Robert De Niro   

Born: August 17, 1943

Whenever the issue of great contemporary film actors arises, one name is consistently mentioned: Robert De Niro. His intensity and ability to adapt himself to a character are unmatched by his peers -- if you could say he really has peers. After starting out in low-budget independent films in the late 1960s, De Niro eventually found his way into a film directed by a former NYU professor. That film was Mean Streets and that director was, of course, Martin Scorsese. This actor/director team would continue making great films -- films that defined their generation and would put them in the league of pairs such as John Ford and John Wayne, John Huston and Humphrey Bogart, and Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune. Of these films, De Niro won an Academy Award for his unparalleled portrayal of prizefighter Jake La Motta in Raging Bull, in which he got into the best shape of his life to resemble the young boxer only to then pack on forty pounds to play a middle-aged La Motta. However, he didn't have to put his body through that kind of torture to win his first Oscar. After Mean Streets, De Niro received the opportunity of a lifetime to play Vito Corleone as a young man in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather, Part II. Despite performing in the shadow of Marlon Brando's Oscar-winning portrayal of the same character in the first film, he won his own statuette after his first of six nominations.

Between the Scorsese masterpieces Raging Bull and GoodFellas, De Niro's career continued in the 1980s with only a few good roles. He went into the 1990s determined to make himself a top player in Hollywood and started taking roles in films that showcased his talents, but would have failed without him. The result was an artistically uneven, but commercially consistent career, which continues into the 21st century. Surprisingly, his most successful recent roles have been in commercial comedies such as Analyze This and Meet the Parents while his dramas have faltered at the box office and with critics. Over the past seven years since Casino, he has not made any films with Scorsese, who has also had trouble on his own. Their attempt at working together in Gangs of New York fell through, but there is much hope in the film community -- and hopefully among the two men -- for them to reunite. In the meantime, De Niro has more comedies on the way (two are sequels, in fact, of the aforementioned hits) and is enjoying success with his production company, TriBeCa Films, and the New York restaurants he owns, including the extremely popular Nobu.
    -- by Matt Heffernan <>

The Score
15 Minutes

The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle
Meet the Parents
Men of Honor

Analyze This


The King of Comedy

The Deer Hunter

Taxi Driver

The Godfather, Part II

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© 2001 Matt Heffernan