Robert De Niro

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Robert De Niro, Jr. (born August 17, 1943 in New York City) is an American film actor.

He is regarded as one of the finest actors of his generation, noted for his enduring collaboration with the director Martin Scorsese and his apprenticeship under Stella Adler. He regards himself as an Italian American, although only his paternal grandfather was of Italian ancestry.


Early career

De Niro was born in New York City, the son of Robert De Niro, Sr., an abstract expressionist painter, sculptor, and poet, and Virginia Admiral, also a painter. They had met at the painting classes of Hans Hoffman in Provincetown, Massachusetts. His parents divorced when he was two years old. A biographer, John Baxter, claims that his father was gay, and had relationships with the poet Robert Duncan, the playwright Tennessee Williams and artist Jackson Pollock.

De Niro first attended the Little Red School House School and was then enrolled by his mother at the High School of Music and Art in New York. 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. He then had a falling-out with his father, although they were eventually reconciled when, aged 18, he flew out to Paris to bring his father home when he had been suffering from depression. De Niro attended the Stella Adler Conservatory, as well as Lee Strasberg's Actor's Studio (although De Niro conflicted with Strasberg's methods, and used his membership there mostly as a professional advantage). At the age of 16 he toured in Chekhov's The Bear.

Film career

At the age of 20 came his first important collaboration with Brian De Palma in 1963 when he appeared in the The Wedding Party; it was not released until 1969, however. He spent much of the 1960s working in theatre 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. He gained popular attention with his role as a sick Yankees catcher in Bang the Drum Slowly (1973). The same year he began his fruitful collaboration with Scorsese when he played his memorable role as the small time Mafia hood "Johnny Boy" alongside Harvey Keitel's "Charlie" in Mean Streets. This led to an incredibly successful relationship between the actor and 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). In these films, De Niro has primarily played charming sociopaths. 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.

In 1978, De Niro played "Michael Vronsky" in the acclaimed Vietnam War film Deer Hunter. Another notable role was in Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America as the Jewish gangster "David 'Noodles' Aaronson" (1984). Beginning in the mid-1980s, De Niro began expanding into occasional comedic roles, and has had much success in that area as well with such films as Brazil (1985), Midnight Run (1988), Wag the Dog (1997), Analyze This (1999), Analyze That (2002), Meet the Parents (2000) and Meet the Fockers (2004).

In the late 1980s, De Niro began to invest in the Tribeca area of New York, including establishing a film studio and a film festival in the area. De Niro later admitted that some of the 'below par' film roles he had taken in the 1990s were solely for the purpose of supporting these charitable ventures.

He has won two Academy Awards: as Best Actor for his role in Raging Bull; and as Best Supporting Actor for The Godfather, Part II.

Interestingly, De Niro and Marlon Brando are the only pair of actors who have won Academy Awards for portraying the same character: Brando won for playing the elderly Don Vito Corleone (although he declined the award) in The Godfather while De Niro later won the award for playing the young Vito in The Godfather, Part II. Brando and De Niro did not work together on screen until The Score (2001).

Praised for his commitment to roles, 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, and learned to play the saxophone for New York, New York.

De Niro is considered a skilled observer of physical tics and details, and is an intense perfectionist. He is often compared to fellow acting icon Al Pacino. Pacino and De Niro finally worked together in Michael Mann's 1995 movie Heat.

Personal life

De Niro has twice married. He has a daughter, Dreena, as well as a son, Raphael, from first wife Dianne Abbott, and two sons, Julian Henry and Aaron Kendrick, from a long-term live-in relationship with former supermodel Toukie Smith. The boys, who are twins, were conceived by in vitro fertilization. Raphael, a former actor, is now involved in the New York real estate market. In late 2004 De Niro remarried his second wife, Grace Hightower, a former flight attendant who is ten years his junior. Their son Elliot was born in 1998. The couple filed for divorce shortly thereafter, reportedly over disputes regarding, among other things, De Niro's workaholism. The action was never officially finalized.

De Niro and Hightower maintain an expansive residential estate in New Paltz, New York where they re-married. De Niro has his primary residences on the East and West sides of Manhattan.

De Niro, whose paternal great-grandparents emigrated from Italy, was due to be bestowed with honorary Italian citizenship at the Venice Film Festival in September 2004. However, the Order of Sons of Italy in America lodged a protest with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi claiming De Niro had damaged the image of Italians and Italian-Americans by constantly 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 once again when De Niro failed to show for two media appearances in Italy that October. This fueled speculation that he had snubbed the country over the citizenship imbroglio. De Niro denied this; blaming the non-appearances on "serious communication problems" that weren't "handled properly" on his end and stating, "The last thing I would want to do is offend anyone. I love Italy." Urbani hopes to confer the honor soon; although, no fixed date has yet been set. Although De Niro is also parts Irish, German, Dutch and French-British), he has stated that he identifies "more with (his) Italian side than with (his) other parts."

De Niro is a staunch supporter of the Democratic Party, and vocally supported Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election, and John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election. In 1998, he lobbied Congress against impeaching President Bill Clinton (he is a personal friend of the Clinton family), and in August 2004 announced he would not collect his honorary Italian citizenship in person so as to avoid discouraging Italians living in America from voting for Kerry, following much controversy over the earlier citizenship protest.

Diagnosed in 2003, De Niro kept secretive about his prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment, but many believe he underwent a prostatectomy.



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