US actor who became a leading star in the 1970s.
Born in New York, he studied Method acting and appeared in off-Broadway theatre before winning his first screen role, in Greetings, in 1968. Subsequently he established his reputation playing tough but sensitive characters in a series of admired and serious-minded, often violent, films. His breakthrough came in 1972 with his memorable portrayal of Johnny Boy in Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets. A year later he won an Oscar for best supporting actor for his role in The Godfather, Part II. Scorsese again directed him in the powerful and controversial Taxi Driver (1976) and Raging Bull (1980), in which De Niro demonstrated his unwillingness to compromise realism by gaining fifty pounds in weight to play the seedy boxer Jake La Motta: he was rewarded with an Oscar for best actor. He also worked under Scorsese on The King of Comedy (1982), GoodFellas (1990), and Casino (1995); among other directors with whom De Niro has worked have been Sergio Leone (1921–89), who directed him in Once Upon a Time in America (1984). His other films include The Deer Hunter (1978), Brazil (1985), The Mission (1986), The Untouchables (1987), in which he played Al Capone, Guilty by Suspicion (1991), about the McCarthy witchhunts of the 1950s, Awakenings (1991), and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994), in which he played the monster. In 1989 he founded his own production company and the TriBeCa business centre in Manhattan.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).