Happy Birthday Robert De Niro: Celebrating the Iconic Actor’s Legendary Career

by Michael Freeman

Born August 17, 1943, legendary actor Robert De Niro turns 78 today. Often portraying gangsters, criminals, and troubled characters, he possesses one of the most notable and extensive American cinema careers.

Growing up in New York City, New York, De Niro dropped out of school at 16. He then went to study at the Stella Adler Conservatory of Acting. Initially starring in a few plays, he landed his first film appearance in 1963, “The Wedding Party.” This led to him starring in several other minor films, the most noteworthy being “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight” in 1971.

Despite these movie appearances, it wasn’t until “Bang the Drum Slowly” he received acting recognition, particularly by Martin Scorsese. Starring in Scorsese’s “Mean Streets” kindled a relationship between the actor and director. This chemistry led to some of De Niro’s most famous performances.

De Niro’s “Mean Streets” role won him Francis Ford Coppola’s attention, director of “The Godfather.” Coppola was so impressed, in fact, he offered De Niro the part of young Vito Corleone in “The Godfather, Part II.” De Niro didn’t even need to try out for the part. His performance won him a best-supporting actor Oscar award and thrust him into international stardom.

Robert De Niro and His Newfound Fame

Winning an Oscar allowed De Niro the opportunity to work with other prestigious directors. Bernardo Bertolucci’s “1900,” Elia Kazan’s “The Last Tycoon,” and Michael Cimino’s “The Deer Hunter” were but a few of De Niro’s notable appearances.

However, De Niro playing Travis Bickle in “Taxi Driver” showcased the actor’s dedication to his craft. Before filming the movie, he spent weeks driving a taxi in New York City and even gained more than 50 pounds for the film.

Additionally, playing Jake LaMotta in “Raging Bull” earned De Niro an Academy Award in 1981. Dubbed one of the best sports movies ever made, “Raging Bull” cemented De Niro as one of the best actors of his generation.

Though known for gangster appearances in the 1980s and 1990s such as “Goodfellas” and “Casino,” De Niro displayed a penchant for comedy too. “Analyze This,” and his appearances in the “Meet the Parents” series are just a few of his successful comedy films, for example.

Within the last decade, De Niro expanded into a variety of different roles. In “Silver Linings Playbook,” he portrayed Patrizio Solitano Sr, father to a character suffering from bipolar disorder. While in “Grudge Match,” he and Sylvester Stallone play aged boxers who come together for one last bout.

In short, De Niro’s career is as extensive as it is impressive. Starring in a multitude of movies for over 40 years, the actor’s dedication is palpable. Notably, earlier this year he shrugged off a leg injury while filming “Killers of the Flower Moon.”

De Niro shows no signs of slowing down as he ages and hopefully it remains that way.