Robert De Niro
One of the most accomplished and respected actors of the 20th century and beyond, Oscar winner Robert De Niro was an intense and formidable presence in a string of acclaimed films directed by Martin Scorsese, including "Raging Bull" (1980) and "Goodfellas" (1990), as well as such features as "The Godfather Part II" (1974), "1900" (1976), "Heat" (1995), "Meet the Parents" (2000) and "Silver Linings Playbook" (2012). Born Robert Anthony De Niro, Jr., on August 17, 1943 in New York's Manhattan borough, he was the son of artists Robert De Niro, Sr., and Virginia Admiral, who divorced when their son was two years of age. He developed an interest in performing through visits to local movie houses with his father, and soon began acting in school productions while also receiving his earliest training at Maria Picator's Dramatic Workshop, where his mother worked as a typist and copyeditor. De Niro briefly attended the High School of Music and Art but left in the ninth grade, citing a high level of competition and his own shyness. But after a cross-country trip to visit relatives in 1960, the 16-year-old De Niro decided to leave high school altogether and enroll at the Stella Adler Conservatory. After additional training with Lee Strasberg at the Actor's Studio, he began auditioning for film roles. Though he would make his screen acting debut in Brian De Palma's low-budget comedy "The Wedding Party," the film would not be released until 1969, so his uncredited turn the French comedy "Three Rooms in Manhattan" (1965) would mark his actual film debut. Three years later, he reunited with De Palma for the bawdy freeform comedy "Greetings" (1968), which earned a Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. He bounced between arthouse and drive-in fare for his next few projects, teaming again with De Palma for "Hi, Mom!" (1970), a comedy about amateur pornographers, and playing a drug-addicted Depression Era gangster in Roger Corman's "Bloody Mama" (1970) before earning critical praise as a terminally ill baseball player in "Bang the Drum Slowly" (1973). That same year, he also starred as a dangerously off-kilter hood in "Mean Streets" (1973), which marked the beginning of his long and celebrated collaborations with director Martin Scorsese. The film would serve as a launching pad for a remarkable string of projects in the 1970s, beginning in 1974 with "The Godfather Part II," which earned him an Oscar for his performance - entirely in Sicilian - as the young Vito Corleone. Scorsese's "Taxi Driver" (1976), which brought a second Oscar nomination for his turn as a psychotic who believed himself to be a criminal avenger, and Bernardo Bertolucci's "1900" (1976) soon followed, as did his thinly veiled portrait of studio head Irving Thalberg in Elia Kazan's "The Last Tycoon" (1976) and a third Oscar nod for Michael Cimino's harrowing Vietnam War drama "The Deer Hunter" (1979). After teaming with Scorsese for the period drama "New York, New York" (1977), the duo reunited again for "Raging Bull" (1980), a elegiac portrait of boxer Jake LaMotta; De Niro, who gained 60 pounds to portray LaMotta in his twilight years, earned a second Oscar for his intensely committed and rigorously physical performance. The dawn of the 1980s saw De Niro working with some of the most acclaimed filmmakers in the world, including the scabrous "King of Comedy" (1982) with Scorsese, the epic gangster film "Once Upon a Time in America" for Sergio Leone, the fantasy "Brazil" (1984) for Terry Gilliam, and the sweeping period drama "The Mission" (1985) for Roland Joffe. He then reunited with De Palma to play a malevolent Al Capone in the director's big-screen take of "The Untouchables" (1987) before dipping into mainstream waters as a foul-mouthed skip tracer in Martin Brest's popular action-comedy "Midnight Run" (1988). In the '90s, De Niro settled into a breathless schedule of acting roles in both studio and arthouse features. The most notable of these was his turn as an Irish mobster in an Italian crime family in Scorsese's celebrated "Goodfellas" (1990), as well as back-to-back Oscar nominations for Penny Marshall's "Awakenings" (1991), which cast him as a comatose patient revived by Dr. Oliver Sacks' experimental therapy, and Scorsese's remake of "Cape Fear" (1992), with De Niro as a feral criminal pursuing lawyer Nick Nolte's family. Between these efforts were collaborations with Martin Ritt and Jane Fonda in "Stanley & Iris" (1990), Ron Howard on the firefighter drama "Backdraft" (1991), Bill Murray in John McNaughton's "Mad Dog and Glory" (1993), and Kenneth Branagh, who cast him as the Monster in "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" (1994). De Niro also found time during this period to make his directorial debut with "A Bronx Tale" (1993), a sentimental period piece based on co-star Chazz Palminteri's nostalgic one-man show, and a reunion with Scorsese and frequent co-star Joe Pesci for "Casino" (1995), a story of organized crime in Las Vegas. He would cap the decade with several high-quality projects, including a supporting turn for Quentin Tarantino in "Jackie Brown" (1997) and a lead in two superlative caper films, John Frankenheimer's "Ronin" (1998) and Michael Mann's "Heat" (1995). But with the turn of the new millennium, De Niro's screen output appeared to take a decidedly downward turn. Critics and fans of his early work were dismayed to see appear in lackluster comedies like "Showtime" (2002) with Eddie Murphy and wan thrillers like "Godsend" (2004) and "Righteous Kill" (2008) with Al Pacino, and bemoaned the broad comedy "Meet the Parents" (2000), which cast him as a spymaster and strict father determined to undermine new son-in-law Ben Stiller, and its sequels "Meet the Fockers" (2004) and "Little Fockers" (2010). In truth, De Niro's prodigious output during this period also included a number of well-received and popular films, including the thriller "City by the Sea" (2002) and a second directorial effort with the espionage drama "The Good Shepherd" (2006), as a producer, oversaw the "Fockers" films, "About a Boy" (2002) and "Rent" (2005) through his TriBeCa Productions. But the sheer number of forgettable films in his c.v. during the 2000s undermined - at least in the eyes of some fans and reviewers - his more celebrated titles. For this demographic, De Niro rebounded with solid character turns in three films for David O. Russell: the quirky "Silver Linings Playbook" (2012), which earned him a fifth Oscar nomination, his '70s New York drama "American Hustle" (2013) and the rags-to-riches comedy "Joy" (2015). After a spate of largely unremarkable features, De Niro capped 2019 with major roles in two high-profile features: the Cannes hit "Joker" (2019), with Joaquin Phoenix as the DC villain and De Niro as a merciless talk show host, and "The Irishman" (2019), a reunion with Scorsese, Pacino and Pesci based on the real-life story of Frank Sheeran, who was allegedly responsible for the disappearance of labor chief Jimmy Hoffa.