Hall of Idols #61: Robert De Niro


Sixty-first installment in a series exploring very important people in my life.

Let me start explaining how this will work: I listed 65 idols of mine. Every Friday (with the exception of those reserved for the Rock Chain posts) I’ll draw one of the names (following a system that it’s really not important to be explained here) and talk about it.

Therefore, the order in which the names will appear doesn’t necessarily shows where they rank in my preference.

As a final introductory note, this is also not a biography article. I’ll just write how I feel about people represented in it, their talent and their importance in my life.

It’s amazing how something you saw as a young kid can stay with you forever. And it’s even more amazing how that first impression hardly leaves you.

It can be that great athletic performance, that great record you listened to at the right age, that author you read at the right time of your life or that movie and actor’s performance you watched.

Regardless of what it is, whoever is involved from the side of the artists tends to leave you with a lasting impression and your admiration for them will likely never vanish. For me, that’s the case with Robert De Niro.

Robert Anthony De Niro Jr. was born on August 17, 1943 in the Greenwich Village area of Manhattan, New York City, New York. His mother, Virginia Admiral was a painter and a poet and his father Robert Anthony De Niro Sr. was an abstract expressionist, painter and sculptor.

Their parents divorced when his father admitted he was gay and his grandparents secretly baptized him in the Catholic Church when he was staying with them during the divorce.

De Niro studied in two schools until eighth grade and three through Junior High, but he never finished High School. He found acting a way of dealing with his shyness at 10 in his first play portraying the Cowardly Lion in a school production of Wizard of Oz. Also obsessed with cinema, he studied acting at the Stella Adler Conservatory and Lee Strasberg’s Actors Studio, after dropping out of high-school at 16.

His big screen debut came in 1963 in Brian De Palma’s The Wedding Party and gained popular attention with Bang the Drum Slowly. Afterwards, he had his first collaboration with Martin Scorsese in Mean Streets in 1973.

He won an Academy Award for his magnificent role as a young Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II and would win again for his great portrayal of Jake LaMotta in the wonderful Raging Bull.

By the way, Raging Bull is just another one in a series of roles he did with Martin Scorsese at the helm and they are all unforgettable: Taxi Driver (“Are you talking, to me?” is genius), Goodfellas, Cape Fear, Casino among others. Is it good enough for you?

However, ironically enough, his role that is etched in my mind forever (probably because I watched the movie a zillion times) is not any of those. It’s his portrayal of Al Capone in The Untouchables. I mean, I’m positive Al Capone was exactly that way. I consider a Top 3 acting performances of all time. He’s so good you even feel tempted to hoot for him to beat the rap. And I saw it for the first time as a young 12 year old kid.

And talking of criminals how about the elegant bank robber in The Score? Or another gangster in Once Upon a Time in America?  Or the great duel with Al Pacino in Heat? Or the obsessive San Francisco Giants supporter in The Fan? But he could be the good guy as well like in Ronin, the priest in Sleepers and also alongside Al Pacino in Righteous Kill.

And as with any great actor, he is very versatile. Didn’t you laugh your ass off on the Fockers trilogy? How about Wag the Dog and both Analyze This?

Therefore, Mr. De Niro, I’m indeed talking to you and welcoming you to the Hall of Idols.

Be sure to check out my book “Straight and Lethal”

You can contact me at: carloantico666@gmail.com

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