De Niro, Robert Anthony Jr.

De Niro, Robert Anthony, Jr., 1943-, American film actor and director, b. New York, N.Y. Both of De Niro’s parents were painters; De Niro was raised by his mother in Greenwich Village. After completing high school, he studied acting with Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler. He had his first major role in the film Greetings (1968), his first collaboration with director Brian De Palma. He followed with other roles before partnering for the first time with director Martin Scorsese with the film Mean Streets (1973), a breakthrough role for him. He won his first Oscar for Best Supporting Actor portraying the young Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II (1974), and then appeared in Scorcese’s Taxi Driver (1976), winning praise for his portrayal of the loner/anti-hero Travis Bickle. Other notable films of this period include The Deer Hunter (1978), Raging Bull (1980; Oscar, Best Actor), and Once Upon a Time in America (1984). In 1990, he portrayed yet another mob boss in Scorsese’s Goodfellas, and a catatonic patient who returns to life in the film Awakenings, followed by his portrayal of the disturbed exconvict in Cape Fear (1991). DeNiro turned to directing with the film A Bronx Tale (1993), based on the stage play of the same name. 1995 saw him appearing in Scorsese’s Casino and the crime thriller Heat, opposite Al Pacino. Over the following decades, DeNiro has continued to make films alternating his dramatic roles with comedic turns. The successful comedies Analyze This (1999) and its followup, along with his portrayal of the CIA agent and perspective father-in-law for Ben Stiller in Meet the Parents (2000) and its sequels, showed DeNiro’s ability to send up his tough-guy image. DeNiro was a prime mover in the creation of New York’s Tribeca Film Festival in 1989 and has also operated several restaurants and a hotel in the neighborhood. He has won numerous awards and honors, including an AFI Life Achievement Award (2003), a Kennedy Center Honor (2009), a Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award (2011), the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2016), and the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award (2020).

See biography by S. Levy (2014); A. Ganz and S. Price, Robert De Niro at Work: From Screenplay to Screen Performance (2020).

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