Robert De Niro was born on August 17, 1943 in New York City. Both of his parents were talented artists, but divorced when Robert was only two years old.
During his youth, Robert studied at the Little Red School House and High School of Music and Art. He dropped out when he was thirteen and joined a street gang in Little Italy. Although the gang performed some crimes, it was never anything serious and he was never incarcerated. During his adolescent years he stopped talking to his father, but reconciled with him when he turned 18.
As a youth, Robert pursued acting at the Stella Adler Conservatory and Lee Strasberg's Actor's Studio. When he was sixteen, he was given a position in Anton Chekov's play "The Bear" and traveled around the United States.
In 1963, he was given his first role on the silver screen. After a lot of auditioning, he caught the eye of Brian De Palma and was chosen to play in his film "The Wedding Party". He continued to make very low budget films throughout that year, including "Three Rooms in Manhattan", "Greetings", and 1970's "Hi Mom", in which Robert plays an amateur filmmaker who films his neighbors.
In 1973, he had a breakout role as a professional baseball player with a fatal illness in "Bang The Drum Slowly". That same year, he was chosen by Martin Scorsese to star in "Mean Streets" as small time hood Johnny Boy. The film was a success and would be the first of many such collaborations between De Niro and Scorsese.
In 1974, he was chosen to play the role of young Vito Corleone in the sequel to "The Godfather". He gave a great performance and won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. It also gave him the critical acclaim that would lend him more famous roles.
In 1976, he starred in the epic film "Taxi Driver", directed by Martin Scorsese. In the film, Robert plays Travis Bickle, a psychopathic taxicab driver. Travis meets a young twelve year old prostitute played by Jodie Foster and decides to rescue her from her pimp. Along the way, he plots to assassinate a senator. That same year, he married a woman named Diane Abbott.
In 1977, he starred in the musical "New York, New York" alongside Liza Minnelli. Unfortunately, the film was a box office failure, but it did show another side of De Niro.
In 1978, De Niro played another one of his famous roles in the film "Deer Hunter". He played a character named Michael Vronsky who goes to Vietnam with a number of his friends from a small town and their lives are completely changed afterwards. The film features some of the most suspenseful scenes put on film, including the Russian Roulette scene.
In 1980, Robert played a startling role as Jake LaMotta in Scorsese's film "Raging Bull". The film was a biopic of LaMotta's career and downfall as a boxer. De Niro gained a massive amount of weight for the film and won that year's Academy Award for best actor.
In 1983, he starred in another Scorsese picture, "The King of Comedy", with Jerry Lewis. In the film, De Niro plays a stand up comedian who is so obsessed with getting on television that he kidnaps the host of a variety show.
In 1984, he played another notable role as David "Noodles" Aaronson in Sergio Leone's epic "Once Upon a Time in America". The film follows a group of Jewish hoodlums as they progress from young thieves to hardcore criminals in New York City. Unfortunately the film was a moderate failure at the box office, mostly because the studios butchered the film to make it shorter, but it managed to reclaim its fame when an uncut version was released.
In 1985, he played the quirky role of Archibald Tuttle in Terry Gilliam's "Brazil". In 1987, he starred as Al Capone in Brian De Palma's film "The Untouchables", which was about the efforts of the US government to capture Al Capone.
In 1990, De Niro starred in Scorsese's film "Goodfellas". Robert's character Jimmy Conway was based on a real life mobster named James Burke. The film centers around a small gang of mafiosos and features great chemistry between De Niro and costar Joe Pesci.
In 1991, he starred in Scorsese's remake of the classic film "Cape Fear". De Niro's role was that of Max Cady, a convicted rapist who seeks revenge on the lawyer that screwed him over. He gave a chilling performance throughout the film and the film was a massive success, garnering him a nomination for best actor at the Academy Awards.
In 1993, De Niro had his directorial debut with the film "A Bronx Tale". He also played the important role of Lorenzo Anello, a father who tries to protect his son from the influence of a mob boss. The film gained a lot of critical success and showed that De Niro could do just as well behind the camera as in front.
In 1995, De Niro reunited with Scorsese and Joe Pesci in the film "Casino". He portrayed the character of Sam Rothstein, which was based on the real life Vegas executive Frank Rosenthal. Later that year he starred in the epic crime film "Heat" alongside Al Pacino. In the film, he plays a bank robber who plans a major heist before going into retirement, but finds himself facing off against Pacino, who plays a police detective.
From that point forward, De Niro took on more commercial roles, including the "Analyze This/That" and "Meet the Parents" franchises. None of his modern films have generated nearly as much critical acclaim as his early work, but that does not detract much from his unbelievable list of performances. Today he is one of the highest paid and most respected actors in motion pictures.
In 2003, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, but survived with proper treatment. In 2004, he married for the second time to a woman named Grace Hightower.