I was going for Bobby's throat."[32]

Personal life


De Niro with Grace Hightower at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival

De Niro and his first wife Diahnne Abbott have a son, Raphael, a former actor who works in New York real estate.[33] De Niro also adopted Abbott's daughter from a previous relationship, Drena.

De Niro has twin sons, Julian Henry and Aaron Kendrik, conceived by in vitro fertilization and delivered by a surrogate mother in 1995, from a long-term live-in relationship with former model Toukie Smith.[34]

In 1997, De Niro married his second wife, actress Grace Hightower, at their Marbletown home.[35] Their son Elliot was born in 1998 and the couple split in 1999. The divorce was never finalized and in 2004 they renewed their vows.[35]


De Niro, who lives in New York City, has been investing in the TriBeCa neighborhood in lower Manhattan since 1989. He also has residences on the east and west sides of Manhattan and an estate in Marbletown in upstate New York.

Legal issues

In February 1998, during a film shoot in France, he was taken in for questioning by French police for nine hours and was then questioned by a magistrate over a prostitution ring. De Niro denied any involvement, saying that he had never paid for sex, "and even if I had, it wouldn't have been a crime."[36] The magistrate wanted to speak to him after his name was mentioned by one of the call girls. In an interview with the French newspaper, Le Monde, he said, "I will never return to France. I will advise my friends against going to France," and he would "send your Legion of Honor back to the ambassador, as soon as possible." French judicial sources say the actor is regarded as a potential witness, not a suspect.

Prostate cancer

In 2003, it was announced that De Niro had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, although he went on to make a full recovery.[37]

Italian citizenship

De Niro was due to be granted Italian citizenship at the Venice Film Festival in September 2004. However, the Sons of Italy lodged a protest with Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, claiming De Niro had damaged the image of Italians and Italian Americans by frequently portraying them in criminal roles. Culture Minister Giuliano Urbani dismissed the objections, and the ceremony was rescheduled to go forward in Rome in October. Controversy flared again when De Niro failed to show for two media appearances in Italy that month, which De Niro blamed on "serious communication problems" that weren't "handled properly" on his end, stating, "The last thing I would want to do is offend anyone. I love Italy." The citizenship was conferred on De Niro on October 21, 2006, during the finale of the Rome Film Festival. De Niro is registered in the electoral district of Molise, the Italian homeland of his great-grandparents.



De Niro is a supporter of the Democratic Party, and vocally supported Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election. De Niro publicly supported John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election. In 1998, he lobbied Congress against impeaching President Bill Clinton.[38]

While promoting his movie The Good Shepherd with co-star Matt Damon on the December 8, 2006 episode of Hardball with Chris Matthews at George Mason University, De Niro was asked whom he would like to see as President of the United States. De Niro responded, "Well, I think of two people: Hillary Clinton and Obama."

On February 4, 2008, De Niro supported Obama at a rally at the Izod Center in New Jersey before Super Tuesday.[39]

9/11 attacks

De Niro also narrated 9/11, a documentary about the September 11, 2001 attacks, shown on CBS and centering on video footage made by Jules and Gedeon Naudet, that focused on the role of firefighters following the attacks.


Awards and nominations

Academy Award



  • Baxter, John (2002). De Niro: A Biography. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780002571968.
  • Dougan, Andy (2003). Untouchable: a biography of Robert De Niro. Da Capo Press. ISBN 1560254696.


  1. ^ BAFTA Film Awards: 1990
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Stated on Inside the Actors Studio, 1998
  3. ^ "Robert De Niro Biography (1943–)". Retrieved August 20, 2007. 
  4. ^ "Robert De Niro Biography". Retrieved December 7, 2010. 
  5. ^ Dougan, Andy (2003). Untouchable: a biography of Robert De Niro. Da Capo Press. p. 145. ISBN 1560254696. 
  6. ^ Dougan,p. 10.
  7. ^ Dougan, pp. 12–13.
  8. ^ Dougan, pp. 13–14.
  9. ^ Baxter, John (2002). De Niro: A Biography. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780002571968.  pp. 37–38.
  10. ^ Baxter, p. 37.
  11. ^ a b Dougan, pp. 17–18.
  12. ^ a b Dougan, p. 17.
  13. ^ Dougan, p.15.
  14. ^ "'There was a sense of exhilaration about what we had done'". The Guardian (UK). October 16, 2004. 
  15. ^ Hayes, Dade (May 17, 2007). "De Niro, Pacino reunite for 'Kill'". Variety. Retrieved August 20, 2008. 
  16. ^ a b Graham, Jamie (March 2007). "The Total Film Interview". Total Film (125): 105. 
  17. ^ Michael Fleming (September 4, 2008). "De Niro exits 'Edge of Darkness'". Variety. Retrieved September 4, 2008. 
  18. ^ Michael Fleming (September 12, 2008). "Winstone replaces De Niro in 'Edge'". Variety. Retrieved September 12, 2008. 
  19. ^ Jessica Satherley. "Monica Bellucci shows off her hourglass figure as she films with Robert De Niro in Rome". The Daily Mail. UK. 
  20. ^ Robert De Niro at the Internet Movie Database
  21. ^ Vivarelli, Nick (August 31, 2010). "De Laurentiis: Serials killer at box office". Variety. Retrieved January 9, 2011. 
  22. ^ Jessica Satherley. "Monica Bellucci shows off her hourglass figure as she films with Robert De Niro in Rome". The Daily Mail. UK. Retrieved January 9, 2011. 
  23. ^ "Joe Pesci and Al Pacino Confirmed for Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’; Second Part in Doubt". The Film Stage. 
  24. ^ "CBS Orders Robert De Niro Crime Pilot". Retrieved January 21, 2011. 
  25. ^ Cannes Film Festival
  26. ^ Honan, William H. (August 23, 1989). "De Niro Is Trying Life Behind the Camera". The New York Times. 
  27. ^ Greenwich Hotel. Greenwich Hotel. Retrieved on August 14, 2010.
  28. ^ "Locanda Verde Is A-Go". May 12, 2009. 
  29. ^ De Niro teams up with his favorite chef for a new gem in Manhattan. Gourmet Magazine. Retrieved on August 15, 2010.
  30. ^ Dougan, p. 75.
  31. ^ First Page Fitness: Top 6 Actors Who have Gained or Lost Massive Weight for Movie Roles
  32. ^ "People Magazine". Google. Retrieved August 20, 2007. 
  33. ^ "New York Real Estate – Prudential Douglas Elliman". Retrieved January 9, 2011. 
  34. ^ "Toukie Smith and actor Robert De Niro become parents of twins". Jet. October 20, 1995. p. 36. 
  35. ^ a b "Drug allegations hit De Niro custody battle" July, 26 2001. The Guardian
  36. ^ "De Niro furious over French grilling". BBC News. February 24, 1998. Retrieved August 20, 2007. 
  37. ^ "De Niro has prostate cancer". BBC News. October 21, 2003. Retrieved January 9, 2011. 
  38. ^ "Scepticism and support swirl around Clinton". BBC News. December 17, 1998. Retrieved August 20, 2007. 
  39. ^ "De Niro, Damon: Spies, patriotism and politics". MSNBC. Retrieved August 20, 2007. 

External links

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