Not being an actor myself, I can only assume that being called “the greatest actor of all time” is perhaps the highest compliment you can be paid. An actor truly worthy of bearing this status is Robert DeNiro. With a career spanning five decades and with numerous awards and nominations under his belt, DeNiro, 71, has established himself as one of the most respected and reputable actors of his generation.
Born on 17th August 1943, DeNiro dropped out of high school at the age of 16 to pursue acting as a career. A decade passed with appearances in a handful of films like Bloody Mama, Bang the Drum Slowly and Martin Scorsese (a filmmaker who DeNiro went on to collaborate with multiple times) directed film, Mean Streets. But it wasn’t until 1974, when his solid performance in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Part II, as Vito Corleone, cemented his name in Hollywood and launched him into the spotlight. The role earned him the Academy Award for Best Actor and sky-rocketed his career as he went on to star in what would later become some of his most iconic roles.
A method actor, with over a hundred acting credits in film, television and theatre, DeNiro has been praised for his absolute dedication to roles. By going to great lengths to prepare himself both mentally and physically for a performance, his devotion and efforts have provided us with some of the most unforgettable on-screen characters in cinema history.
Known for portraying gangsters in films like Once Upon A Time in America and The Untouchables, DeNiro has gained a tough guy reputation on-screen. His acting abilities don’t end here either, as hes played various different characters in his career. Whether he’s playing a New York priest (Sleepers) or an ex-convict (Cape Fear), DeNiro’s versatility and acting talent allow him to give flawless performances everytime.
The following are three personal favourites, which I highly recommend to those wanting to familiarise themselves with DeNiro’s work.
3. Taxi Driver – In this film, DeNiro plays gun-wielding Travis Bickle, a borderline psychotic, mentally unstable taxi driver who decides to take matters into his own hands and deter the crime going on in his neighbourhood. The film features the famous ‘you talkin’ to me?’ scene with DeNiro standing in front of a mirror brandishing a loaded gun. One of DeNiro’s most memorable roles, it’s certainly a far cry from his more recent comedic roles in Meet the Fockers and What Just Happened.
2. Goodfellas – As gangster Jimmy Conway, DeNiro is simply the epitome of cool, proving he can be dangerous, funny or dangerously funny when he wants to be. His charm and personality are awe-inspiring in this film about organised crime, and it’s his interaction with Joe Pesci and Ray Liotta’s characters that make this one of, if not the greatest gangster film of all time…more so than even The Godfather, there I said it.
1. Raging Bull – In his signature role, DeNiro portrays middle-weight boxing champion Jake LaMotta. Not only is his acting of the highest calibre in this film, but the great lengths DeNiro went through to physically transform himself for the role were incredible. To portray LaMotta, DeNiro went through rigorous training to acquire a boxers physique, and then piled on 26kg of fat to portray a retired, overweight LaMotta in the latter half of the film. The transformation is as incredible as DeNiro’s acting is in this film, a feat for which he held the record for a number of years until it was surpassed by Vincent D’Onofrio’s gaining of 32kg for the movie, Full Metal Jacket.