40 Wiseguy Facts About Robert De Niro

Robert De Niro is thought of as one of the greatest actors of all time. Although he is best known for his tough guy roles he has actually played leading roles across almost all genres. Here are some of our most interesting facts about acting legend, Robert De Niro.

40. A mosaic indeed
Robert De Niro, thought of as one of the greatest actors of all time, was born in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, New York City, to artists Virginia (Admiral) and Robert De Niro Sr. His father was of Italian descent, and his Mother brings the culture descending from Irish, German, Dutch, English, and French.

39. The Dream Team
De Niro’s longtime collaboration with Scorsese later earned him an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull (1980). He also earned nominations for the psychological thrillers Taxi Driver (1976) and Cape Fear (1991), both directed by Scorsese. De Niro received additional Academy Award nominations for Michael Cimino’s Vietnam war drama The Deer Hunter (1978), Penny Marshall’s drama Awakenings (1990), and David O. Russell’s romantic comedy-drama Silver Linings Playbook (2012).

38. Don’t ask, don’t tell
He rarely does interviews and is known as one of the most ultra-private celebrities. He was the subject of a late 90s interview (and cover photo) for Esquire magazine. Most of the article focused on how guarded he is with his personal life, what few details are known about him, what rumors are speculated while only a minority of the article dealt with the actual interview itself. The writer noted that while the interview was ultimately agreed upon, he was given a substantial list of off-limit subjects NOT to ask De Niro about. They included: politics, religion, his family, his reported interest in fine wines, and so on.

37. Early and often
He first discovered his love for acting at age 10 when he portrayed The Cowardly Lion in a local production of “The Wizard of Oz.” He eventually dropped out of high school to join a gang. He says that his ability to portray a New York gangster is thanks to his childhood experiences.

36. Respect the Don
He is the second actor to win an Oscar for portraying Vito Corleone. Him and Marlon Brando are the only two actors to win an Oscar for playing the same character.

35. In and out of love
He married his second wife Grace Hightower in 1997, and she gave birth to their son, Elliot De Niro on March 18, 1998. In 1999 the couple renewed their marriage vows at their Ulster County farm in New York’s Catskill Mountains, but later that year De Niro filed for divorce. Their fallout continued into 2001 as a potential custody battle over their son, Elliott, heated up. However, the divorce was never finalized and they managed to smooth over their troubles. Their second child was born in December 2011.

34. The milk man
His Italian street gang that gave him the nickname “Bobby Milk,” in reference to his pale complexion. De Niro was by all accounts only a very modest troublemaker.

33. Probably won’t be going back there
In February 1998, during his film shoot in France, De Niro was taken in for questioning by French police over a prostitution ring, which he denied. Later in an interview, he said, “I will never return to France. I will advise my friends against going to France”. He was publicly named in the investigation but denied any involvement in the prostitution ring, and was so furious at the implication that he told the nation to take back their Legion of Honour, which he was awarded in 1997.

32. Blood type is Ragu
Although he is sometimes referred to as an Italian-American actor, De Niro is actually one quarter Italian in ancestry. His father was of half Italian and half Irish descent. His mother was of Dutch, English, Irish, French, and German ancestry on her own father’s side, and of German ancestry on her own mother’s side. Robert was quite close to his Italian grandfather, whom he visited frequently in Syracuse, NY when he was young. De Niro has stated that he identifies “more with [his] Italian side”. He was inducted into the Italian-American Hall of Fame in 2002.

31. Pack ’em on
De Niro formerly held the World Record for Most Weight Gained for a Movie, in gaining over 60 pounds for his role in Raging Bull (1980). But seven years later, Vincent D’Onofrio eclipsed him in gaining 70 pounds for his role in Full Metal Jacket (1987).

30. Community builder
He organized the first Tribeca Film Festival in May 2002. He intended to revitalize the Lower Manhattan area after the September 11 attacks. He chose to include the Andrew Wakefield movie Vaxxed in the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival, which was earlier removed due to pressure from the festival filmmakers. De Niro supports the anti-vaccination movement in support of people who allegedly suffer from the effects of vaccines.

29. Showbiz ain’t for the faint of heart
After his stage debut as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, he was accepted at New York’s prestigious High School of Music and Art, an institution specializing in visual and performing arts. However, feeling overwhelmed and unprepared for the intense and competitive atmosphere, he dropped out to attend public school after only a few days.

28. Impossible is nothing
‘Mean Streets’ (1973) was the first of many films where De Niro and Scorsese would collaborate. His Italian looks and background earned him many roles in violent gangster movies. Indeed his appearance as the young Vito Corleone in Francis Ford Coppolla’s ‘The Godfather: Part II’ (1974) is perhaps one of the most famous, with De Niro winning his first Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting role. De Niro perfected a Sicilian accent, astonishing his voice coaches in Italy who did not think it would be possible.

27. Going the extra mile
He had a dentist fit a prosthetic mould to fill out his cheeks, and put on weight so that he could look more like a young Marlon Brando.

26. Restauranteur
Co-owns the Rubicon restaurant in San Francisco with Bay area residents Francis Ford Coppola and Robin Williams. Much of his father’s art work adorns the walls of the business. He also owns a restaurant in West Hollywood, Ago, and co-owns several restaurants in New York, including Nobu and Layla.

25. Yes we can!
He is a staunch supporter of the US Democratic Party. He lobbied Congress against impeaching President Bill Clinton in 1998. He supported Al Gore in the 2000 Presidential election, John Kerry in the 2004 election, and Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election.

24. He is missed
De Niro was the last star to see comedian John Belushi alive. On 5 March, 1982, he visited him at 3am in a hotel, but only for a short time. Tragically, that afternoon, Belushi was found dead from an accidental overdose.

23. Lennie Small
De Niro gained around 60 pounds to play an older version of his character, Jake La Motta, in the 1980 film Raging Bull. During the sparring scene in Raging Bull, De Niro broke one of Joe Pesci’s ribs. He must not have realized how strong he had gotten from his training.

22. Can’t take down the bull
In 2003, De Niro was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He underwent a successful surgery at the New York Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in December 2003. The cancer has now gone into remission and he is said to make a full recovery.

21. Whats your De Niro?
Comedies were particularly lucrative for De Niro – he earned a reputed $20 million for ‘Analyze That’. He was also extremely successful in producing comedies ‘Meet the Parents’ (2000) and the sequel, ‘Meet the Fockers’ (2004) in which he was a lead role. When many millennials think of De Niro, they often picture Meet the Parents De Niro. They don’t even know what they’re missing.

20. Both sides of the camera
De Niro’s other projects include 2005 horror film ‘Hide and Seek’, featuring Dakota Fanning, the animation ‘Arthur and the Invisibles’ (2006), and spy movie ‘The Good Shepherd’, which he starred in and directed. The film’s high profile cast (including Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, William Hurt, Alec Baldwin, Michael Gambon, Joe Pesci and John Turturro), was a testament to how highly regarded De Niro is in the industry.

19. Just go with it
“Are you talkin’ to me? ARE YOU TALKIN’ TO ME?”; this line from ‘Taxi Driver’ (1976) is one of the most memorable of De Niro’s entire career, and he is said to have made it up when he was meticulously researching his role in front of the mirror. De Niro enjoyed improvising and it was not uncommon for him to encourage other members of the cast to do the same.

18. The green ribbon
He started the “awards show ribbon” tradition by wearing a green ribbon on his lapel at the 1981 Academy Awards. The ribbon was in remembrance of several African-American children who were victims of a serial killer in Atlanta, Georgia in 1980-1981. The ribbon was given to him by a fan in the crowd as he arrived; the victims’ families had been wearing them for months.

17. A professional
De Niro is known for using method acting techniques for his roles. He would spend tons of time studying their backgrounds in great detail. “He never breaks character,” says June Guterman, his assistant on Raging Bull, “even when filming stops.” Comedian Sandra Bernhard, who improvised with him so brilliantly in King of Comedy, added, “He is totally concentrated, totally absorbed in the role.”

16. Fraaaank
In 2006, De Niro turned down the role of Frank Costello in The Departed in order to work as director on The Good Shepherd. He co-starred in the film, along with Matt Damon, Joe Pesci and Angelina Jolie. He played the role of a CIA-director.

15. Energizer bunny
In 2011, De Niro displayed his versatility by acting is films of completely different genres. While his first release was an action film ‘Killer Elite’, his second was a film adaptation of the novel ‘The Dark Fields’, titled, ‘Limitless’. He ended the year with a Garry Marshall’s romantic-comedy ‘New Year’s Eve’.

14/40 Cant slow down now
Showing no signs of taking it slow, in 2012, he delivered a power packed performance for the movie ‘Silver Linings Playbook’, for which he received an Academy Award nomination.

13. Still going
In 2013, he starred in the movies, ‘The Big Wedding’, ‘Killing Season’ and ‘The Family”. Some of his movies scheduled to release in 2013 and the following year include, ‘Last Vegas’, ‘American Hustle’, ‘Grudge Match’, ‘Motel’, ‘Hands of Stone’ and ‘The Irishman’.

12. He should have two
In 2011, he was conferred with the prestigious Cecil B. DeMille Award, Golden Globe Lifetime Achievement Award for his exemplary artistic skills and exceptional talent. Philip Berk, president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), was joined by Golden Globe Award-nominated actor Kevin Spacey in making the announcement.

11. Diversification
Since 1968, there have only been five years when he hasn’t released a film. He released five films in 2011, four in 2012 and by the end of 2013, he’ll have potentially released seven. From 2014 to present, De Niro has been involved in 16 movies.

10. Too far?
During the production of The King of Comedy, De Niro would make anti-Semitic remarks at his co-star Jerry Lewis, which he did to provide an authentic level of anger at Lewis’s character. Lewis once stated: “I forgot the cameras were there… I was going for Bobby’s throat.”

9. Playing favorites
Robert De Niro has worked with many fantastic actors and actresses over the years. But who was his favourite? Marlon Brando? Joe Pesci? Ray Liotta? Nope, none of them. His favourite person to work with is Meryl Streep, who he has starred in multiple films with, including The Deer Hunter (1978), Marvin’s Room (1996) and Falling in Love (1984).

8. Feels
Se Niro appeared in “Silver Linings Playbook” along side co-star Bradley Cooper and director David O. Russell. Russell’s son suffers from bipolar disorder, an experience that the director has said inspired him to make the movie in the first place. When asked about how he related to the movie, the 69-year-old Oscar winner had to start and stop. “I don’t like to get emotional, but I know exactly what [Russell] goes through,” De Niro said. He appeared to be holding back tears.

7. Does this guy sleep?
De Niro teamed up again with Silver Linings Playbook director Russell and stars Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence for Joy, the 2015 biopic based on the life of Miracle Mop inventor Joy Mangano. Later that year, De Niro starred as a widower who returns to the workforce in Nancy Meyers’ The Intern.

6. Saying what needs to be said
De Niro announced on March 25, 2016 that his son, Elliot, has autism. “Grace and I have a child with autism and we believe it is critical that all of the issues surrounding the causes of autism be openly discussed and examined,” De Niro said in a statement amid controversy swirling around the planned screening of the anti-vaccination documentary Vaxxed at the Tribeca Film Festival. He later decided to pull the film from the festival’s schedule.

5. Show up and show out
While this is the first time the actor has confirmed his child’s diagnosis, it’s not the first time De Niro has associated himself with a film on the topic of autism. At the 2014 festival, he and his wife hosted a screening of the documentary Sounding the Alarm.

4. Be fruitful and multiply
In December 2011, his daughter named Helen Grace was born via surrogate. In addition to his six children, De Niro has four grandchildren, one from his daughter Drena and three from his son Raphael. He also has twin sons conceived by in vitro fertilization and delivered by a surrogate mother in 1995, from a long relationship with former model Toukie Smith.

3. Real recognize real
‘Gimme Shelter’ by The Rolling Stones has appeared in at least three of his films – The Fan, Casino and Goodfellas. The F-word is spoken 114 times during the Raging Bull, most during improvised scenes. Goodfellas smashed the Raging Bull record with 296 curses.

2. Serious commitment
One of De Niro’s notable performances is as Max Cady in Cape Fear (1991). To play the role as authentically as possible, Robert De Niro paid his dentist $5,000 to make his teeth appear as bad as he possibly could. Once the movie was complete, he paid another $20,000 to have his teeth restored.

1. French Connection
In 1998, Robert De Niro was questioned by French police regarding his involvement in a prostitution ring. He then angrily responded by completely denying the allegations, and going so far as to say, “I will never return to France. I will advise my friends against going to France.”

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40 Wiseguy Facts About Robert De Niro

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