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Robert Mario De Niro Jr., credited professionally as Robert De Niro (born August 17, 1943), is a two-time Academy Award and Golden Globe-winning American film actor, director, and producer.
He is noted for his method acting and portrayal of conflicted, troubled characters, for his enduring collaboration with director Martin Scorsese and for his early work with director Brian De Palma.
At the age of 20, in 1963, came De Niro's first film role and 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 made his official film debut after he reunited with De Palma in Greetings (1968) and later reprised his Greetings role in 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 (1973). In 1974, De Niro played a pivotal role in Francis Coppola's The Godfather Part II playing young Don Vito Corleone. His performance earned him his first Academy Award of Best Supporting Actor.
After working with him in Mean Streets he had a very successful working relationship with Scorcese 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 improvised himself. (Although there's always been talk of De Niro learning the "You talkin' to me?" line from Bruce Springsteen's Bottom Line, New York '75 benefit concert which De Niro and Martin Scorcese both attended).
In 1976 De Niro appeared, along with Gerard Depardieu, in Bernardo Bertolucci's epic biographical exploration of life during World War II, 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, for which he was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role . He was offered role of Cowboy in director Walter Hill's The Warriors (film) (1979) but turned it down. The role went instead to Tom McKitterick.
Praised for his commitment to roles (stemming from his background in Method acting), De Niro gained 50 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, worked as a cab driver for three months for Taxi Driver, 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's brand of Method acting includes employing whatever extreme tactic he feels is necessary to elicit the best performance from those he is acting with. During the filming of The King of Comedy, De Niro directed a slew of anti-Semitic epithets at co-star Jerry Lewis. An enraged Lewis claims he was "going for Bobby's throat".
Fearing he had become typecast in mob roles - another of which was Jewish gangster David "Noodles" Aaronson in Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America (1984) - De Niro from the mid-1980s began expanding into occasional comedic roles, and has had much success there as well with such films as Brazil (1985), in which he had a small role; the hit action-comedy Midnight Run (1988), Showtime (film) (2002) opposite Eddie Murphy; and the film-and-sequel pairs Analyze This (1999) and Analyze That (2002), and Meet the Parents (2000) and Meet the Fockers (2004).
Other films include Falling in Love (1984), The Mission (1986), The Untouchables (1987) "Angel Heart (1987)" Heat (1995), Wag the Dog (1997) and Ronin (1998). In 1997, he reteamed with Harvey Keitel and Ray Liotta, along with Sylvester Stallone, in the crime drama Cop Land. De Niro proved he was able to play a supporting role taking a back seat to Stallone, Keitel and Liotta.
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. On 18 May 2007 Variety.com brought the news that De Niro and Pacino will pair up again. The stars have signed up to play police investigators hunting a serial killer in thriller Righteous Kill.
In 2004, De Niro read for the voice of Don Lino, the antagonist in Shark Tale, opposite Will Smith. This was De Niro's first experience with voice acting. When interviewed about his role in Shark Tale, De Niro said that participating in an animated cartoon was one of the most fun aspects of his Hollywood career.
De Niro had to turn down a role in The Departed (Martin Sheen taking the role instead) due to commitments preparing The Good Shepherd. He said "I wanted to. I wish I could've been able to, but I was preparing The Good Shepherd so much that I couldn't take the time to. I was trying to figure a way to do it while I was preparing. It just didn't seem possible."
In De Niro's next project, he directed and co-starred in The Good Shepherd (2006), also starring Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie. The movie also reunited him onscreen with Joe Pesci, with whom De Niro had starred in Raging Bull, GoodFellas and Casino.
On June 7, 2006, it was announced that De Niro donated his film archive, including scripts, costumes, and props, to the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin. De Niro has said that he is working with Martin Scorsese on a new project. "I'm trying to actually work..Eric Roth (screenwriter) and myself and Marty are working on a script now, trying to get it done."
De Niro has won two Academy Awards: Best Actor for his role in Raging Bull; and Best Supporting Actor for The Godfather Part II.
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 (though 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 cast him to play the 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 make him an offer he can't refuse").
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