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Robert De Niro is an American actor, producer, and director, who has had a successful and influential career spanning over five decades. He is renowned for his intense and character-driven performances, as well as his collaborations with director Martin Scorsese. In this comprehensive biography, we will take a deep dive into the life and career of this legendary actor.
Early Life and Education
Robert De Niro Jr. was born on August 17, 1943, in Manhattan, New York City, to a family of artists. His father, Robert De Niro Sr., was a respected painter and sculptor, while his mother, Virginia Admiral, was a talented painter and poet. Robert De Niro’s parents divorced when he was just two years old, but they remained friends and shared the responsibility of raising their son.
Growing up in the bohemian atmosphere of Greenwich Village, Robert De Niro was exposed to the arts from a young age. He attended the Little Red School House and later the High School of Music and Art. However, he eventually transferred to a public high school, where he discovered his passion for acting. He began studying at the Stella Adler Conservatory and later the Lee Strasberg Actors Studio, where he honed his craft under the tutelage of some of the most respected acting teachers of the time.
1960s and 1970s
Robert De Niro made his film debut in the 1963 low-budget film The Wedding Party, directed by Brian De Palma. However, the film was not released until 1969. Robert De Niro continued to work in theater and low-budget films throughout the 1960s, gradually building his reputation as a talented and committed actor.
His breakout role came in 1973, when he starred in Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets. This marked the beginning of a long and fruitful collaboration between the actor and director. In 1974, Robert De Niro earned his first Academy Award nomination for his role as the young Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II. This performance catapulted him to fame, and he became one of the most sought-after actors in Hollywood.
Over the course of the 1970s, De Niro appeared in a series of critically acclaimed films, including:
- Taxi Driver (1976) – Directed by Martin Scorsese
- The Deer Hunter (1978) – Directed by Michael Cimino
- Raging Bull (1980) – Directed by Martin Scorsese
The 1980s saw Robert De Niro continue his streak of powerful and memorable performances. He worked with a diverse range of directors and tackled a variety of genres. Some of his most notable roles during this period include:
- Once Upon a Time in America (1984) – Directed by Sergio Leone
- Brazil (1985) – Directed by Terry Gilliam
- The Untouchables (1987) – Directed by Brian De Palma
- Midnight Run (1988) – Directed by Martin Brest
In addition to these performances, De Niro continued his collaboration with Scorsese, appearing in the iconic films The King of Comedy (1982) and Goodfellas (1990).
The 1990s marked a period of experimentation for De Niro, as he explored different roles and genres. He received critical acclaim for his performances in films like:
- Cape Fear (1991) – Directed by Martin Scorsese
- A Bronx Tale (1993) – Directed by Robert De Niro (his directorial debut)
- Casino (1995) – Directed by Martin Scorsese
- Heat (1995) – Directed by Michael Mann
He also showed his comedic chops in the popular film Analyze This (1999) alongside Billy Crystal.
De Niro continued to work steadily throughout the 2000s, appearing in a variety of films that showcased his range as an actor. Some highlights from this decade include:
- Meet the Parents (2000) – Directed by Jay Roach
- The Score (2001) – Directed by Frank Oz
- City by the Sea (2002) – Directed by Michael Caton-Jones
- Silver Linings Playbook (2012) – Directed by David O. Russell
In the 2010s, De Niro continued to be a prolific actor, taking on roles in both critically acclaimed films and commercial hits. Some of his standout performances during this period include:
- The Intern (2015) – Directed by Nancy Meyers
- Joy (2015) – Directed by David O. Russell
- The Irishman (2019) – Directed by Martin Scorsese
De Niro has been married twice, first to actress Diahnne Abbott, with whom he has a son, Raphael. The couple divorced in 1988. He later married Grace Hightower in 1997, and they have two children together, Elliot and Helen. De Niro and Hightower separated in 2018.
In addition to his acting career, De Niro is a successful entrepreneur. He co-founded the Tribeca Film Festival in 2002, which has become a major event in the film industry. He also owns a number of restaurants, including the acclaimed Nobu.
Awards and Recognitions
Throughout his illustrious career, De Niro has received numerous accolades and awards. Some of his most notable recognitions include:
- Two Academy Awards – Best Supporting Actor (_The Godfather Part II_, 1974) and Best Actor (Raging Bull, 1980)
- Seven additional Academy Award nominations
- Two Golden Globe Awards – Best Actor (Raging Bull, 1980) and Cecil B. DeMille Award (2011)
- Five additional Golden Globe nominations
- One BAFTA Award – Best Actor (Raging Bull, 1980)
- One Screen Actors Guild Award – Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture (Silver Linings Playbook, 2012)
- Two additional Screen Actors Guild nominations
- One AFI Life Achievement Award (2003)
- Legacy and Impact
- Robert De Niro’s influence on the world of cinema is undeniable. As one of the greatest actors of his generation, he has inspired countless performers with his dedication to the craft and his incredible range. De Niro’s collaborations with Martin Scorsese have produced some of the most iconic films in history, and their partnership is considered one of the most successful actor-director pairings in Hollywood.
- In addition to his acting career, Robert De Niro has made significant contributions to the film industry through the Tribeca Film Festival, which supports emerging filmmakers and showcases innovative storytelling. His entrepreneurial ventures, such as his restaurants and hotels, also demonstrate his commitment to supporting the arts and culture.
With a career spanning over five decades, Robert De Niro has solidified his status as a living legend. From his early roles in groundbreaking films like Taxi Driver and The Godfather Part II to his more recent performances in Silver Linings Playbook and The Irishman, De Niro has consistently demonstrated his commitment to the craft of acting and his ability to captivate audiences with his powerful performances. His collaborations with Martin Scorsese, numerous awards, and influence on future generations of actors have left an indelible mark on the world of cinema.