1943-08-17 (78 years old) New York, New York, United States
A legendary actor revered for his searing screen portrayals of gangsters and other intense characters, De Niro became a star because of his association with three Italian-American directors: Brian De Palma, Francis Ford Coppola and particularly Martin Scorsese. In the '60s, the Stella Adler-trained actor got his start in a trio of now quite dated anti-establishment flicks helmed by De Palma: Greetings, The Wedding Party and Hi, Mom! In 1973, he earned raves as a street tough in Scorsese's Mean Streets, the first of their eight collaborations. And the next year he essayed his true breakthrough role, the young Vito Corleone in Coppola's Godfather II, a performance that snagged De Niro his first Oscar. But it was his relationship with Scorsese---a fellow native New Yorker---that would be his most fruitful. Whether playing a washed-up boxer (Raging Bull, which earned him a second Academy Award), an unhinged cabbie (Taxi Driver) or a wannabe late-night talk-show host (The King of Comedy), De Niro inhabited these varied sociopaths with intensity and honesty. In the '80s, he branched out into more whimsical fare---his unrecognizable turn as a plumber/terrorist in the satire Brazil, a delightfully over-the-top performance as Al Capone in The Untouchables---and even tried his hand at romance (the tepid Falling in Love). Although he presumably had his pick of projects, the star didn't always make the best choices (Backdraft, Guilty by Suspicion), but his collaborations with Scorsese were always worthwhile. In the '90s he branched out into producing and directing (A Bronx Tale) and as the decade wore on, he became well-known for his comic turns. He was hilarious as a psychiatrist-dependent mobster in Analyze This, and scored a monster hit with Meet the Parents, playing a retired CIA operative who hates his daughter's boyfriend. A longtime downtown New York resident, De Niro was personally devastated by the September 11, 2001, attacks, and the next year founded the Tribeca Film Festival as a way to help his beloved neighborhood get back on its feet. Despite his involvement in the fest, De Niro always found time to act, even directing his second feature, The Good Shepherd, in 2006. Off screen, De Niro is a successful restaurateur, owning several high-end eateries in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Dropped out of high school to begin studying acting with Stella Adler. Had a bit part in the daytime soap Search for Tomorrow. Gained 60 pounds for his Oscar-winning turn as Jake LaMotta in 1980's Raging Bull. He and Marlon Brando are the only two actors to win an Oscar for playing the same character: Vito Corleone in The Godfather and The Godfather, Part II. Recognized at the 32nd annual Kennedy Center Honors, along with Mel Brooks, Bruce Springsteen, Dave Brubeck and Grace Bumbry. Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2016.