Robert De Niro was born in New York, the son of Virginia Admiral, a painter, Robert De Niro, Sr., an abstract expressionist painter and sculptor. De Niro`s father was of Italian and Irish descent, and his mother was a Presbyterian-raised atheist of English, German,French, and Dutch descent.De Niro`s parents, who had met at the painting classes of Hans Hofmann in Provincetown, Massachusetts, divorced when he was two years old. De Niro grew up in the Little Italy area of Manhattan.
De Niro first attended the Little Red School House and was then enrolled by his mother at the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art in New York, a division of which was attended by fellow Godfather II actor Al Pacino. He dropped out at the age of 13 and joined a Little Italy street gang. De Niro attended the Stella Adler Conservatory as well as Lee Strasberg`s Actor`s Studio, and used his membership there mostly as a professional advantage. At the age of 16, he toured in a production of Chekhov`s ‘The Bear’.
De Niro`s first film role and collaboration with Brian De Palma materialized in 1963 at the age of 20, when he appeared in ‘The Wedding Party’; however, the film was not released until 1969. He spent much of the 1960s working in theater workshops and off-Broadway productions. He was an extra in the French film ‘Three Rooms in Manhattan’ (1965) and made his official film debut after he reunited with De Palma in ‘Greetings’ (1968). He later reprised his ‘Greetings’ role in ‘Hi, Mom’ (1970).
He first gained fame for his role in ‘Bang the Drum Slowly’ (1973), but he gained his reputation as a volatile actor in ‘Mean Streets’ (1973), which was his first film with director Martin Scorsese.
He is noted for his method acting and portrayals of conflicted, troubled characters - as well as gangsters - and for his enduring collaboration with director Martin Scorsese. After working with Scorsese in ‘Mean Streets’, he had a very successful working relationship with the director in films such as ‘Taxi Driver’ (1976), ‘New York, New York’ (1977), ‘Raging Bull’ (1980), ‘The King of Comedy’ (1983), ‘Goodfellas’ (1990), ‘Cape Fear’ (1991), and ‘Casino’ (1995). They also acted together in ‘Guilty by Suspicion’ and provided their voices for the animated feature ‘Shark Tale’.
Fearing he had become typecast in mob roles, De Niro began expanding into occasional comedic roles in the mid-1980s and has had much success there as well, with such films as ‘Brazil’ (1985) (in which he had a small role); the hit action-comedy ‘Midnight Run’ (1988), ‘Showtime’ (2002), opposite Eddie Murphy; the film-and-sequel pairs ‘Analyze This’ (1999) & ‘Analyze That’ (2002), both opposite actor/comedian Billy Crystal, ‘Meet the Parents (‘2000) and ‘Meet the Fockers’ (2004).
De Niro currently heads his own production company, Tribeca Film Center, and made his directorial debut in 1993 with ‘A Bronx Tale’ (1993). He then directed and co-starred in ‘The Good Shepherd’ (2006), also starring Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie.