Robert De Niro (Courtesy Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Robert De Niro (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. Then in 1974 after not receiving the role of Michael Corleone in the first film, he was cast as the young Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II, a role for which he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
His longtime collaboration with director Martin Scorsese began with 1973's Mean Streets, and later earned De Niro an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Jake LaMotta in the 1980 film Raging Bull. He would also earn nominations for Taxi Driver in 1976 and Cape Fear in 1991. De Niro received additional Academy Award nominations for Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter (1978), Penny Marshall's Awakenings (1990), and David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook (2012). His portrayal of gangster Jimmy Conway in Scorsese's Goodfellas earned him a BAFTA nomination in 1990.
De Niro has earned four nominations for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, for his work in New York, New York (1977), Midnight Run (1988), Analyze This (1999), and Meet the Parents (2000). He has also simultaneously directed and starred in films such as 1993's A Bronx Tale and 2006's The Good Shepherd. De Niro has received accolades for his career, including the AFI Life Achievement Award (2003) and the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award (2010).
Robert De Niro was born in Greenwich Village, New York City, the son of Virginia Holton Admiral, a painter and poet, and Robert De Niro, Sr., an abstract expressionist painter and sculptor. His father was of half Italian and half Irish descent, and his mother was of English, Irish, German, French, and Dutch ancestry. 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. De Niro attended PS 41, a public elementary school in Manhattan through the sixth grade, and then went to Elisabeth Irwin High School for seventh and eighth grades, the private upper school of the Little Red School House. He was accepted at the High School of Music and Art for the ninth grade, but only attended for a short time before transferring to a public junior high school. He began high school at the private McBurney School and later attended the private Rhodes Preparatory School, although he never graduated from either. Nicknamed "Bobby Milk" for his pallor, De Niro hung out with a group of street kids as a youth in Little Italy, some of whom have remained his lifelong friends. The direction of his future had already been determined by his stage debut at age ten when he played the Cowardly Lion in a school production of The Wizard of Oz. 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. De Niro studied acting at the Stella Adler Conservatory, as well as Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio.
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). 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).
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, 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 (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. The role of Travis Bickle earned him his first Academy Award Nomination for Best Actor. 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.
Also in 1976, De Niro starred in The Last Tycoon, directed by Elia Kazan. Kazan recalls that De Niro "would do almost anything to succeed," and even cut his weight down from 170 to 128 pounds for the role in this film. Kazan adds that De Niro "is one of a select number of actors I've directed who work hard at their trade, and the only one who asked to rehearse on Sundays. Most of the others play tennis. Bobby and I would go over the scenes to be shot." Kazan describes De Niro's style of acting:
Kazan developed and used those personality traits for his character in the film. And although the film did poorly at the box office, some reviewers praised De Niro's acting. Film critic Marie Brenner writes that "for De Niro, it is a role that surpasses even his brilliant and daring portrayal of Vito Corleone in The Godfather, part II, ... [his] performance deserves to be compared with the very finest."
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.
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.
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 together, in the crime thriller Righteous Kill.
In 2000, De Niro played the role of Master Chief Billy Sunday opposite Cuba Gooding, Jr. in the George Tillman, Jr. biographical film Men of Honor, based on the life of Carl Brashear, the first African American to become a U.S. Navy Master Diver.
De Niro also hosted 9/11, a 2002 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.
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.
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."
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. He was then replaced by Ray Winstone. 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.
Thirty-four years after Bernardo Bertolucci's 1900, De Niro stars in one of three episodes of the film Manuale d'amore 3, with Monica Bellucci, directed by Italian director Giovanni Veronesi. In January 2011, CBS picked up De Niro's crime pilot, Rookies later to be renamed as NYC 22 only to have his new crime drama abruptly cancelled after airing only four episodes. In 2011, he was the President of the Jury for the 64th Cannes Film Festival.
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 Sullivan, 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, The Greenwich Hotel, 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. 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.
In 1987, he was the President of the Jury at the 15th Moscow International Film Festival. At the 20th Moscow International Film Festival in 1997, he was awarded an Honorable Prize for contribution to cinema. 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 presaged 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."
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; 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; 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).
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."
De Niro and his first wife, Diahnne Abbott, have a son, Raphael, a former actor who works in New York real estate. 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.
In 1997, De Niro married his second wife, actress Grace Hightower, at their Marbletown home. 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. In December 2011 a daughter, Helen Grace, was born via surrogate.
In addition to his six children, De Niro has grandchildren. From his eldest daughter Drena he has one and from his son Raphael he has two.
In October 2003, it was reported that De Niro had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He underwent surgery at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in December of that year, and it has now gone into remission.
De Niro, who has long resided in New York City, has been investing in the TriBeCa neighborhood in lower Manhattan since 1989. He has residences on the east and west sides of Manhattan. He also has an estate in Marbletown in upstate New York which acts as his primary residence.
During a film shoot in France in February 1998, De Niro was questioned as a witness about the Bourgeois prostitution ring. De Niro denied any involvement and later filed a complaint. Despite saying at the time he would not return to France, he later has filmed in France and presided over the jury at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.
In 2011, De Niro supported the Initiative A Logo for Human Rights. Its goal was to create an internationally recognized logo to support the global human rights movement.
De Niro is a resolute 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.
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.
On March 19, 2012, De Niro and his wife held a fundraiser for President Obama's re-election campaign. At the event, De Niro made a controversial commentviewed by political columnist John Hayward and Steven Kurlander of the Sun-Sentinel as racistjoking, "Callista Gingrich. Karen Santorum. Ann Romney. Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady?"
See Robert De Niro filmography for more information
Awards and nominations
See List of awards and nominations received by Robert De Niro for more information