This Day in History (August 17)

Aug 17, 1943: Robert DeNiro born

History.com

On this day in 1943, Robert De Niro, considered one of the greatest actors in modern movie history, is born in New York City. De Niro’s many memorable performances include the creepy loner Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver (whose signature line was “You talkin’ to me?”), the boxer Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull (a role for which De Niro gained some 60 pounds) and the young Vito Corleone in The Godfather: Part II (for which he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor).

De Niro grew up in Manhattan’s Little Italy neighborhood and as a young actor during the 1960s appeared in off-Broadway productions and small films. He received critical acclaim for his performance in the 1973 movie Mean Streets, which marked his first collaboration with the director (and De Niro’s fellow Little Italy native) Martin Scorsese. De Niro’s film credits during the 1970s also included The Godfather: Part II (1974), in which he spoke much of his dialogue in Italian; Taxi Driver (1976), for which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role; and the Vietnam War-era movie The Deer Hunter (1978), which nabbed De Niro his second Best Actor Oscar nomination.

DeNiro and Scorsese reunited for 1980’s Raging Bull, for which De Niro finally took home the Academy Award for Best Actor. During the 1980s, the actor also appeared in such films as The King of Comedy (1983), The Untouchables (1987)–in which he played the notorious gangster Al Capone–and Midnight Run (1988), his first hit comedy. In the 1990s, the prolific De Niro made a string of successful films, including Awakenings (1990), which earned him another Best Actor Oscar nomination for his performance as a man who comes out of a coma; Scorsese’s Goodfellas (1990) and Cape Fear (1991), for which he received another Best Actor nomination for his role as a psychotic rapist; Heat (1995) and Casino (1995). In Wag the Dog (1997), Analyze This (1999), and Meet the Parents (2000) De Niro displayed impressive comedic chops. Both of the latter films produced successful sequels (2002’s Analyze That and 2004’s Meet the Fockers, respectively). More recently, De Niro reteamed with his Godfather II and Heat co-star Al Pacino in Righteous Kill (2008).

In addition to his acting career, De Niro has also gone behind the camera, making his directorial debut with 1993’s A Bronx Tale, about a young boy torn between his bus-driver father and the local Mafia boss. After co-founding the TriBeCa Film Center in New York City in 1989, De Niro went on to establish the TriBeCa Film Festival in 2001 to spur cultural and economic growth in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

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