Robert De Niro
Robert Anthony De Niro Jr. is an American actor, producer, and director. He is particularly known for his work in the crime and thriller genres, and collaborations with filmmaker Martin Scorsese. De Niro is the recipient of various accolades, including two Academy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, the Cecil B. DeMille Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award. In 2009, he received the Kennedy Center Honor. In 2016, he received a Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.
Born in Manhattan in New York City, De Niro studied acting at HB Studio, Stella Adler Conservatory, and Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio. His first major onscreen appearance was in Greetings. He soon gained recognition with his role as a Major League Baseball player in the sports drama Bang the Drum Slowly. His first collaboration with Scorsese was in Mean Streets, in which he played the small-time criminal "Johnny Boy". Stardom followed soon after with his role as the young Vito Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather Part II, which won him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. For his portrayal of Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, and a soldier in the Vietnam War drama The Deer Hunter, both roles earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
In 1980, De Niro portrayed Jake LaMotta in Scorsese's biographical drama Raging Bull which won him a second Academy Award, for Best Actor. He diversified into comic roles, such as by playing a stand-up comedian in The King of Comedy, and gained further recognition for his performances in Sergio Leone's crime epic Once Upon a Time in America, science fiction dystopian satire Brazil, the religious epic The Mission, and the comedy Midnight Run . De Niro entered the 1990s playing gangster Jimmy Conway in the crime film Goodfellas, a catatonic patient in the drama Awakenings, and as a criminal in the psychological thriller Cape Fear. All three films received praise for De Niro's performances. He then starred in This Boy's Life, and made his directorial debut in 1993 with A Bronx Tale. His other critical successes include the crime films Heat and Casino.
He played more comic roles in the films Wag the Dog, Analyze This, and Meet the Parents . After appearing in a series of critically panned and commercially unsuccessful films, he earned another Academy Award nomination for his role in David O. Russell's romantic comedy, Silver Linings Playbook. In 2019, De Niro starred in two acclaimed films; the thriller Joker, and Scorsese's crime epic The Irishman. De Niro and Scorsese have made nine feature films together, and six of De Niro's films have been inducted into the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". In 1989, De Niro and partner Jane Rosenthal, co-founded TriBeCa Productions, a film production company, and in 2002, he co-founded the Tribeca Film Festival.
Early lifeRobert Anthony De Niro Jr. was born on August 17, 1943, in Manhattan in New York City, the only child of painters Virginia Admiral and Robert De Niro Sr. He is of Irish and Italian descent on his father's side, while his mother had Dutch, English, French, and German ancestry.
De Niro's parents, who had met at the painting classes of Hans Hofmann in Provincetown, Massachusetts, separated when he was two years old after his father announced that he was gay. De Niro was raised by his mother in the Greenwich Village and Little Italy neighborhoods of Manhattan. His father lived nearby, and remained close with De Niro during his childhood. Nicknamed "Bobby Milk" because of his pale complexion, De Niro befriended a number of street kids in Little Italy, much to the disapproval of his father. Some, however, have remained his lifelong friends. His mother was raised Presbyterian but became an atheist as an adult, while his father had been a lapsed Catholic since the age of 12. Against his parents' wishes, his grandparents had De Niro secretly baptized into the Catholic Church while he was staying with them during his parents' divorce.De Niro attended PS 41, a public elementary school in Manhattan, through the sixth grade. He also began acting classes at the Dramatic Workshop and made his stage debut at age 10, playing the Cowardly Lion in a school production of The Wizard of Oz. He later went to Elisabeth Irwin High School, the upper school of the Little Red School House, for the seventh and eighth grades. He was then accepted into 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: IS 71, Charles Evans Hughes Junior High School. De Niro attended high school at McBurney School and then later, Rhodes Preparatory School. He found performing as a way to relieve his shyness, and became fascinated by cinema, so he dropped out of high school at 16 to pursue acting. He studied acting at HB Studio and Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio. De Niro also studied with Stella Adler, of the Stella Adler Conservatory, where he was exposed to the techniques of the Stanislavski system.
1963–1973: Early roles and breakthroughDe Niro's early roles, although minor, were found in Encounter, Three Rooms in Manhattan and Les Jeunes Loups. Shortly afterwards, De Niro landed a major role in Greetings, a satirical film about men avoiding the Vietnam War draft. The film marked the first of a series of early collaborations between De Niro and director Brian De Palma. A year later, De Niro appeared in the drama Sam's Song in which he portrays a New York City filmmaker. Also in 1969, he appeared in De Palma's comedy The Wedding Party; although it was filmed in 1963, it was kept unreleased for six years. De Niro, who was still unknown at the time, managed to gain a favorable review from The New York Times
He then appeared in Roger Corman's low-budget crime drama Bloody Mama, a loose adaptation of Ma Barker's life, who was the mother of four American criminals, of which De Niro portrayed one—Lloyd Barker. Thompson praised the film and thought the cast gave "fine performances". Next, De Niro starred in De Palma's comedy Hi, Mom!, a sequel to Greetings. Writing for The New Yorker, Richard Brody opined De Niro "brings unhinged spontaneity" to his character. He also had a small role in Jennifer on My Mind and in Ivan Passer's Born to Win. His last film appearance of 1971 was in The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight, a crime-comedy based on the 1969 novel of the same name by Jimmy Breslin.
After two years, De Niro returned to the screen in Bang the Drum Slowly, in which he played the lead role as Bruce Pearson, a Major League Baseball player with Hodgkin disease. His co-stars were Michael Moriarty and Vincent Gardenia. Adapted from the 1956 novel of the same name by Mark Harris, the film received critical acclaim and helped De Niro gain further recognition. The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "De Niro proves himself to be one of the best and most likable young character actors in movies with this performance". Variety
In 1973, De Niro began collaborating with Martin Scorsese when he appeared in the crime film Mean Streets,co-starring Harvey Keitel. Although De Niro was offered a choice of roles, Scorsese wanted De Niro to play John "Johnny Boy" Civello, a small time criminal working his way up a local mob. While De Niro and Keitel were given freedom to improvise certain scenes, assistant director Ron Satlof recalls De Niro was "extremely serious, extremely involved in his role and preparation", and became isolated from the rest of the cast and crew. Mean Streets debuted at the Cannes Film Festival, followed by the New York Film Festival five months later, to a generally warm response. Film critic Roger Ebert thought De Niro gave a "marvelous performance, filled with urgency and restless desperation". Pauline Kael of The New York Times was equally impressed by De Niro, writing he is "a bravura actor, and those who have registered him only as the grinning, tobacco-chewing dolt of that hunk of inept whimsey Hang the Drum Slowly will be unprepared for his volatile performance. De Niro does something like what Dustin Hoffman was doing in Midnight Cowboy, but wilder; this kid doesn’t just act—he takes off into the vapors". In 1997, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
1974–1980: Scorsese collaboration and acclaimDe Niro had a pivotal role in Francis Ford Coppola's crime epic The Godfather Part II, playing the young Vito Corleone. De Niro had previously auditioned for the first installment, The Godfather, but quit the project before filming. Coppola, having remembered him, gave De Niro a role in Part II instead. To portray his character, De Niro spoke mainly in several Sicilian dialects, although he delivered a few lines in English. The film was a critical success; review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the film an approval rating of 97% based on 79 critic reviews, and it grossed $48 million at the worldwide box office. The Godfather Part II received eleven nominations at the 47th Academy Awards, winning six, including one for De Niro as Best Supporting Actor. It was De Niro's first Academy win and Coppola accepted the award on his behalf as he did not attend ceremony. He and Marlon Brando, who played the older Vito Corleone in the first film, were the first pair of actors to win Academy Awards for portraying the same fictional character.
After working with Scorsese in Mean Streets, De Niro collaborated with him again for the psychological drama Taxi Driver. Set in gritty and morally bankrupt New York City following the Vietnam War, the film tells the story of Travis Bickle, a lonely taxi driver who descends into insanity. In preparation for the role, De Niro spent time with members of a U.S army base to learn their Midwestern accent and mannerisms. He also lost 30-pounds in weight, took firearm training and studied the behavior of taxi drivers. The film was critically acclaimed, in particular for De Niro's performance; The Washington Post critic hailed it as his "landmark performance", and the San Francisco Chronicle wrote "De Niro is dazzling in one of his signature roles". Despite controversy for Jodie Foster being cast as a child prostitute, the film was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Actor for De Niro. His "You talkin' to me?" quote, which he improvised, was selected as the 10th most memorable quote in the AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes by the American Film Institute. In 2005, the film was chosen by Time magazine as one of the 100 best films of all time.
De Niro had two other film releases in 1976. He starred in 1900, a historical drama directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. Starring an ensemble cast, the film is set in the Emilia region of Italy, and tells the story of two men, the landowner Alfredo Berlinghieri and the peasant Olmo Dalcò, as they witness and participate in the political conflicts between fascism and communism in the first half of the twentieth century. Next, he played a CEO in The Last Tycoon, based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel of the same name, as adapted by British screenwriter Harold Pinter. De Niro lost 42-pounds for the role, and director Elia Kazan observed that De Niro would rehearse on Sundays, adding "Bobby and I would go over the scenes to be shot. Bobby is more meticulous... he's very imaginative. He's very precise. He figures everything out both inside and outside. He has good emotion. He's a character actor: everything he does he calculates. In a good way, but he calculates". The film received mixed reviews; Variety
The fourth collaboration between De Niro and Scorsese was in 1980, with the biographical drama Raging Bull. Adapted from Jake LaMotta's memoir , De Niro portrays LaMotta, the Italian-American middleweight boxer whose violent behavior and temper destroyed his relationship with his wife and family. Co-starring Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriarty, De Niro later said it was one of the toughest roles to prepare for because he had to gain 60-pounds, and had to learn to box. "The book’s not great literature, but it’s got a lot of heart", De Niro told Scorsese at the time. Although the film received critical acclaim, some reviewers were divided and criticized its "exceedingly violent" content; however, De Niro garnered praised for his realistic portrayal. The critic from The Hollywood Reporter highlighted "De Niro is incredible and makes the actor almost unrecognizable as himself; he looks amazingly like La Motta. De Niro's appearance is also astonishing in the final scenes". Michael Thomson of the BBC observed "the power of Scorsese is matched by the intensity of De Niro who delves deep into the soul of the boxer". At the 53rd Academy Awards, the film received eight nominations, including Best Actor for De Niro, for which he won. Raging Bull has since been regarded as one of the greatest films of the 1980s by American critics.
1981–1991: Dramas, comedies and awards successDe Niro returned to the crime genre with True Confessions, adapted from the 1977 novel of the same name by John Gregory Dunne. Less intensive than his previous film, De Niro played a priest who clashes with his brother, a detective investigating the murder of a prostitute. Vincent Canby of The New York Times thought the plot was uneasy to follow at times but praised the actors who "work so beautifully together it sometimes seems like a single performance". To expand his range of acting roles and to prove his acting abilities, De Niro sought out films with a comedic tone throughout the 1980s. He found it in The King of Comedy, in which he played the struggling stand-up comedian Rupert Pupkin. De Niro was first to bring the script to the attention of Scorsese, who then gave it a New York setting and darker tone. The film failed to find an audience, and was a box office disappointment, grossing only $2.5 million from a budget of $19 million. However, most critics praised De Niro's performance. His next film credit was in Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America, in which he plays David "Noodles" Aaronson, a New York City Jewish gangster. The theatrical cut, with a runtime of 229-minutes, premiered at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival and received a 15-minute standing ovation. The film was shortened for theaters in the United States, but this proved to be highly unpopular with critics. After seeing the full cut, Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times described the film "excessive as well as tightly controlled" with the actors showing "impressive restraint and power".
Falling in Love, a romantic comedy starring opposite Meryl Streep, was his last release of 1984. In 1985, De Niro starred in a science fiction for the first time, Brazil, about a daydreaming man living in a dystopian society. Although the film was unsuccessful at the box office, Brazil garnered enough appraisal to be included in The Criterion Collection. In May 1986, De Niro returned to the stage at Longacre Theatre, playing the lead role in the production Cuba and His Teddy Bear. For his next feature film, he co-starred in The Mission with Jeremy Irons, a period drama about the experiences of a Jesuit missionary in eighteenth century South America. Vincent Canby reviewed the film negatively, and was critical of De Niro's casting: "De Niro, who was very fine as the street-wise priest in True Confessions, is all right here until he opens his mouth". However, the film brought the attention of the awards ceremonies. It won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography, three BAFTAs, including Best Editing, and two Golden Globes for Best Screenplay and Best Original Score.
In 1987, De Niro had two minor film roles. In the first, he was cast as Louis Cyphre in Alan Parker's horror Angel Heart, an adaptation of William Hjortsberg's 1978 novel Falling Angel. In the second, he portrayed Al Capone in De Palma's crime drama, The Untouchables. While Pauline Kael opined De Niro "lazy" for undertaking small roles, De Palma defended him by saying he was "experimenting with those characters". In July 1987, he traveled to Russia to serve as President of the Jury at the 15th Moscow International Film Festival. Finally that year, he provided a voice-over for the documentary . The buddy cop film, Midnight Run, was his next effort in 1988. Starring opposite Charles Grodin, De Niro played bounty hunter Jack Walsh. The film received amicable reception and was a commercial success, grossing $81 million worldwide. In his mixed review, Hal Hinson of The Washington Post wrote of De Niro:
He turned down an opportunity to play Jesus Christ in Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ, although he told the director that he would do it as a favor if needed. Scorsese cast Willem Dafoe instead. In 1989, De Niro starred in several films that were not widely seen. He starred alongside Ed Harris and Kathy Baker in the drama Jacknife. The film revolves around the complex relationship between a Vietnam veteran, his sister and fellow army buddy. Next, he starred in the crime comedy We're No Angels with Sean Penn, a remake of the 1955 film of the same name. The pair play escaped convicts who go on the run towards Canada. A year later, he starred in the romantic drama Stanley & Iris opposite Jane Fonda. The latter two were critical disappointments; Rotten Tomatoes gave them an approval rating of 47% and 33%, respectively.
De Niro has reduced himself in scale here, too, and it's a relief to see him drop the great-actor mantle, and the theatricality. As a result, he hasn't seemed as fresh since Mean Streets or New York, New York. Walsh is more of a character role than the ones he played in those films; there's less specificity in the conception – he's more of a type – but the actor fits into him snugly, effortlessly, and the chance to play comedy, particularly opposite a comic foil as ideal as Grodin, appears to have revitalized him.
, 1988|alt=De Niro at the 1988 Deauville Film FestivalDe Niro and producer Jane Rosenthal, co-founded TriBeCa Productions, a film production company in 1989. De Niro and Scorsese soon reunited for their sixth collaboration in 1990, with the crime film Goodfellas. It is an adaptation of the 1985 non-fiction book Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi. The film narrates the life of mob associate Henry Hill and his friends and family from 1955 to 1980. De Niro played James Conway, an Irish truck carjacker and gangster. Goodfellas premiered at the 47th Venice International Film Festival to an "enthusiastic" response from Italian critics, although it grossed a moderate $46 million upon its wider release. Writing for Rolling Stone magazine, Peter Travers, praised the cast performances, and called De Niro's character "a smooth killer acted with riveting restraint". Chicago Tribune
De Niro's next film project was the drama Guilty by Suspicion in which he plays David Merrill, a fictitious film director, returning to the United States during the McCarthy era and Hollywood blacklist. The film received generally favorable reviews. He then had a minor role in the mystery drama Backdraft, playing a veteran fire inspector. De Niro's biggest success of 1991 was Cape Fear, his seventh film with Scorsese. It is a remake of the 1962 film of the same name, but heavily inspired by the original director, Alfred Hitchcock. De Niro portrays convicted rapist Max Cady, who seeks revenge against a former public defender who originally defended him. To look the part, De Niro spent hours in the gym and consented to the grind down of his teeth which were corrected when filming ended. De Niro's performance was widely lauded. David Ansen of Newsweek remarked that De Niro "dominates the film with his lip-smacking, blackly comic and terrifying portrayal of psychopathic self-righteousness". The film grossed a successful $182 million and earned De Niro a Best Actor nomination at the 64th Academy Awards.
1992–1997: Directorial debut and crime dramasIn 1992, De Niro appeared in two films. The first, Mistress, is a comedy-drama in which he played ruthless businessman Evan Wright. Of his performance, the critic from The Independent called De Niro "more urbane and coherent than we've seen him for a while". Irwin Winkler's Night and the City was his second release, a crime drama remake of the 1950 film noir of the same name. He was cast as New York lawyer Harry Fabian. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a rating of "B-" and was critical of De Niro: "The actor who once got so far inside his roles that he just about detonated the screen — now plays characters who don’t seem to have any inner life at all". Next, he served as a producer for the mystery thriller Thunderheart . In 1993, he played crime scene photographer Wayne Dobie in the comedy drama Mad Dog and Glory with co-stars Uma Thurman and Bill Murray. The feature received reasonable reviews and was lauded for the chemistry between De Niro and Murray; The Washington Post critic noted that their "real-life friendship spills over into this jittery, very funny look at the male bonding experience". Next, De Niro starred in the coming-of-age film This Boy's Life, based on the memoir of the same name by Tobias Wolff. It features Ellen Barkin and Leonardo DiCaprio. Playing stepfather Dwight Hansen of Wolff, the film was mostly well received, although Timeout magazine believed that "DiCaprio steals the show".
De Niro starred in his directorial debut, A Bronx Tale, a coming-of-age story about an Italian-American boy who is torn between the temptations of organized crime, racism in his community, and the values of his decent father. The film also stars Chazz Palminteri, who wrote the play of the same name, and is based on his childhood. A Bronx Tale premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival to a positive response; Marjorie Baumgarten of The Austin Chronicle wrote "De Niro's choices as a director all seem prudent and un-showy, designed to draw attention to the characters and the story rather than its technical assemblage and much-lauded star". Variety
De Niro and Pacino redeem everything. InHeat, they represent a high postwar tradition for movie actors – the ones inspired by Marlon Brando, John Cassavetes and James Dean – who aren't afraid of emotion, who run right into the jaws of a scene to grab it. Like others from their generation – Jack Nicholson, Gene Hackman, Harvey Keitel – they have a keener slant on machismo. They easily explore its darker strata. In 1995, De Niro had minor roles in the French comedy One Hundred and One Nights and in the drama Panther. In 1996, De Niro starred in the sports thriller The Fan, based on the novel of the same name by Peter Abrahams. De Niro plays Gil Renard, a baseball fanatic who loses his sanity. His fiftieth film credit was in the crime drama Sleepers, about four boys who become involved with crime, and are sentenced to a detention center where they are abused by guards, and seek vengeance upon release. De Niro plays priest Bobby Carillo, a father figure to the four boys. Afterwards, he appeared in Marvin's Room as Dr. Wallace Carter, who treats a woman with leukemia. Writing for the British Empire magazine, Bob McCabe opined "Performances are all eminently watchable but the truncated feel robs the film of anything more than perfunctory pleasures". Also in 1996, De Niro co-produced the crime-comedy Faithful.
The following year, he appeared in James Mangold's Cop Land, a crime-drama co-starring Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Keitel and Ray Liotta. De Niro plays Internal Affairs investigator Lt. Moe Tilden, who explores police corruption in a New Jersey town. The film opened to a generally warm response, although Barbara Shulgasser of San Francisco Examiner criticized De Niro's acting in certain scenes, suggesting Mangold put De Niro in a "manufactured situation", preventing him from realizing his full potential. De Niro co-starred and co-produced Wag the Dog. The film is a political satire about a biased publicist and a Hollywood producer who fabricate a war in Albania to cover up a U.S president's sex scandal. In January 1998, a month after its release, the Clinton–Lewinsky scandal dominated the headlines, which helped the film generate publicity. As a result, Wag the Dog was well-received and made the list of Roger Ebert's ten best films of 1997. De Niro also had a supporting role in Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown'' that same year.
1998–2006: Comic roles, thrillers, and slumpDe Niro began 1998 with an appearance in Great Expectations, a modern adaptation of Charles Dickens’ 1861 novel of the same name, in which he played Arthur Lustig. Later that year, his next major role came in Ronin, about a team of former special operatives that are hired to steal a mysterious briefcase while navigating a maze of shifting loyalties. De Niro plays Sam, an American mercenary formerly associated with the CIA. Ronin premiered at the 1998 Venice Film Festival to favorable response; Janet Maslin of The New York Times praised De Niro's confident portrayal as an action hero. In 1999, De Niro ventured back into crime-comedy; he was cast as an insecure mob boss opposite Billy Crystal and Lisa Kudrow in Harold Ramis' Analyze This. The film was a box office hit, earning $176 million worldwide and De Niro was nominated for Best Actor at the Golden Globes. In Flawless, De Niro appeared as a homophobic police officer, who suffers a stroke, and is assigned to a rehabilitative program with a gay singer. The critic from the BBC gave the film 3 out of 5 stars, and thought De Niro gave a "refreshingly low-key" performance, in comparison to his previous work.
In 2000, De Niro produced and starred in his first live-action animation comedy, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. He voiced the character Fearless Leader, who is a dictator and employer of two mobsters. The film was critically panned, with Rotten Tomatoes giving the film a 43% approval rating. De Niro played Master Chief 'Billy' Sunday in the biographical drama Men of Honor, based on the life of Carl Brashear, the first African-American to become a U.S. Navy Master Diver. Although the film garnered mixed reviews, Bob Thomas of the Associated Press wrote "De Niro infuses the role with all his dynamism. It is his best performance in years". That same year, he starred in the comedy Meet the Parents opposite Ben Stiller as Jack Byrnes, a former CIA operative who takes a dislike to Stiller's character. De Niro, who had been seeking comic roles at the time, was encouraged by his producing partner Jane Rosenthal, to take on the role. The film was a high earner at the box office, with $330 million in receipts. Film critics welcomed De Niro's transition as a comic actor and ability to make audiences laugh.
After several comedies, De Niro landed a lead role in the crime thriller 15 Minutes, a story about a homicide detective and a fire marshal who join forces to apprehend a pair of Eastern European murderers. The film's reception was generally unfavorable; William Arnold of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer took issue with the "in-your-face exaggeration", but he thought De Niro delivered "his usual edgy flair, on the mean streets of his native Manhattan". De Niro followed up with a heist, in Frank Oz's The Score, starring Edward Norton, Angela Bassett and Marlon Brando. He plays a retiring thief when a young man persuades him into doing one last heist together. Upon release, The Score fared well with critics, although Peter Rainer of New York magazine did not think the film challenged De Niro or fully utilize his talents. The next year, he played an LAPD detective opposite Eddie Murphy in the action-comedy Showtime. The reviewer from LA Weekly remarked "De Niro isn't actually playing a part but riffing on his own legend", and thought the references to Taxi Driver were "cheap".
Also in 2002, he collaborated with Michael Caton-Jones in City by the Sea, who had previously directed De Niro in This Boy's Life. Starring opposite Frances McDormand and James Franco, he portrayed another police detective in the drama. The film received mixed reviews and under-performed at the theaters. He appeared in Analyze That , a sequel to 1999's Analyze This. Filming began in New York City, seven months after the September 11 attacks. De Niro insisted on filming there, stating "It's a New York story, a New York movie. We always intended to keep it there and I'm glad we were able to do it". Upon release, most critics thought the sequel was weak; CNN's Paul Clinton remarked "Unfortunately the result is just a bunch of one-liners strung together, of which some work and some don't. The actual story never gets off the ground". Despite these failures, De Niro served as a producer for the critically acclaimed romantic-comedy About a Boy, and appeared in 9/11, a CBS documentary about the September 11 attacks, told from the New York City fire department's point of view.
Several critics consider De Niro's career as having begun to slump in the early 2000s, with De Niro starring in roles that were less dramatic than those in the previous decade. He returned to the screen in 2004, playing a doctor in the fantasy drama Godsend. As of 2020, the film is De Niro's poorest-performing work; Rotten Tomatoes gave the film an approval rating of 4% based on 139 critic reviews. He voiced a character in DreamWorks' animation of Shark Tale. Most critics were also unimpressed, but it was a high earner at the box office. After co-producing Stage Beauty, De Niro reprised his role of Jack Byrnes in Meet the Fockers , the sequel to Meet the Parents. In a scathing review of De Niro, the critic from Slant Magazine wrote "In self-parody mode for the umpteenth time, De Niro mugs for the camera with a series of overblown grimaces and faux-menacing glares". The Bridge of San Luis Rey, was De Niro's last release of 2004, based on Thornton Wilder's novel of the same name. It was also critically panned.
In 2005, De Niro starred in the horror Hide and Seek opposite Dakota Fanning, playing Dr. David Callaway who leaves the city with his traumatized daughter after the mother's suicide. Although the film was a financial success, some critics thought De Niro had been miscast, and queried his decision to star in a mediocre feature. In 2006, De Niro turned down a role in The Departed to direct his second film, the spy thriller The Good Shepherd, a fictional account about the growth of the CIA during its formative years. The film reunited him onscreen with Joe Pesci, co-star from Raging Bull, Goodfellas, A Bronx Tale, Casino, among others. Based on the screenplay by Eric Roth, the project was personal for De Niro, who was raised during the Cold War and fascinated by it. Despite starring some of Hollywood's leading actors; Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie and Alec Baldwin, the film garnered a mixed reception. Writing for The Sydney Morning Herald, Sandra Hall noted its slow pace, stating "There's a potentially fascinating slice of American history here, but De Niro has carved it up with an excruciatingly dull knife". The critic from USA Today found the plot initially hard to follow, but praises De Niro for "creating a stirring personal tale". The Good Shepherd was nominated for Best Art Direction at the 79th Academy Awards. Finally in 2006, he voiced the character Emperor Sifrat XVI in Arthur and the Invisibles.
2007–2016: Further film rolesHis sole project in 2007 was Matthew Vaughn's Stardust, a fantasy adventure, based on Neil Gaiman's 1999 novel of the same name. He plays Captain Shakespeare, the leader of a ship. The film was generally well received, although one critic from New York magazine thought De Niro's performance was "god-awful—yet his gung-ho spirit wins him Brownie points". The following year, he starred in the police procedural thriller Righteous Kill opposite Al Pacino, both playing New York City detectives who investigate serial executions of criminals who escaped justice. The film's response was mainly disappointing; Peter Hartlaub of San Francisco Chronicle thought the story was unoriginal and De Niro lacked energy. The film grossed $78 million from a budget of $60 million. Next, he starred in What Just Happened, a satirical comedy based on Art Linson's experiences as a producer in Hollywood. The film was screened at the 2008 Canne Film Festival as an out-of-competition entry. The Sydney Morning Herald opined that most reviewers gave the film a lukewarm reception because of the character he plays, which is "sympathetic" and quieter than his earlier roles. In 2009, he was cast as Frank Goode in the drama Everybody's Fine, a remake of Giuseppe Tornatore's Italian film of the same name. Although the film's response was equally mixed, The Guardian
In 2011, De Niro starred in the Italian comedy Manuale d'amore 3. He also appeared in the action film Killer Elite, the thriller Limitless, and the romantic comedy New Year's Eve. Except for Limitless, which received an approval rating of 69% from Rotten Tomatoes, the other two films were met with mixed-to-negative reviews. De Niro was also appointed President of the Jury for the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, making it the second time he has served. Continuing into 2012, he starred in the drama Being Flynn, based on Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, a memoir by Nick Flynn. It was met with a mixed response; critic A. O. Scott complimented De Niro's ability for playing an estranged father, calling him "unpredictable and subtle", despite an uncertain plot. De Niro also appeared in the thrillers Red Lights and Freelancers. He appeared in the romantic comedy Silver Linings Playbook, as the father of Pat Solatano, who is released from a psychiatric hospital and moves back in with his parents to rebuild his life. The film was a critical and commercial success; earning eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Supporting Actor for De Niro, and grossing $236 million worldwide. Critics lauded the entire cast; Variety's Justin Chang noted De Niro's calm performance, writing "it’s hard to remember the last time De Niro was this effortlessly endearing and relaxed onscreen". In 2012, De Niro served as an executive producer for the television series NYC 22.
Next, he was cast in The Big Wedding, Killing Season, and The Family ; all three were met with mainly a negative response. His other 2013 release, Last Vegas, managed to receive some respectable reviews. Co-starring Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline and Mary Steenburgen, the film is about three retirees who travel to Las Vegas to have a bachelor party for their last remaining single friend. In a harsh assessment of De Niro's performance, the AV Club
Also in 2015, he appeared in two short films, Scorsese's The Audition and JR's Ellis. Returning to the heist genre, he starred in Heist, playing Francis "The Pope" Silva, a gangster casino owner who is targeted by criminals. The film was not a box office success. He starred in the biographical drama Joy, opposite Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, about an American inventor Joy Mangano. It gained generally mixed reviews. In 2016, he co-starred in Dirty Grandpa, playing a grandfather who goes to Florida during spring break with his grandson. Upon release, the film received a polarized reception for its reputedly distasteful content, and appeared in several critics' lists of worst films of 2016. He also appeared in Hands of Stone , a biographical sports drama about the career of Panamanian former professional boxer Roberto Durán. His last release of 2016 was The Comedian, which premiered at the AFI Fest, a film festival celebrating filmmakers' achievements.
2017–presentIn 2017, De Niro starred as Bernie Madoff in Barry Levinson's HBO movie The Wizard of Lies, a performance which earned him critical praise and a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Television Movie. In 2019, De Niro won acclaim for portraying Robert Mueller alongside Alec Baldwin's Donald Trump in various episodes of Saturday Night Live earning him a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series. He also received another Primetime Emmy Award nomination for his work as a producer on Ava DuVernay's acclaimed limited series When They See Us.
In 2019, De Niro returned to the screen by playing talk show host Murray Franklin in Todd Phillips' 'Joker', a possible origin story for the Batman character The Joker. The film was a commercial success, and earned eleven nominations at the Academy Awards. Also that year, De Niro reunited with Scorsese for The Irishman, based on the 2004 book I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt. It is their ninth feature film together since 1995's Casino, and stars Al Pacino, Harvey Keitel, and Joe Pesci. The film received critical acclaim; the critic from The Daily Telegraph, Robbie Collin, praised De Niro's "sensational" performance and the chemistry between his co-stars, whom he has worked with in earlier films. Variety
Upcoming projectsIn 2020, Variety confirmed that De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio will star in Scorsese's upcoming film Killers of the Flower Moon based on the book of the same name. In April 2020, it was reported that the film's budget of $200 million had prompted Scorsese to seek Netflix or Apple TV for potential production and distribution.
Recognition and legacySeveral journalists consider De Niro to be among the best actors of his generation. A. O. Scott said that De Niro "was transforming himself — physically, vocally, psychologically — with each new role. And in the process, before our eyes, reinventing the art of acting." In 2009, he was announced as one of the Kennedy Center Honorees with the commemoration: "One of America's greatest cinematic actors, Robert De Niro has demonstrated a legendary commitment to his characters and has co-founded one of the world's major film festivals". Martin Scorsese and Meryl Streep honored him at the event. In 2016, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama. President Obama stated “Everybody on this stage has touched me in a very powerful, very personal way... These are folks who have helped make me who I am". White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Obama personally considered each of the recipients who sat on that stage. "There is no arguing that the individuals who will be honored today are richly deserving," he said.
A number of De Niro's films have become classics of American cinema, with six of his films having been inducted into the United States National Film Registry as of 2020. Five of his films are featured on the American Film Institute's list of the 100 greatest American films of all time. De Niro and James Stewart share the title for the most films represented on the AFI list. Timeout magazine's list of 100 best movies included seven of De Niro's films, as chosen by actors in the industry. In 2006, De Niro donated his collection of film-related materials, such as scripts, wardrobe pieces and props, to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. The collection, which took more than two years to process and catalog, opened to the public in 2009.
Business interestsIn 1989, De Niro and partner Jane Rosenthal co-founded the film production company TriBeCa Productions, which also organizes the Tribeca Film Festival. He opened the restaurants Nobu and Tribeca Grill, the Greenwich Hotel, and the restaurant inside the hotel, Locanda Verde. He co-owns Tribeca Grill, a New American restaurant located at 375 Greenwich Street in Tribeca, Manhattan. It opened in 1990. He is a stakeholder in Paradise Found Nobu Resort, a company planning to build a luxury resort on the island of Barbuda.
Personal lifeDe Niro married Diahnne Abbott in 1976. They have a son, Raphael, a former actor who works in New York real estate. De Niro also adopted Abbott's daughter Drena De Niro from a previous relationship. They divorced in 1988. Afterwards, he was in a relationship with model Toukie Smith between 1988 and 1996. De Niro has twin sons, Julian and Aaron, conceived by in vitro fertilization and delivered by a surrogate mother in 1995. In 1997, De Niro married actress Grace Hightower. 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, their daughter was born via surrogate. De Niro has four grandchildren; his daughter, Drena, has one child, and his son, Raphael, has three. In November 2018, it was reported De Niro and Hightower had separated after 20 years of marriage.
In October 2003, De Niro was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He underwent surgery at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in December 2003. In 2006, De Niro received an Italian passport. His citizenship was granted by the Italian government despite strong opposition by the Sons of Italy, who believe that De Niro damaged the public image of Italians by portraying criminals. In 2012, De Niro joined the anti-fracking campaign Artists Against Fracking.
De Niro has long resided in New York City, and has been investing in Manhattan's Tribeca neighborhood since 1989. He has properties on the east and west sides of Manhattan. He also has a estate in Gardiner, New York, which serves as his primary residence. In 2014, he and Grace Hightower moved into a 6,000-square-foot, five-bedroom apartment at 15 Central Park West in Manhattan.
In 2016, De Niro initially defended the inclusion of a controversial documentary, Vaxxed, at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival. He explained that his interest in the film was from his personal experience with an autistic son. The film was withdrawn from the schedule after consultation with the festival organizers and scientific community". In February 2017, De Niro took part in a joint presentation with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., chairman of the anti-vaccine non-profit Children's Health Defense, to discuss their concerns with vaccine safety. De Niro has stated that he is not anti-vaccination, but does question their efficacy.
Legal issuesIn February 1998, De Niro was held for questioning by French police in connection with an international prostitution ring. De Niro denied any involvement, and later filed a complaint against the examining magistrate for "violation of secrecy in an investigation". He stated he would not return to France, but has since traveled there several times including for the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.In 2006, the trust that owns De Niro's Gardiner estate sued the town to have its property tax assessment reduced, arguing that $6 million was too high and should be compared only with similar properties in Ulster County, where Gardiner is located. The town, which had been comparing its value to similar estates in Dutchess County, across the Hudson River, and Connecticut's Litchfield County, east of Dutchess, where many other affluent New York City residents maintain estates on large properties, won in State Supreme Court. But in 2014, the trust's lawyers appealed the decision and the town was unsure if it should continue to defend the suit because of its own financial limitations. This angered many residents, who initially sympathized with De Niro, and some proposed to raise money privately to help the town continue the suit.
A local newspaper report on the continued dispute was seen by The New York Times which made headlines. "When he read about it on Election Day, he went bananas," due to the negative publicity, said Gardiner town councilman Warren Wiegand. He had apparently been unaware that the trust had filed the lawsuit. Its accountants took the blame, citing their fiduciary duty. A short time later, his lawyer met with town officials, at De Niro's direction, and offered them withdrawal of the suit and $129,000 in reimbursement for the town's legal bills, paid by the accounting firm. " made it very clear that De Niro didn't want to screw the town, that he didn't know about any of it and that he wanted it settled as quickly as possible," Wiegand said.
In August 2019, De Niro's company Canal Productions filed a $6 million lawsuit against former employee Graham Chase Robinson, for breaching her fiduciary duties and violating New York's faithless servant doctrine by misusing company funds and watching hours of Netflix during work hours. In October 2019, Robinson filed a lawsuit against De Niro, claiming harassment and gender discrimination.
Political viewsIn 1998, he lobbied U.S. Congress against impeaching President Bill Clinton. While promoting the film The Good Shepherd in December 2006, De Niro appeared on the show Hardball with Chris Matthews, where he voiced support for two Democrats. "Well, I think of two people: Hillary Clinton and Obama". On February 4, 2008, De Niro supported Barack Obama at a rally at the Izod Center in New Jersey before Super Tuesday.
De Niro is an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump. During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, De Niro called Trump "blatantly stupid" and stating, "He wants to punch people in the face?! I'd like to punch him in the face". This was in reference to the similar desire Trump expressed towards protesters at one of his rallies. On June 10, 2018, while introducing singer Bruce Springsteen to the stage at the 72nd Tony Awards, De Niro denounced Trump by saying, "I'm gonna say one thing. Fuck Trump. It's no longer "down with Trump". It's "fuck Trump". De Niro opined Trump as a racist, and admits that he was "naive" about Obama's two election wins and their implication of a post-racial America. "I felt we were on a new thing. I didn't realize how against him certain people were – racially against him, offended that he was there", he said. In December 2019, De Niro clarified his views again on President Trump and his family in an interview with The New York Times. "...He is a person who, to me, has no morals, no ethics, no sense of right and wrong, is a dirty player...He has not one speck of redeemability in him... The president is supposed to set an example of trying to do the right thing. There's not one thing that I see in him or his family, not any redeeming qualities. They're out on the take. It's like a gangster family". In 2020, De Niro criticized the Trump administration and defended himself, saying, "As a citizen, I have as much right as anybody ― an actor, an athlete, a musician, anybody else ― to voice my opinion, if I have a bigger voice because of my situation, I am going to use it whenever I see a blatant abuse of power".
He endorsed Democrat Pete Buttigieg in the 2020 U.S presidential election.
Filmography and awardsProlific in film since the 1970s, De Niro's most critically acclaimed films, according to the review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, include Bang the Drum Slowly, Mean Streets, The Godfather Part II, Taxi Driver, The Deer Hunter, Raging Bull, The King of Comedy, Once Upon a Time in America, Brazil, The Mission, Midnight Run, Goodfellas, Casino, Heat, Silver Linings Playbook, and The Irishman.
De Niro has been recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the following performances:
- 47th Academy Awards : Best Supporting Actor, win, for The Godfather Part II
- 49th Academy Awards : Best Actor, nomination, for Taxi Driver
- 51st Academy Awards : Best Actor, nomination, for The Deer Hunter
- 53rd Academy Awards : Best Actor, win, for Raging Bull
- 63rd Academy Awards : Best Actor, nomination, for Awakenings
- 64th Academy Awards : Best Actor, nomination, for Cape Fear
- 85th Academy Awards : Best Supporting Actor, nomination, for Silver Linings Playbook
- 92nd Academy Awards : Best Picture, nomination, for The Irishman
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- Deeley, Michael Blade Runners, Deer Hunters, & Blowing the Bloody Doors Off: My Life in Cult Movies. Pegasus Books.
- Dougan, Andy. Untouchable: A Biography of Robert De Niro. Da Capo Press.
- Levy, Shawn De Niro: A Life. Crown.
- Naremore, James Acting in the Cinema. University of California Press.
- Rausch, Andrew J. The Films of Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro. Scarecrow Press.
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- Santelli, R. and Santelli, J. The Baseball Fan's Bucket List: 162 Things You Must Do, See, Get, and Experience Before You Die. Hachette.