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Robert De Niro, Jr. (born August 17, 1943 in New York City) is an acclaimed American film actor who is noted for method acting and having starred in several of director Martin Scorsese's films. DeNiro has most recently been seen prominently in commercials for credit card giant American Express. Praised for his commitment to his 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 (all Scorsese films).
Although poor at articulation in person, De Niro is considered a skilled observer of physical tics and details, and is an intense perfectionist.
A graduate of the Little Red School House, De Niro made his first film appearances in the French film Three Rooms in Manhattan (1965) (as an extra) and in 1968 in Greetings (directed by Brian De Palma). After that, he played some major and minor roles in other films not widely seen, until he gained popularity with his role in Bang the Drum Slowly (1973). He began to work with Martin Scorsese in the same year when the two collaborated on Mean Streets. Later Scorsese films in which De Niro has participated are 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 but emotionally unstable characters who have sociopathic tendencies.
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) and Meet the Parents (2000).
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 accepted 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 would not work together on screen until The Score (2001).
De Niro, whose paternal great-grandparents had emigrated from Italy, was due to be bestowed with honorary Italian citizenship at the Venice Film Festival in September 2004. However, the Order 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 Urbano 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, fuelling speculation that he had snubbed the country over the citizenship imbroglio. De Niro, however, 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." Urbano hopes to confer the honor soon, but no fixed date has yet been set. De Niro is also part Dutch, French, German, and Irish, but identifies "more with [his] Italian side than with [his] other parts."
De Niro is often compared to fellow iconic actor Al Pacino and they finally worked together in Michael Mann's Heat (1995). De Niro played a younger version of Pacino's father in The Godfather, Part II.
In 2004 De Niro re-married his wife Grace Hightower.
His father was the abstract expressionist painter Robert De Niro, Sr.
Last updated: 05-23-2005 14:03:13