Facts You Didn't Know About Robert De Niro

Jun 30, 2021Sonali Pandey

Who doesn't know Rober De Niro? After all, he is one of the most influential and prominent personalities in the world. But did you know that the 77-year-old actor-director has earned the status of a living legend?  Did you know how he started his career or what were his hobbies? Keep reading this article to learn some of the most interesting facts you didn't know about the legendary Hollywood star!

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HE LEARNT ACTING AT DIFFERENT SCHOOLS

Young Robert De Niro may not have been interested in studying in traditional schools, but that did not stop him from developing his skills. As a result of his passion and love for acting, Robert went on to study at three acting schools, including the famous Stella Adler Conservatory. Quite a dedicated soul, isn’t it?

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ROBERT HAS A HUGE FAMILY!

Rober De Niro has a big family. Although he's divorced for the second time now, Robert has a total of six children from his former wives, Diahnne Abbott and Grace Hightower. Moreover, Robert has three grandchildren from his son Raphel and one grandchild from his daughter Drena. 

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ROBERT’S DAD CAME OUT AS GAY

Shortly after Robert was born, his dad, Rober De Niro Sr., divorced Robert’s mother, Virginia. The Hollywood actor’s dad then came out as gay. Robert realized this a few years after his parents were separated. Robert De Niro Senior was reportedly romantically related to an American poet named Robert Duncan

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ROBERT’S STAGE DEBUT WAS IN “THE WIZARD OF OZ”

The Oscar-winning, 77-year-old star made his acting debut when he was just 10 years old. Robert was cast in a production of “The Wizard of Oz” at his school. Not only is this talented actor a Leo, but he even played one when he made his stage debut as the “Cowardly Lion.” Quite interesting, isn’t it?

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ROBERT DROPPED OUT OF SCHOOL

The “Taxi Driver” actor definitely didn’t rely on academia to become successful in life. While he attended several schools, he finally dropped out of school when he was 16 years old, to focus on his acting skills. Well, Robert might have been young at that time but we can’t argue that it wasn’t a good decision.

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HIS PARENTS WERE ARTISTS

Robert inherited his creative ability from both his parents. His mother, Virginia, was a painter and a poet, while Robert’s dad, Robert De Niro Sr., was an abstract painter. Robert was a single child and growing up with such artistic parents only helped him explore his creativity. The young Robert chose to express his artistic skills via acting.

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HE MADE HIS ACTING DEBUT IN 1963

Rober De Niro gained recognition as an actor when he appeared in the 1973 movie “Bang the Drum Slowly.” Robert had played the role of a dying Major League baseball player in the film. However, he bagged his first cinematic role in 1963 when he was cast in the movie “The Wedding Party”.For some reason, the movie didn’t release until 1969.

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ROBERT HAD AUDITIONED FOR A ROLE IN “THE GODFATHER”

We all know how Robert rocked the character of Vito Corleone in “The Godfather: Part II”.  Considering that, it’s difficult to imagine him in any other role in the movie, right?  Well, you’ll be surprised to know that Robert had also auditioned for the characters of Carlo Rizzi, Sonny Corleone, and Paulie Gatto for “The Godfather.”

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HE’S ONE OF THE ACTORS WHO WON AN OSCAR FOR ACTING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE

Robert De Niro won an Oscar as the best supporting actor for his role in “The Godfather II”. It was one of the most special moments of the star’s life because he had won an Oscar for acting in a foreign language. Robert had truly mastered the Sicilian dialects for the movie. 

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ROBERT’S LINE FROM “TAXI DRIVER” WAS IMPROVISED

You are not a fan of Robert De Niro if you don’t remember his famous line from the movie, “Taxi Driver”: “You talkin’ to me?” What is really remarkable about this expression, which quickly became one of Robert's most famous moments in cinema, was that his monologue was completely improvised.

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ROBERT HAS A LONG LIST OF NOMINATIONS TO HIS NAME

Robert received a total of eight nominations for the Academy Award, including two wins. He also received ten BAFTA nominations and 11 nominations for the Golden Globe Award (including two wins). Besides, he has been nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award and the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

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ROBERT HAD LEARNED BOXING FOR HIS ROLE IN A MOVIE

There’s no denying that Rober’s success in acting is the direct product of his hard work and an undeniable commitment to his roles. An example of this was the intense training he did before playing the fighter, Jake LaMotta, in “Raging Bull.” Robert had actually learned boxing just for his character in the film!

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ROBERT IS NOT 100% ITALIAN

Although Robert grew up in Italy, he’s not completely Italian. He is of Italian origin, but he has French and Irish blood as well. However, Robert does have Italian citizenship which was granted to him as a privilege. So, he can enjoy all the rights of an Italian citizen legally. 

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ROBERT OWNS MULTIPLE PLACES IN NEW YORK

Robert De Niro is a true New Yorker and he owns several "Big Apple" locations. The actor owns homes on both the east and west sides of Manhattan. Besides, he owns several estates, and a restaurant named “Tribeca Grill.” Well, it sounds like Robert is one of the real estate kings of New York.

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ROBERT HAS STRONG POLITICAL VIEWS

This sassy and gifted star isn’t afraid of making political statements. In fact, his political views are pretty strong. The actor lobbied Congress in an attempt to stop Bill Clinton's impeachment in 1998 and has recently spoken out against Donald Trump. He has publicly criticized Trump for his conduct on more than one occasion.

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ROBERT HOLDS A DUAL CITIZENSHIP

Robert De Niro was born in New York, but he grew up in Italy. While the actor owns American citizenship by birth, as mentioned in the nationality laws of the United States, Italian citizenship was granted in recognition of his career. However, there was strong disapproval against Robert’s Italian citizenship.

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ROBERT’S ITALIAN CITIZENSHIP WAS OPPOSED

A group called the "Order of the Sons of Italy" strongly protested the Italian government's proposal to grant citizenship to De Niro due to his repeated negative depiction of Italian-American conventions. However, Italian citizenship was given to the actor and he is legally an Italian-American.

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ROBERT GAINED 60 POUNDS FOR “RAGING BULL” 

Robert De Niro needed two things to play the misfortune-laden boxing champion, Jake LaMotta, in “Raging Bull”. One of them was training and the other, gaining. Well, we’ve already told you about the training part, so let’s move to gain now! Robert binge ate ice cream and pasta to gain 60 pounds for the movie. 

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ROBERT HAS WON AN OSCAR FOR PLAYING THE SAME ROLE AS MARLON BRANDO

Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro are the only two actors who have won Oscars for playing the same role. In 1975, De Niro received his first Oscar for "The Godfather: Part II," for Vito Corleone's younger version. The same character was played by Marlon Brando, who also won an Oscar for his performance in 1973.

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ROBERT LEARNED DRIVING FOR HIS ROLE IN “TAXI DRIVER”

As if learning boxing wasn’t a good example for showing his dedication to acting that Robert De Niro actually got a taxi driver’s license when he was undergoing training for his role in “Taxi Driver.” But wait, that’s not all! He even spent some weekends cruising around New York, picking up fares.

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ROBERT’S OSCAR WIN WAS POSTPONED DUE TO ONE OF HIS FILMS

The 53rd Academy Awards, where De Niro won for playing Jake LaMotta in “Raging Bull,” were scheduled for March 30, 1981. However, the event was delayed until the next day due to a homicide attempt on President Ronald Reagan. The suspected assassin, John Hinckley Jr., stated the attack was intended to please Jodie Foster who he'd become fascinated with, after watching “Taxi Driver”. 

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ROBERT DE NIRO LAUNCHED THE TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL

In 2001, De Niro co-founded the “Tribeca Film Festival” with producer Jane Rosenthal and philanthropist Craig M. Hatkoff. The event was launched as a platform for independent films that would ideally "spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan" after the destruction of the attacks of 9/11. 

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DE NIRO AND JOAQUIN PHOENIX CLASHED ON THE SETS OF “JOKER”

Joaquin Phoenix and Robert De Niro joined together in 2019's "Joker" to create a masterpiece. But according to IMDb, they clashed when it was time to go through the script. Actually, they had completely different processes, with De Niro adopting a more conventional read-through approach. However, their disagreement doesn’t change the fact that Phoenix considers De Niro as his favorite actor.

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DE NIRO LIVED IN SICILY FOR THREE MONTHS

Robert De Niro lived in Sicily for three months straight before playing Vito Corleone in "The Godfather: Part II". He learned Italian and the Sicilian dialect there until he was proficient enough to play the part. Sicilian is a distinct dialect that can sound very different from other accents in Italy.

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DE NIRO LOVED “MR. JINX”

Two Himalayans named Bailey and Misha played Jinx in the “Meet the Parents” film. Robert, who played the character of Jack Brynes in the same movie, fell in love with them. He played with them between the scenes and kept kibbles in his pocket to attract their attention. Moreover, he asked the director Jay Roach to include Mr. Jinx in as many scenes as he could. 

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ROBERT DE NIRO’S NICKNAME WAS BOBBY MILK

De Niro was renowned for his fearful on-screen reputation on account of his roles as crime bosses in “The Godfather II” and “The Untouchables.” However, he didn’t have quite the same threatening reputation in his younger days. Robert was very thin and pale as a young boy and was sometimes referred to as “Bobby Milk” by the kids in the neighborhood.

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ROBERT STUDIED STROKE VICTIMS

Wasn't Robert almost unrecognizable in “Mary Shelley's Frankenstein” where he played “The Creature”? Well, during the preparation of his complex role, Robert studied stroke victims so that he could master the effects of speech that struggles to come out. Besides, he went through hours of makeup to transform himself into a fearful character.

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ROBERT WORE TATTOOS MADE OUT OF VEGETABLE DYE

We all know that De Niro is almost unbeatable when it comes to playing negative roles, but wasn’t he equally amazing as a psychopathic villain in “Cape Fear”?  Well, you’ll be amazed to know that De Niro was tattooed with vegetable dye during the shoot for "Cape Fear" so that he didn’t have to go through hours of makeup every day.

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ROBERT CALLED REAL HENRY HILL SEVERAL TIMES A DAY

Robert De Niro is a type of actor who can go to any stretch to ensure that his character is represented authentically. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that he called the real Henry Hill at least eight times a day while making "Goodfellas" to find out details about his character, Jimmy. Phew! Too much dedication!

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ROBERT HIMSELF CAME UP WITH THE IDEA OF “JACK WALSH”

In "Midnight Run," for a change, De Niro plays the law enforcer instead of the convict. His character, Jack Walsh, can be seen checking his watch constantly and this is a character quirk that De Niro himself came up with when plotting the backstory of the character. This is a further testament to De Niro's efforts in each role.

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HE PARTICIPATED IN REAL LIFE BOXING TOURNAMENTS 

An actor has to go to extreme length sometimes to play a particular character. Rober De Niro is no exception to this rule. Before getting ready to play Jake LaMotta in “Raging Bull,” De Niro actually joined three genuine boxing matches in Brooklyn. He had prepared really well and ended up winning two of them.

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HE WAS PAID ONLY $35,000 FOR HIS ROLE IN “TAXI DRIVER”

The character of Travis Bickle in “Taxi Driver'' is one of the most iconic roles of Robert De Niro's career. However, he was only paid $35,000 to portray the infamous character because he accepted it before he had become an established star. The actor had won an Oscar during its filming, but the contract was not changed.

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ROBERT ONCE PAID OVER $25,000 IN DENTAL WORK

Robert paid a dentist to make his flawless teeth look neglected, to truly instill as much fear as possible in the audience when playing Max Cady. It cost him 5,000 dollars. When the shooting ended and De Niro had to return to the rest of his career, he paid the dentist $20,000 to repair them again.

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HE RECORDER LINES FOR “SHARK TALE” WITH HIS CO-STARS

Robert joined forces with the rest of the all-star cast to provide the voice for Don Lino in "Shark Tale", and recorded his lines with the other actors present in the studio. His co-star's for the 2004 movie included Will Smith, Jack Black, Renee Zellweger, and his old friend, Martin Scorsese.

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HE WAS THE LAST PERSON WHO MET JOHN BELUSHI

Robert De Niro was one of the last individuals who had seen the American actor, John Belushi, alive. He had met the troubled actor at 3 AM in a hotel on March 5, 1982, but only for a short time. Tragically, Belushi was discovered dead in the hotel room. Reportedly, he had suffered from an accidental abuse of substances that afternoon.

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HE SUED SOMEONE FOR BINGE WATCHING NETFLIX

In 2019, a $6 million lawsuit was brought by De Niro’s production company against a former employee. The lawsuit alleged that she had broken her contract, embezzled cash, and spent all her time watching Netflix at work. One of the allegations against her was that in four days she watched 55 “Friends” episodes. 

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HE DONATED A COLLECTION OF THEATRICAL ITEMS TO A UNIVERSITY

Rober De Niro had collected a large trove of memorabilia during his career, from scripts to costumes to props. In 2006, the actor decided to give back to the film community and donated the entire archive to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.  A few years later, the entire collection was made public.

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HE WAS APPRECIATED BY A FILM DIRECTOR FOR HIS HARD WORK 

De Niro had a strong influence on director Elia Kazan. Actually, the director was amazed at De Niro’s effort and dedication after he lost 40 pounds for his role in the 1976 movie “Last Tycoon.” Kazan was so impressed with him that he went ahead to suggest that out of all the actors he'd collaborated with, De Niro was the only actor who had really worked hard for a movie role.

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ROBERT’S PARENTS DIDN’T REALLY BELIEVE IN GOD

Robert’s mother was an atheist and his father was a lapsed Catholic. They didn’t raise him with any religion and hoped to keep it that way. But Robert’s grandparents weren’t on the same page as his parents. They secretly got their grandson baptized against the wishes of his mom and dad.

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ROBERT DE NIRO HAS DONE SEVERAL MOVIES WITH HIS FAVORITE ACTRESS

Robert De Niro has starred in a lot of movies, which means he has collaborated with some of the most amazing actors! So, of all star’s that he has worked with, who is his favorite? Well, it’s none other than Meryl Streep, with whom he has acted in several movies, including "Marvin's Room," "The Deer Hunter," and "Falling in Love."

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ROBERT WAS DIAGNOSED WITH CANCER

The “Taxi Driver” star was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2003. In December 2003, he underwent successful surgery at the New York Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Thankfully, since then, he has reportedly been cancer-free. Well, we can say that the actor who played one of the hardest roles in films didn't refrain from giving a tough fight to his illness!

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HE OWNS SEVERAL RESTAURANTS

De Niro owns the Rubicon restaurant in San Francisco, which he founded with Francis Ford Coppola and late Robin Williams. Besides, he owns a West Hollywood restaurant, Ago, and co-owns several New York restaurants, including Nobu and Layla. The walls of his restaurants are beautifully decorated with his father's artworks. 

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HE HAS A WORLD RECORD TOO!

Rober De Niro formerly held the World Record for “Most Weight Gained for a Movie” after he had gained 60 pounds for his role in the movie “Raging Bull.” However, this wasn’t the only time when the star actor gained weight for a film character. Seven years later, he put on 70 pounds for his role in “Full Metal Jacket.”

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ROBERT DE NIRO DOESN’T LIKE GIVING INTERVIEWS

De Niro occasionally gives interviews and is considered to be one of the most ultra-private personalities. However, the actor was the subject of an interview for Esquire magazine in the late 90s. Most of the article focused on how guarded he is with his personal life and what are small details that we know about him.

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We hope you enjoyed reading these interesting facts about Rober De Niro. However, if you know some amazing facts too and you’d like to share them with us, don’t forget to let us know in the comments! See you next time. Until then, keep reading!

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