Submitted by TM on April 5, 2008 - 19:31.
Alternate Names / Nicknames:
Robert De Niro Jr. | Bobby DeNiro | Robert DeNiro | Robert Denero | Bob
Robert Mario De Niro, Jr. (born August 17, 1943) is a two-time Academy Award- and Golden Globe-winning American film actor, director, and producer. Often regarded as one of the greatest actors of all time, Robert De Niro has also been called one of the most enigmatic actors of his time. Over the course of nearly forty years, Robert De Niro has established himself as one of the most respected and iconic screen actors in history. Some regard him as the successor to Marlon Brando. He is also the founder of the Tribeca Film Festival.
He is noted for his method acting and portrayals of conflicted, troubled characters and for his enduring collaboration with director Martin Scorsese. He is best-known for his roles as the young Vito Corleone in The Godfather, Part II; cabbie Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver; boxer Jake La Motta in Raging Bull; mobster Jimmy Conway in Goodfellas; Al Capone in The Untouchables; and Michael Vronsky in The Deer Hunter.
Robert De Niro was born in New York City, New York on August 17th, 1943. His parents were both respected artists. His father, Robert De Niro, Sr., was a painter, sculptor and poet, an abstract expressionist by style. His mother, Virginia Admiral was also a painter. The couple, who'd met as Hans Hoffman's Provincetown painting class, divorced when young Robert was only two, the boy being raised by his mother. Robert Sr. continued with his art, Virginia eventually opened a typesetting and printing business. A biography, released in 2004 by John Baxter, claimed that Robert Sr was in fact gay and spent only a few months with Virginia before separating, later enjoying affairs with the poet Robert Duncan, as well as Tennessee Williams and Jackson Pollock. Robert Jr, as ever, would make no comment.
De Niro's great-grandparents were Italian immigrants from the village of Ferrazzano, in the province of Campobasso, Molise, Italy.
Despite the divorce, Robert still saw his father regularly, often being taken to the movies. On his return home, he'd act out the film he'd just seen, learning to imitate the great actors of the day (he later made his mother swear never to let the press know which ones). The house, something of an artistic refuge, was usually peopled by renowned painters, poets and critics.
Robert De Niro Jr first attended the Little Red School House, but soon he caught the acting bug, appearing as The Cowardly Lion in a local production of The Wizard Of Oz at the age of 10. So keen was he (even as a boy he was intensely focused) that, at 13, his mother, recognising his desire and ability, sent him to a progressive private school, New York's High School Of Music And Art. But Robert wasn't quite ready. He dropped out at the age of 13 and joined a Little Italy street gang, where he earned the nickname Bobby Milk due to his white complexion. His father openly disapproved of his new "friends", so they had a falling-out, although they were eventually reconciled when, at 18, he flew to Paris to bring his father home when he had been suffering from depression.
He soon attended the famous Stella Adler Conservatory and worked too under Lee Strasberg, learning the legendary Method (although De Niro conflicted with Strasberg's methods, and used his membership there mostly as a professional advantage). By the age of 16, he was touring in a production of Chekov's The Bear. Soon he was criss-crossing the South, performing Neil Simon-style comedies in dinner theatres, and would spend well over a decade honing his craft in theatre workshops and off-Broadway productions. In the meantime, he tried to break into the movies, promoting himself with his usual strict attention to detail. He'd arrive at auditions with photographs of himself in 25 different guises.
De Niro's first important break came at age 20, in 1963, with De Niro's first important collaboration with Brian De Palma, when he appeared in The Wedding Party; however it was not released until 1969. The same year De Niro made an appearance on Sesame Street. He spent much of the 1960s working in theater workshops and off-Broadway productions. He was an extra in the French film Three Rooms in Manhattan (1965), and was reunited with De Palma in Greetings (1968) and Hi, Mom (1970). The pair would reunite, as major players, with 1987's Oscar-winning The Untouchables. Now De Niro's career began to take off. He appeared, alongside Shelley Winters and Bruce Dern, as one of the notorious Barker gang, in Bloody Mama, then revealed the depth of his work ethic by paying his own passage to Italy to research a small role in The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight.
1973 was the year De Niro broke. This saw his first collaboration with the man who'd mark his career more than anyone else - director Martin Scorsese. The movie was Mean Streets and De Niro shone as a dangerously irresponsible shyster and hooligan.
But, perhaps even more importantly at the time, there was Bang The Drum Slowly, a remake of a 1956 Paul Newman movie, wherein De Niro plays Bruce Pearson, a major league baseball catcher struck down by Hodgkins Disease, who tries to make it through one final season. Having returned to the South with a tape-recorder, strenuously researching his part, his performance was startlingly good, showing a wide range and genuine sensitivity, and winning him a New York Film Critics Award.
Now De Niro entered his most extraordinary period of work, landing himself an exceptional series of roles (he's said that "The talent is in the choices"). First he played the young Vito Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather Part 2, taking the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his efforts (he and Brando are the only actors to have both won Oscars for the same role).
Then he was back with Scorsese as the unforgettable moralist vigilante Travis Bickle in 1976 Taxi Driver. Taxi Driver is 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 himself improvised.
That same year He played Monroe Stahr, the big-time Hollywood producer looking for love in The Last Tycoon, and starred in Bernardo Bertolucci's sprawling epic 1900. De Niro appeared, along with Gerard Depardieu, in this epic biographical exploration of life during WWII, seen through the eyes of two Italian childhood friends at the opposite sides of society's hierarchy.
Then there was a brief downturn as he and Scorsese attempted to recreate the old-time musical in New York, New York (De Niro learned the saxophone for the role), but he bounced back immediately as the morose and disciplined hero of Michael Cimino's magnificent 1978 The Deer Hunter; a Vietnam War film.
Having been Oscar-nominated for Taxi Driver and The Deer Hunter (he'd later also be nominated for Cape Fear and Awakenings), he finally took Best Actor for his depiction of the brutish, confused and all-too-human boxer Jake La Motta in Scorsese's 1980 Raging Bull, a role for which he famously put on 60 pounds.
Throughout the Eighties and Nineties, De Niro continued to enhance his reputation with a wild variety of classic movies. He was fantastic as Rupert Pupkin, the lunatic funnyman kidnapping Jerry Lewis in the 1982 King Of Comedy, another notable role was in Sergio Leone's 1984 Once Upon a Time in America as the Jewish gangster "David 'Noodles' Aaronson". Later he was explosive as a baseball-bat-wielding Al Capone in the 1987 The Untouchables, smooth and venomous as Louis Cyphre (surely not The Devil?) in 1987 Angel Heart.
Then there were excellent oddities like Terry Gilliam's 1985 Brazil, the 1986 The Mission, and the ludicrously under-rated comedy Midnight Run (1988). And the great roles kept coming. He scored again with Scorsese in the monumental 1990 Goodfellas, as the menacing Max Cady in 1991 Cape Fear, and as the Joe Pesci-persecuted Ace Rothstein in 1995 Casino (though he did turn down the role of Jesus in Scorsese's Last Temptation Of Christ). He played samurai-like criminals in both Heat and Ronin, and made a touchingly confused and bereft monster in 1994 Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.
In Taxi Driver (1976), New York, New York (1977), Raging Bull (1980), The King of Comedy (1983), Goodfellas (1990), Cape Fear (1991) and Casino (1995), De Niro has primarily played charming sociopaths.
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.
De Niro has been twice married, first in 1976 to actress and singer Diahnne Abbott. He adopted Drena, Abbott's daughter from a previous marriage, but the couple also had a son of their own - Raphael, named after the hotel in Rome where he was conceived.
Drena is also an actress and appeared in the De Niro movies Showtime, Wag The Dog and City By The Sea. Robert and Diahnne were divorced in 1988 and, seven years later, De Niro had twin sons with his then-girlfriend, actress and restaurateur Toukie Smith. These boys, named Aaron and Julian, were born of a surrogate mother, via in vitro fecundation, with Smith later rather cruelly remarking that De Niro had been no more than "a sperm donor".
In 1997, De Niro was married once more, this time to ex-flight attendant Grace Hightower, with whom he had a further son, Elliot. It would be a tempestuous marriage, with the couple filing for divorce in 1999, and again in 2001 when they also began a bitter custody battle over Elliot. Although, the relationship would calm over time and they'd renew their vows in 2004. Other celebrity girlfriends have included Naomi Campbell and Ashley Judd but, as mentioned, De Niro keeps his private life deadly quiet.
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." 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 Honour back to the ambassador, as soon as possible." French judicial sources say that the actor is regarded as a potential witness, not a suspect. In 2003, Robert De Niro, with film director Woody Allen, jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, and writer George Plimpton joined a pro-French tourism campaign as a direct response to anti-French sentiment in the U.S. related to the 2003 Iraq invasion.
De Niro ended the Nineties with 1999 Flawless and a superb performance as a super-conservative security guard who suffers a stroke and has to endure speech therapy with a transvestite, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman.
And the new millennium brought even greater success. He made a comically ferocious Fearless Leader in The Adventures of Rocky And Bullwinkle (2000).
That same year, he was merciless (as well as an alcoholic racist) in training Cuba Gooding Jr to be the first African American navy diver in Men Of Honour.
Then he was hilarious in 2000 meet The Parents (for which he was Golden Globe-nominated) , playing Jack Byrnes, formerly a psychological profiler for the CIA, who takes a mighty disliking to his daughter's boyfriend (Ben Stiller as Gaylord Focker). Desperate to catch Stiller out, he's a picture of suspicion and repressed rage ("I will take you down to China-town").
After this in 2001 came 15 Minutes where he played a celebrity-hungry New York homicide cop chasing Eastern European killers who video their crimes in the belief that they can sell the tapes to TV and become rich and notorious - their main trarget being De Niro himself. In a couple of scenes, he even took the opportunity to parody his earlier starring role in Taxi Driver, most notably when he's practising a marriage proposition in the mirror.
Next, that same year, came The Score, where he played old-hand thief Nick Wells who's persuaded into one last job by Montreal crime lord Marlon Brando. It was a fraught production, with Brando refusing to wear trousers so director Frank Oz had to shoot him from the waist up, then refusing to attend at all if Oz was behind the camera. Eventually, De Niro himself took to directing Brando's scenes.
2002 brought a rush of activity. First came Showtime, yet another comedy. This was a spoof of buddy-cop movies, where tough veteran De Niro is paired with maverick, big-mouthed rookie Eddie Murphy on a reality-based TV cop show. The show's producer was played by Rene Russo, who'd also starred with De Niro in The Adventures Of Rocky And Bullwinkle.
Then, came City By The Sea where he played a cop tortured by the fact that his own father was a child-killer. Now his son, a drug addict, has accidentally killed a dealer and De Niro is assigned to the case. Unsure of his son's guilt and with his integrity thus under attack, he finds his past and present combining to make life unbearable.
Following this always in 2002, there was a return to an earlier hit with Analyze That. Here his neurotic mob boss would be released from Sing Sing into the house custody of Billy Crystal and his reluctant wife Lisa Kudrow. Naturally, strife enters their harmonic lives, with Crystal being drawn into a heist plot and De Niro having to combat a rival gang, led by Cathy Moriarty (earlier his wife in Raging Bull). Though brightly played, the movie had not the same success of the original.
2004 would be another big year. Having in 2003 been diagnosed with prostate cancer, from which he made a full recovery after surgery, he moved on to Godsend, which would see him playing a doctor who persuades recently bereaved Greg Kinnear and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos to let him implant one of their dead son's cells into her womb so they can have the same child all over again - things beginning to get weird when the new boy reaches the age when the first one died. The movie was based on an interesting premise but was badly executed, something of an embarrassment for De Niro who had only signed on to play a cameo, then was persuaded to stay on for an extra week's filming - a situation that allowed him to be promoted as the film's star. He'd make amends with the huge success of Meet The Fockers, the sequel to Meet The Parents, where his crazily suspicious and uptight Jack Byrnes would travel to Florida to visit Ben Stiller's impossibly liberated parents, Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand. Though a simple retread of the original, Meet The Fockers would suprprise many with its outrageous popularity, breaking Christmas and New Year records at the US box office.
Also in 2004, De Niro provided the voice of Don Lino, the antagonist in the animated film Shark Tale, opposite Will Smith. This was De Niro's first experience with voice acting. When interviewed about his role in Shark Tale, De Niro said that participating in an animated cartoon was one of the funniest aspects of his Hollywood career. Both films were very successful at the box office but received mixed reviews.
Also released (though only in Spain) at the end of 2004, was The Bridge Of San Luis Rey, based on the novel by Thornton Wilder and concerning religious intrigue in Spanish-held Peru. Here a bridge has collapsed, people have died and priest Gabriel Byrne has written a paper on the lives of the dead to discover whether they all deserved such punishment from God. Of course, it's bang out of order to so question the actions of the Almighty, so Byrne is put on trial for his life by archbishop and grand inquisitor De Niro. It was a seriously artistic venture, with a cast featuring Kathy Bates, Geraldine Chaplin, F. Murray Abraham and, co-starring with De Niro for the first time since Copland, his old sparring buddy Harvey Keitel.
2005 would bring De Niro to the realms of horror films with, Hide And Seek. Here he'd play a noted psychologist who cannot reach his young daughter, Dakota Fanning, when her mother dies. He seeks help from colleague Famke Janssen but nothing, it seems can prevent the girl descending into a madness that sees her obeying the evil commands of her imaginary friend.
In 2006 came The Good Shepherd, De Niro's second attempt at directing, which would cover 40 years of the CIA. In production for 10 years, the project had undergone terrible delays, the last of which saw De Niro's former co-star Leonardo DiCaprio drop out.
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."
In The Good Shepherd, also starred Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie. The movie also reunited him onscreen with Joe Pesci, with whom De Niro had starred in Raging Bull, Once Upon A Time in America, Goodfellas, A Bronx Tale, and Casino.
De Niro's earnings are now vast, having received $20 million for Analyze That. He runs his own production company, TriBeCa, producing such movies as About A Boy, Entropy, Witness to The Mob, Panther and Thunderheart, as well as acting as executive producer on many of the movies in which he's starred.
Attempting to put something back into New York post-9/11 he organised the first annual TriBeCa film festival in 2002, then applied to build a $150 million movie studio on the site of the Brooklyn Navy Yard (he was turned down in favour of property developers). He's also a restaurateur, co-owning the likes of Nobu and Layla in New York, Ago in West Hollywood and Rubicon in San Francisco, the last of which he co-owns with Robin Williams and Francis Ford Coppola. His favourite though is his TriBeCa Grill, in New York, which he frequently patronises and on the walls of which hang paintings by his father.
In 2007 he played the role of Captain Shakespeare in the fantasy movie Stardust.
De Niro was due to be bestowed with 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 a staunch supporter of the Democratic Party, and vocally supported Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election. Filmmaker Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 includes a clip of De Niro standing next to Gore at a rally; Moore identifies him as "that Taxi Driver guy." De Niro publicly supported John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election. In 1998, he lobbied Congress against impeaching President Bill Clinton. 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 Naudet and Gedeon Naudet that focused on the role of firefighters following the attacks. De Niro was reportedly a supporter of the invasion of Iraq, but his comments on February 4 corrected that speculation when he made a speech that included the following endorsement: "He (for Obama) wasn't experienced enough to vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq... That's the kind of inexperience I could get used to." While promoting his movie The Good Shepherd with costar 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.
Drena De Niro is his daughter through adoption, being Diahnne Abbott's daughter from a previous marriage.
His wife Grace Hightower gave birth to their son Elliot on 18 March 1998.
After being caught up in a Paris prostitution ring investigation, he, denying any involvement, vowed never to return to France again (1998).
Father of actor Raphael De Niro.
Ranked #5 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list (October 1997).
Turned down the role of Jesus in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988).
Son of Robert De Niro Sr., an abstract expressionist, and Virginia Admiral, a painter.
In his 1980 Oscar acceptance speech he thanked Joey LaMotta (brother of Jake LaMotta), who was at the time suing United Artists for the portrayal of him in Raging Bull (1980).
He formed his production company, TriBeCa Productions, in 1989.
Had twin sons with his girlfriend Toukie Smith, Aaron Kendrick De Niro and Julian Henry De Niro (October 20, 1995) conceived by in-vitro fertilization.
Although he is commonly referred to as an Italian-American actor, De Niro is actually one-quarter Italian in ancestry. His father was half-Irish and half- Italian. His mother was of French, Dutch and German ancestry. He was, however, quite close to his Italian paternal grandfather, whom Robert visited frequently in Syracuse, NY when he was young. De Niro has stated that he identifies "more with [his] Italian side".
Was offered but turned down the role of Sal the pizza shop owner in Do the Right Thing (1989).
He is the second actor to win an Oscar for portraying Vito Corleone. He and Marlon Brando are the only two actors to win an Oscar for playing the same character.
He first discovered his love for acting at age 10 when he portrayed The Cowardly Lion in a local production of "The Wizard of Oz." He dropped out of high school to join a gang.
Formerly held the World Record for Most Weight Gained for a Movie, in gaining over 60 pounds for his role in Raging Bull (1980). But seven years later, Vincent D'Onofrio eclipsed him in gaining 70 pounds for his role in Full Metal Jacket (1987).
Three movies (at least) that De Niro has appeared in have the song "Gimme Shelter" by The Rolling Stones noticeably featured in the soundtrack - - The Fan (1996), Casino (1995) and Goodfellas (1990).
Ranked #78 in Premiere's 2002 annual Power 100 List.
In 1993 he was tapped to star as Enzo Ferrari in the film "Ferrari", which was budgeted at $65 million (U.S.) and had Michael Mann attached as director. The project fell through.
He organised the first Tribeca Film Festival in May 2002. He intended to revitalise the Lower Manhattan area after September 11th attacks.
Has said that Meryl Streep is his favorite actress to work with.
He was voted as the best actor of all time at FilmFour.com (2002).
Inducted into the Italian-American Hall of Fame in 2002.
British pop group Bananarama had a hit song dedicated to him called "Robert De Niro's Waiting." De Niro heard about it and arranged to meet the three girls, but they got so nervous, while waiting for him, that they got drunk before he even arrived.
Diagnosed with prostate cancer, and expected to make a full recovery (October 2003).
Spent four months learning to speak the Sicilian dialect in order to play Vito Corleone in The Godfather: Part II (1974). Nearly all the dialogue that his character spoke in the movie was in Sicilian.
When he was a child, he was an avid reader of playwrights.
According to a profile in Vanity Fair's annual Hollywood issue, is the first actor to do a method interpretation of a cartoon character as Fearless Leader in The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle (2000).
He started the whole "awards show ribbon" tradition by wearing a green ribbon on his lapel at the 1981 Academy Awards. The ribbon was in rememberance of several African-American children who were victims of a serial killer in Atlanta, Georgia in 1980-1981. The ribbon was given to him by a fan in the bleachers as he arrived; the victims' families had been wearing them for months.
Was in Ossining, New York (home of the infamous Sing Sing penitentiary) to shoot three different movies: Analyze This (1999), Analyze That (2002) and Hide and Seek (2005).
In the Egyptian film Medina, El (1999), the main actor Ali has a duck that he named De Niro after his favorite actor.
Was voted the Number 2 greatest movie star of all time in a Channel 4 (UK) poll, narrowly being beaten by Al Pacino.
It was tricky to make him look huge as Frankenstein's monster in Frankenstein (1994) , considering that Kenneth Branagh, who played Dr. Frankenstein, is of similar height. Many of the tricks used to make humans, wizards and elves dwarf the hobbits later on for "Lord of the Rings" trilogy were also employed to make De Niro appear much bigger than his co-stars, including using very large men as body doubles for shots where only the hands and feet are seen.
He was voted the 34th Greatest Movie Star of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
Singer P.J. Harvey refers to De Niro in a song, "Reeling," from her album '4-Track Demos".
Finley Quaye mentions him in the song "Sunday Shining", in the line "I'm a hero like Robert De Niro".
Was unable to accept his first Oscar in 1975 due to filming commitments to Bernardo Bertolucci's Novecento (1976).
Was good friends with comedian John Belushi, who died of a drug overdose in 1982 on separate visits to bungalow #3 of L.A.'s Chateau Marmont hotel that fateful day in March 1982. He visited Belushi's apartment at 3:00 am on the morning of his death but, according to eyewitnesses, left minutes later after seeing that Belushi was ill. Belushi had also been visited by Robin Williams less than an hour earlier, who also left straight away.
Ranked #1 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Greatest Living Actor (Gods Among Us)" list (October 2004).
His mother, despite being raised Presbyterian, was an atheist for most of Robert's childhood. His father was raised Catholic but was not religious in any way.
At the age of 17, after leaving the movies with a friend, he unexpectedly stated that he was going to be a film actor. No one believed him until he dropped out of his senior year of high school and joined Stella Adler's acting school.
His father, after Robert was born, came out of the closet as a homosexual and eventually divorced Robert's mother.
His boyhood idols among actors included Montgomery Clift, Robert Mitchum and Marlon Brando. He preferred the darker, more character-driven work of these men to the older stars of Hollywood, for whom their public persona as a star was more important than their immersion into the character.
Rarely does interviews and is known as one of the most ultra-private celebrities. He was the subject of a late 90s interview (and cover photo) for Esquire magazine. Most of the article focused on how guarded he is with his personal life, what few details are known about him, what rumors are speculated while only a minority of the article dealt with the actual interview itself. The writer noted that while the interview was ultimately agreed upon, he was given a substantial list of off-limit subjects NOT to ask De Niro about. They included: politics, religion, his family, his reported interest in fine wines, and so on.
When they met shortly before making Mean Streets (1973) De Niro and Harvey Keitel became fast friends. De Niro was from Greenwich Village in Manhattan and was taught by Stella Adler and Keitel was from the Brighton Beach area of Brooklyn and was mainly mentored by Lee Strasberg. But the two guarded actors bonded and remain close to this day.
He and Martin Scorsese were brought up blocks apart in the Greenwich Village area of Manhattan, but never formally met when they were young. When introduced at a party in 1972, the two came to realize that they had seen each other many times but had never spoken.
Limo drivers in Los Angeles joke about his less than generous tips by referring to him as "No Dinero".
Very good friends with fellow actor and frequent co-star, Joe Pesci.
Premiere Magazine ranked him as #38 on a list of the Greatest Movie Stars of All Time in their Stars in Our Constellation feature (2005).
Both of his Oscar-winning performances involved Marlon Brando. His first Oscar, for Best Supporting Actor, had him playing the younger version of Brando's character Vito Corleone. His second, for Best Actor in Raging Bull (1980), he recited Brando's famous lines from On the Waterfront (1954).
Underwent surgery for prostate cancer at New York's Sloan-Kettering Hospital in December 2003. The cancer has now gone into remission.
Studied at Actors Studio with Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg.
Is left handed. However, he wrote with his right hand in Taxi Driver (1976).
Co-owns the Rubicon restaurant in San Francisco with Bay area residents Francis Ford Coppola and Robin Williams. Much of his father's art work adorns the walls of the business. He also owns a restaurant in West Hollywood, Ago, and co-owns several restaurants in New York, including Nobu and Layla.
Shares a birthday with friend and sometime-co-star Sean Penn.
First performer to win an Oscar (for The Godfather: Part II (1974)) for a performance in a sequel.
He is a staunch supporter of the US Democratic Party. He lobbied Congress against impeaching President Bill Clinton in 1998, supported Al Gore in the 2000 Presidential election and supported John Kerry in the 2004 Presidential election.
Renewed his marriage vows to wife Grace Hightower at De Niro's Ulster County farm near New York's Catskill Mountains. De Niro married Hightower in 1997, but their marriage looked to be ending when De Niro filed for divorce two years later. Their fallout continued into 2001 as a potential custody battle over their son Elliott heated up. However, the divorce was never finalized and they managed to smooth over their troubles.
His performance as Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull (1980) is ranked #10 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time (2006).
His performance as Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver (1976) is ranked #42 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time (2006).
His performance as Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver (1976) is ranked #22 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.
Early on, before Tim Burton was commissioned as director, was considered for the role of Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005).
Was offered the part of Dick Tracy in Dick Tracy (1990).
Turned down the role of Tony D'Amato in Any Given Sunday (1999).
Passed up the opportunity to play Frank Costello in The Departed (2006) to work on his second directorial feature The Good Shepherd (2006).
Growing up in the Little Italy section of New York City, his nickname was "Bobby Milk" because he was so thin and as pale as milk.
He won an Oscar for playing Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull (1980), making him one of 11 actors to win the Award for playing a real person who was still 'alive at the evening of the Award ceremony (as of 2007). The other ten actors and their respective performances are: Spencer Tracy for playing Father Edward Flanagan' in Boys Town (1938), Gary Cooper for playing Alvin C. York in Sergeant York (1941), Patty Duke for playing Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker (1962), Jason Robards for playing Benjamin C. Bradlee in All the President's Men (1976), Sissy Spacek for playing Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner's Daughter (1980), Susan Sarandon for playing Sister Helen Prejean in Dead Man Walking (1995), Geoffrey Rush for playing 'David Helfgott' in Shine (1996), Julia Roberts for playing Erin Brockovich-Ellis in Erin Brockovich (2000), Jim Broadbent for playing John Bayley in Iris (2001/I) and most recently Helen Mirren for playing Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen (2006).
After Once Upon a Time in America (1984), director Sergio Leone planning to cast De Niro in a film he was working on about the siege of Leningrad in World War II, but that project never came about due to Leone's death in 1989.
For the role of Max Cady in Cape Fear (1991), he paid a dentist $5,000 to make his teeth look suitably bad. After filming, he paid $20,000 to have them fixed. For this film, he was tattooed with vegetable dyes, which faded after a few months.
De Niro and Robin Williams were the last stars to see John Belushi alive, albeit on separate visits to bungalow #3 of L.A.'s Chateau Marmont hotel that fateful day in March 1982.
Accidentally broke a rib of Joe Pesci in a sparring scene in Raging Bull (1980). This shot appears in the film: De Niro hits Pesci in the side, Pesci groans, and there is a quick cut to another angle.
Mentioned in "Wierd Al" Yankovic's song 'Frank's 2000" TV'.
Has a son, Raphal, with Diahnne Abbott.
Owns residences on the east and west sides of Manhattan as well as near Marbletown, New York.
Is one of five performers to win an Oscar playing a character that spoke mostly in a foreign language. The other are Sophia Loren, Marion Cotillard, Roberto Benigni and Benicio Del Toro.
Played a real life CIA director in "The Good Shepherd" (2006) and another real life CIA agent in "Ronin" (1998), as well as fictional CIA agent in "Meet the Parents" (2000).
De Niro is a huge fan of pop star Britney Spears.
The talent is in the choices.
It's important not to indicate. People don't try to show their feelings, they try to hide them.
I don't like to watch my own movies - I fall asleep in my own movies.
Don't talk it (shooting a scene) away, do it!
Some people say that drama is easy, and comedy is hard. Not true. I've been making comedies the last couple years, and it's nice. When you make a drama, you spend all day beating a guy to death with a hammer, or what have you. Or, you have to take a bite out of somebody's face. On the other hand, with a comedy, you yell at Billy Crystal for an hour, and you go home.
I think Hollywood has a class system. The actors are like the inmates, but the truth is they're running the asylum. You've got to look at the whole studio structure. There's these guys. We call them suits. They have the power to okay a film. They're like your parents, going, 'We have the money.' But at the same time they say to us actors, 'We love you. We can't do without you.' You know, I've been around a long time. I've seen the suits run the asylum. I think I can do it as good or even better. Let me try it. That's why I have TriBeCa. (Chicago Sun- Times, January 8, 1998)
I go to Paris, I go to London, I go to Rome, and I always say, "There's no place like New York. It's the most exciting city in the world now. That's the way it is. That's it.
I've never been one of those actors who has touted myself as a fascinating human being. I had to decide early on wether I was to be an actor or a personality.
The whole thing is for younger people who are sexy and youthful. (on acting)
The characters that I play are real. They are real so they have as much right to be portrayed as any other characters. There are other characters I have played, other than those ones that have been called stereotypes or whatever. So. (His thoughts on the 'mobster' characters he portrays in a lot of his movies)
People treat me with a bit too much reverence. Look at Dustin Hoffman. I always envy the way he can speak and be smart and funny and so on. I just can't do that.
Al, over the years we've taken roles from one another. People have tried to compare us to one another, to pit us against each one another and to tear us apart personally. I've never seen the comparison frankly. I'm clearly much taller, more the leading-man type. Honestly, you just may be the finest actor of our generation - with the possible exception of me. (talking about Al Pacino)
One of the things about acting is it allows you to live other people's lives without having to pay the price.
I am part Italian, I'm not all Italian. I'm part Dutch, I'm part French, I'm part German, I'm part Irish. But my name is Italian and I probably identify more with my Italian side than with my other parts.
If there is a God he has a lot to answer for.
You'll have time to rest when you're dead.
After my first movies, I gave interviews. Then I thought, what's so important about where I went to school, and hobbies ... what does any of that have to do with acting, with my own head?
There is a mixture of anarchy and discipline in the way I work.
I love Italy and I have a deep tie with my Italian roots. I stand for Kerry, I hope he will arrive at the White House. We need a different Government to represent America. The change of presidency would be a clear and international sign to say that we are approaching again to the rest of the world. I don't want any prize that can influence this election. I stand for Kerry. (2004)
(On Taxi Driver's infamous line) You have no idea that years later, people in cars will recognize you on the street and shout, 'You talkin' to me?' I don't remember the original script, but I don't think the line was in it. We improvised. For some reason it touched a nerve. That happens.
Some people say, 'New York's a great place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.' I say that about other places.
It's true: I spent lunchtime in a grave during the filming of Bloody Mama. When you're younger, you feel that's what you need to do to help you stay in character. When you get older, you become more confident and less intense about it -- and you can achieve the same effect. You might even be able to achieve more if you take your mind off it, because you're relaxed. That's the key to it all. When you're relaxed and confident, you get good stuff.
Movies are hard work. The public doesn't see that. The critics don't see it. But they're a lot of work. A lot of work. When I'm directing a great dramatic scene, part of me is saying, 'Thank God I don't have to do that.' Because I know how fucking hard it is to act. It's the middle of the night. It's freezing. You gotta do this scene. You gotta get it up to get to that point. And yet, as a director, you've got to get the actors to that point. It's hard either way.
When I was a teenager, I went to the Dramatic Workshop at the New School. The school had a lot of actors under the GI Bill -- Rod Steiger, Harry Belafonte, the generation ahead of me. I went in there and the director said to me, "Vy do you vant to be an acteh?" I didn't know how to answer, so I didn't say anything. And he said, "To express yourself!" And I said, "Yeah, yeah, that's it. That's right.
(On witnessing 9-11) I left a meeting right after they hit the World Trade Center. I went to my apartment, which looks south, and I watched it out my window. I could see the line of fire across the North Tower. I had my binoculars and a video camera - - though I didn't want to video it. I saw a few people jump. Then I saw the South Tower go. It was so unreal, I had to confirm it by immediately looking at the television screen. CNN was on. That was the only way to make it real. Like my son said, 'It was like watching the moon fall.'
The hardest thing about being famous is that people are always nice to you. You're in a conversation and everybody's agreeing with what you're saying -- even if you say something totally crazy. You need people who can tell you what you don't want to hear.
I didn't have a problem with rejection, because when you go into an audition, you're rejected already. There are hundreds of other actors. You're behind the eight ball when you go in there. At this point in my career, I don't have to deal with audition rejections. So I get my rejection from other things. My children can make me feel rejected. They can humble you pretty quick.
Money makes your life easier. If you're lucky to have it, you're lucky.
I only go to Los Angeles when I am paid for it.
Credited Works / Feats:
Restaurants owned by Robert De Niro
Often played characters that were often prone to brutal violence and/or characters who were borderline psychotics.
Known for method acting techniques with his characters by heavily studying their backgrounds.
Often play charming sociopaths.