Robert De Niro Jr. (born August 17, 1943) is a two-time Academy Award-winning, iconic American film actor, director, producer and founder of the Tribeca Film Festival.
He is critically acclaimed as one of the finest motion picture actors and among the most famous actors of all time having starred in many movies. He is particularly noted for his portrayal of mobsters in the gangster underworld, and conflicted, troubled characters, and for his enduring collaboration with director Martin Scorsese, and early work with director Brian De Palma.
Early life De Niro was born in New York City, the son of Robert De Niro, Sr., an abstract expressionist painter, sculptor and poet (De Niro's Italian great-grandparents emigrated from Ferrazzano, in the province of Campobasso, Molise, in the early 20th century), and Virginia Admiral, who was also a painter. They had met at the painting classes of Hans Hofmann in Provincetown, Massachusetts. His parents divorced when he was two years old. De Niro grew up in the Hell's Kitchen area of New York City much like many of his film characters. His childhood nickname was 'Bobby Milk' due to his pale complexion.
Education De Niro first attended the Little Red School House 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. He then had a falling-out with his father, although they were eventually reconciled when, at 18, he flew 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 age 20, in 1963, came De Niro's first important collaboration with Brian De Palma, when he appeared in The Wedding Party; it was not released until 1969, however. He spent much of the 1960s working in theater 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 dying Major League baseball player in Bang the Drum Slowly (1973). The same year he began his fruitful collaboration with Scorsese when he played his memorable role as the smalltime Mafia hood "Johnny Boy" alongside Harvey Keitel's "Charlie" in Mean Streets. This led to a very successful relationship between the pair 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, which De Niro himself improvised.
"You talkin' to me?" Alone in his apartment, DeNiro as Travis postures and practices his moves in front of the mirrorIn 1974, De Niro took part in Francis Coppola's The Godfather Part II and played as young Don Vito Corleone , which was regarded as the best of the trilogy and earned him the first academy award of Best Supporting Actor.
In 1976 De Niro appeared, along with Gerard Depardieu, in Bernardo Bertolucci's epic biographical exploration of life during WWII Novecento (1900), seen through the eyes of two Italian childhood friends at the opposite sides of society's hierarchy.
In 1978, De Niro played "Michael Vronsky" in the acclaimed Vietnam War film The Deer Hunter. Another notable role was in Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America as the Jewish gangster "David 'Noodles' Aaronson" (1984). Fearing he had become typecast in such roles, from the mid-1980s, De Niro began expanding into occasional comedic roles, and has had much success there as well with such films as True Confessions(1981), Falling in Love (1984), Brazil (1985), The Mission (1986), The Untouchables (1987), Midnight Run (1988), Heat (1995), Wag the Dog (1997), Ronin (1998), Analyze This (1999), Analyze That (2002), Meet the Parents (2000) and Meet the Fockers (2004).
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.
De Niro with Al Pacino on the set of The Godfather Part II. De Niro and Pacino never shared any screen time during the film.De Niro and Marlon Brando are the only actors who 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). De Niro actually auditioned for the role of Sonny in the first Godfather but the role was given to James Caan. When The Godfather Part II was in preproduction, the director, Francis Ford Coppola, remembered De Niro's audition, and knew he was going to play young Vito Corleone. De Niro's performance is one of only four to win an Academy Award for working in a foreign language, as he primarily spoke Italian, with very few phrases in English ("I didn't come here to fight with you" and "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse").
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, and learned to play the saxophone for New York, New York. He also put on weight and shaved his hairline to play Al Capone in The Untouchables.
De Niro is considered a skilled observer of physical and trivial details, from the way a cigarette is held by a mobster in Goodfellas to the kind of shirt-jacket the character needed to wear in Raging Bull. In 1995 De Niro starred in Michael Mann's Heat, along with fellow actor Al Pacino. The duo drew much attention from fans as both have generally been compared throughout their careers. Though both Pacino and De Niro starred in The Godfather Part II, they shared no screen time. Both performances in Heat are considered career highlights, especially in their shared scenes.
In De Niro's next project he will direct and co-star in The Good Shepherd (2006), also starring Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie. The movie also marks the return of actor Joe Pesci, who has been offscreen for over eight years, in a small role.
On June 7, 2006, it was announced that De Niro has donated his film archive, including scripts, costumes and props, to the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin.