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Who Is Robert DeNiro?

By Garry Crystal
Updated May 23, 2024
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In the never-ending "best actor" and "best film star" lists that arrive every year, Robert DeNiro is always in the top three. He is seen as one of the greatest actors of his generation. His fees per film reached the 20 million US dollar (USD) mark in 2002 with Analyze That. Known for his method acting techniques, Robert DeNiro is arguably the most impressive actor working in films today.

Robert DeNiro was born in New York City in 1943 to two artists. At the age of 17, he told friends he was going to be a movie actor. DeNiro dropped out of school in his final year and joined Stella Adler's acting school, where he studied an acting technique known as The Method. One of his first films was Mean Streets. Directed by Martin Scorsese and also starring Harvey Keitel, it was to be the start of a lifelong actor/director partnership.

DeNiro's boyhood idols included Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift and Robert Mitchum. He preferred the darker, more complex work of these men to that of older Hollywood stars. His characters are often violent or alienated from society, sometimes known as anti-heroes.

DeNiro received his first Academy Award for his role in The Godfather II. Marlon Brando played the same character in the first Godfather movie. DeNiro and Brando are the only actors to have won Oscars for playing the same character.

Robert DeNiro received Academy Award nominations for Taxi Driver, Cape Fear and The Dear Hunter. In 1980, he won the Best Actor award for Raging Bull. For his performance as boxing heavyweight Jake Lamotta, DeNiro gained over 60 pounds (27 kg) and at the time held the record for most weight gained for a movie. His portrayal of LaMotta was ranked no 10 in Premiere Magazine's Hundred Greatest Performances of All Time in 2006.

DeNiro is notoriously protective of his private life and rarely gives interviews. In a 1990's interview with Esquire magazine, the interviewer was given a list of items that were not to be mentioned. These included religion, family, politics and his interest in fine wines. In a British television interview, DeNiro almost came to blows with an interviewer who crossed these boundaries. DeNiro said he made the decision very early to be seen as Robert DeNiro the actor, not the personality.

In recent years, the name Robert DeNiro has also been associated with comedy. He has proved himself very adept in box office hit comedies such as Analyze This and Meet the Parents. The name Robert DeNiro will perhaps always be synonymous with dark, violent and psychotic characters, but he will also undeniably be recognized as one the most influential actors of all time.

PublicPeople is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Feryll — On Feb 17, 2015

@Animandel - Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro have also been in at least a couple of the same movies, and they often play tough mob type guys, so this links them in a way that could lead you to mix them up sometimes.

With all do respect to @Laotionne's comment, I have no idea why anyone would confuse Dustin Hoffman with either Al Pacino or Robert DeNiro. This is a mystery to me.

By Laotionne — On Feb 16, 2015

@Animandel - I read an article in which Al Pacino said that fans were always running up to him and calling him by the wrong names. He said the actors he was most often mistaken for were Dustin Hoffman and Robert DeNiro. So rest assured, you are not alone in your confusion regarding these actors.

By Drentel — On Feb 15, 2015

@Animandel - Both Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino are very successful actors who have played some similar types of roles in their careers, so I can understand how you might get them confused from time to time.

Also, both of the actors got their starts at about the same time in the 70s, so their names and careers have been side by side for a number of years. I my opinion, they are both great actors and their dialogue deliveries are often similar. They are more stop and go, rather smooth like some actors. This is what makes them seem like they are not acting, but rather actually living the roles of the characters they are portraying.

By Animandel — On Feb 14, 2015

For some reason I am always confusing Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino. I don't know why I have such a hard time keeping them straight. They look nothing alike and the names are not similar, other than the fact that both names end with an O.

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