Happy birthday, Robert De Niro!

Starring in over 100 films so far, Robert De Niro, turns 73 today. Born to painter/poet Virginia Admiral and painter/sculptor Robert De Niro, Sr., ‘Bob’ grew up in Little Italy, New York City. This is where he got the nickname of Bobby Milk, because of his very pale skin.

De Niro has been nominated for an Academy Award five times and has won twice for his role in The Godfather Part II (1974) and Raging Bull (1980). He couldn’t even accept his first Oscar in 1975 due to filming commitments for 1900 (1976). He earned $35,000 for the most outstanding performance of his career in Taxi Driver (1976) whereas his part in Little Fockers (2010) earned him $20 million. How times change…

Bob didn’t know he wanted to become an actor until he walked out of the cinema (aged 17) one day and declared to his friends that he was going to be a film actor. He dropped out of his senior year of high school, before joining Stella Adler’s Studio of Acting and Lee Strasberg’s Actors Studio. He has then been active in the industry since 1963.

After working with director Martin Scorsese in Mean Streets (1973), Bob went on to have a successful working relationship with him 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). They both grew up in the Greenwich village area of Manhattan, New York, just blocks apart but didn’t know each other as youngsters. It was only in 1972 when they were introduced to each other at a house party they realised that they had seen each other multiple times but had never spoken. We’re lucky to see such a great partnership in Hollywood.
Bob is a perfectionist and considers himself a method actor – he spends a great deal of time researching or generating extensive backgrounds for each of his characters. Here are a few examples:
– He worked as a cab driver for two weeks before shooting Taxi Driver (1976).
– He paid a dentist to mess up his teeth for his role in Cape Fear (1991), then paid even more to get them fixed after the film.
– While filming The King of Comedy (1982), Bob made anti-Semitic remarks at his co-star Jerry Lewis just to provide an authentic level of anger at his character.
– He moved to Sicily before filming The Godfather Part II (1974) for greater immersion in Italian culture.
– He learned how to box for his role as Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull (1980). For this film, he also gained 60 pounds by eating loads of spaghetti and ice cream.
– He learned to play the saxophone for New York, New York (1977).
The very famous scene in Taxi Driver (1976) where Travis Bickle talks to himself in the mirror wasn’t even part of the script. The script simply stated "Travis looks in the mirror" but Bob improvised the entire thing. Another famous improvisation by him came in Heat (1995) during a restaurant scene where his character has a face-off with Al Pacino‘s. That scene had no rehearsal since Bob thought that without the rehearsals the unfamiliarity between the two characters would seem more genuine.

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