Robert De Niro, a renowned Hollywood actor, has left an indelible mark on the entertainment industry. With a career spanning over five decades, De Niro has captivated audiences with his exceptional talent and diverse roles. While many are familiar with his iconic performances, there are several lesser-known aspects of his life and career that are worth exploring. Here are 20 interesting facts about Robert De Niro that shed light on his influence, achievements, and personal journey.
1. A Wealthy Actor with Diverse Ventures: Robert De Niro is not only an accomplished actor but also one of the richest in the industry. With a net worth of approximately $500 million, he amassed his fortune through legendary performances in movies like The Godfather Part II and The Intern. Additionally, De Niro co-founded the successful Nobu chain of Japanese restaurants and has investments in the hospitality industry, including a lavish resort in Barbuda.
2. A Two-Time Oscar Winner: De Niro’s talent has earned him two prestigious Academy Awards out of his eight nominations. He secured his first Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II, a role he shared with Marlon Brando. He received his second Academy Award for his remarkable performance as Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull.
3. Triumph over Cancer: Robert De Niro’s life took a challenging turn when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2003. However, through early detection and treatment, he overcame the disease and made a full recovery in 2011. Despite this health battle, De Niro continued to deliver outstanding performances in various films.
4. High School Dropout Turned Honorary Degree Holder: At the age of 16, De Niro made the unconventional decision to drop out of high school. Instead, he pursued his passion for acting by enrolling at the Stella Adler Conservatory. His dedication to the craft eventually led to him receiving an honorary degree from Bates College, recognizing his significant contributions to the arts.
5. The Only Child: De Niro’s parents separated when he was just two years old, and he grew up as an only child. Raised primarily by his mother, he experienced a unique upbringing that shaped his journey in the entertainment industry. He joins a select group of actors, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Pacino, who share this “only child” status.
6. A Private Family Life: Known for his privacy, De Niro has six children from three different women, yet little is known about his immediate family. His eldest daughter, Drena De Niro, was adopted in 1976. He also has twin sons delivered by a surrogate mother, as well as two younger children. De Niro keeps his family away from the public eye, reflecting his desire for personal privacy.
7. Early Acting Roots: De Niro’s passion for acting blossomed at a young age. At just ten years old, he portrayed the Cowardly Lion in a school production of The Wizard of Oz. This early experience helped him overcome his shyness and paved the way for his future career in the performing arts.
8. Extreme Physical Transformations: Known for his commitment to his roles, De Niro underwent drastic physical transformations to bring his characters to life. For his portrayal of Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull, he gained nearly 60 pounds, experiencing health issues as a result. This dedication paid off, earning him critical acclaim and another Oscar. He held the record for weight gain until actor Vincent D’Onofrio surpassed it with a 70-pound gain for a different film.
9. Dedication to Authenticity: To embody a sadistic ex-convict, De Niro went to great lengths to assume the physical traits of his character. He paid a dentist $5,000 to alter his teeth, aiming to accurately portray the role. After filming, he paid the same dentist $20,000 to restore his teeth. This anecdote reflects De Niro’s unwavering commitment to his craft.
10. Brush with Controversy: In 1998, De Niro found himself entangled in controversy when French authorities questioned him about an alleged involvement in an international prostitution ring. However, no substantial evidence connected him to the scandal, and he was never charged in a French court. Despite this ordeal, De Niro returned to France years later for professional engagements.
11. A Talk Show Pioneer: In a groundbreaking moment, De Niro became the first guest on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” when the show premiered in February 2014. This significant appearance underscores his status as a revered actor and his enduring impact on the entertainment industry.
12. Complex Family Dynamics: De Niro’s relationship with his father was marked by challenges. His father came out as gay during De Niro’s childhood, leading to his parents’ separation and subsequent divorce. Despite these circumstances, De Niro has expressed admiration and love for his father, emphasizing their unique bond.
13. Entrepreneurial Ventures: De Niro’s entrepreneurial spirit extends beyond his acting career. In 2003, he co-founded Tribeca Enterprises, a global media company based in the Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan. This venture encompasses various entertainment-related businesses, including the renowned Tribeca Film Festival.
14. Notable Romances: In the 1990s, De Niro had a short-lived relationship with British supermodel Naomi Campbell, garnering significant media attention. While rumors suggested that Campbell desired to have children with De Niro, these claims remain unsubstantiated.
15. Honored in the Italian-American Hall of Fame: Despite his diverse heritage, De Niro expressed a strong affinity for his Italian roots. In 2002, he was inducted into the Italian-American Hall of Fame, joining a distinguished list of individuals recognized for their contributions to Italian-American culture and society.
16. Shared Birthday with Sean Penn: Robert De Niro shares his birthday, August 17, with fellow actor Sean Penn. Despite being 17 years older, De Niro and Penn have appeared together in three films: “We Are No Angels” (1989), “What Just Happened” (2008), and “Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam.”
17. Recognized as a Movie Star Legend: Entertainment Weekly ranked Robert De Niro as the 34th Greatest Movie Star of All Time. With remarkable performances in films like Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, and The Godfather Part II, De Niro’s versatile acting skills have cemented his status as a cinematic icon.
18. Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient: In 2016, De Niro received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. Presented by President Barack Obama, this prestigious honor acknowledged De Niro’s significant contributions to the arts and his enduring impact on American culture.
19. Real Estate Investments: In addition to his acting career, Robert De Niro has made strategic investments in the real estate industry. He owns properties in both east and west Manhattan, including his main residence situated on approximately 98 acres of land in Gardiner, New York. Notably, his former homes in Manhattan’s West Village and Central Park West have attracted attention, with the former being listed on the market in 2015 for a starting price of $39.5 million. De Niro’s ventures in real estate contribute to his overall financial success and demonstrate his business acumen beyond the entertainment world.
20. Citizenship and Passports: Robert De Niro, born on U.S. soil, holds U.S. citizenship by birth. Due to his Italian ancestry, he was granted an Italian passport in 2006, making him a dual citizen of the United States and Italy. This dual citizenship enables him to work, live, and conduct business not only in the U.S. but also in Italy and other European Union countries. Furthermore, De Niro received a diplomatic passport from Antigua, a small Caribbean island nation, which grants him his third passport. These multiple citizenships afford De Niro various privileges and opportunities in international ventures.
Robert De Niro is a multifaceted actor who has been a prominent figure in Hollywood for over five decades. His exceptional talent and collaboration with renowned filmmaker Martin Scorsese have garnered him numerous accolades. De Niro gained widespread recognition for his role in the 1973 film “Bang the Drum Slowly” and has since starred in popular movies such as “Taxi Driver,” “The Godfather: Part II,” “Raging Bull,” and “The Intern.” If you enjoyed these intriguing facts about Robert De Niro, consider subscribing to our newsletter for similar content. Feel free to share any additional facts about him in the comments below.