Circuit 3: Robert De Niro


Robert De Niro celebrates his 70th birthday on August 17. The two-time Academy Award winner got his start in a few lesser known films including a pair directed by Brian De Palma (The Wedding Party; 1969) and Roger Corman (Bloody Mama; 1970). People began taking notice of this young talent when he played a dying baseball player in Bang the Drum Slowly (1973). His star-making turn, however, came in his first collaboration with Martin Scorsese – Mean Streets (1973).

His brutal performance earned him the role of a young Vito Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Part Two (1974). His work won him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and placed him with Marlon Brando as the only two actors to win Oscars for playing the same character. De Niro continued the impressive role he was on with Scorsese’s next film, Taxi Driver (1976), playing the iconic Travis Bickle. The performance brought him his second Oscar nomination, and first in the Lead Actor category. He would work again several times with the great director, including New York, New York (1977). De Niro would wrap up the 70s starring in Michael Cimino’s Best Picture winning Vietnam War film, The Deer Hunter (1978), and received another Lead Actor nomination as a result.

De Niro would begin the 80s as well as he left the 70s, giving a career-best performance in Scorsese’s Raging Bull (1980). His tour-de-force performance as boxing great Jake La Motta won him the Oscar for Lead Actor and cemented De Niro’s status as an acting legend. He teamed up, once again, with Scorsese for The King of Comedy (1982), in which he played another disturbed character, Rupert Pupkin. Other notable films on De Niro’s resume from the 80s include Once Upon a Time in America (1984), Brazil (1985), The Mission (1986), Angel Heart (1987), The Untouchables (1987), and Midnight Run (1988).

He would collaborate with Scorsese for the sixth time playing Irish mob boss, Jimmy Conway, in the gangster classic, Goodfellas (1990), and twice more with Cape Fear (1991; for which he was nominated for Lead Actor) and Casino (1995). He also starred in Awakenings (1990; for which he was nominated for Lead Actor), Backdraft (1991), A Bronx Tale (1993) – which he also directed, Heat (1995), Cop Land (1997), Wag the Dog (1997), Jackie Brown (1997), and Analyze This (1999).

As great as he was as a dramatic actor, De Niro continued to show his range for comedic roles throughout his career. One of his most memorable comedic performances came in Meet the Parents (2000), playing an ex-CIA-op who torments his future son-in-law (Ben Stiller). He would reprise the role twice more.

His second effort behind the camera, The Good Shepherd (2006), was a look at the history of the CIA and featured an all-star cast (including De Niro).

De Niro’s most recent Academy Award nomination (his seventh) came just last year in David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook (2012). The actor and director will pair up again later this year in American Hustle (2013). Hustle won’t be the only time we see De Niro on screen this year, as he is scheduled to appear in seven films in 2013, including Luc Besson’s The Family, opposite Michelle Pfeiffer.

He has been in talks to star opposite Meryl Streep (for the fourth time) in next year’s adaptation of Ann Leary’s The Good House.

My Circuit 3 for Robert De Niro performances:

  1. Raging Bull
  2. Taxi Driver
  3. The Deer Hunter

My Circuit 3 for Robert De Niro films:

  1. The Godfather Part II
  2. Raging Bull
  3. Taxi Driver

What are your favorite/best De Niro films and/or performances? How about characters? You can view his entire filmography here.