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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 October, 2003, 09:53 GMT 10:53 UK
Robert De Niro: Hollywood great
BBC News Online profiles Robert De Niro, who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

He is one of the most and admired and respected actors of his generation, with a legendary reputation for the thoroughness of his role preparation.

Robert De Niro
De Niro was born in New York in 1943
In becoming prize-fighter Jake La Motta in 1980's Raging Bull, he learned the boxer's art to the point where he was reputedly among the best 10 middleweights in the world.

In the same Oscar-winning performance he put on another 40lbs to show the self-destructive La Motta in decline.

His saxophone playing in 1977's New York New York, in which he was cast alongside Liza Minnelli as a post-World War II musician, was said to be of a virtuoso standard.

Then there were the silk boxer shorts he supposedly wore in true method-acting style to get the measure of Al Capone in The Untouchables.

De Niro, now 60, built his reputation with a series of violent, often psychotic, characters living at the margins of society - Travis Bickle In Taxi Driver (1976), Max Cady in Cape Fear (1991), Rupert Pupkin in The King Of Comedy (1983).

Robert De Niro
De Niro has honed his skills in off-Broadway plays
To many he plays the archetypal New York gangster, as exemplified by his performance as Jimmy Conway in 1990's Goodfellas, directed by his mentor Martin Scorsese.

He has shown his versatility with a string of comedic roles, never more darkly so than as the demonic Louis Cyphre in Alan Parker's voodoo thriller Angel Heart (1987).

De Niro first came to wider public attention as the young Vito Corleone in the flashback sequences of The Godfather, Part II (1974), which won him the Oscar for best supporting actor.

His subtle, mature performance matched the intensity of his hero Marlon Brando playing the older Corleone in the film's 1972 prequel.

De Niro's first success with his long-time collaborator Scorsese had emerged in 1973 with Mean Streets, a story of small-time hoods in New York's Little Italy. The film's environment and themes would provide further fuel for their creative relationship over the following few years.

De Niro returned to the Manhattan immigrant tableau in Sergio Leone's epic historical saga Once Upon A Time In America (1984).

His 38-year film career began in the mid-1960s after a New York acting apprenticeship with Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler.

Following stints in off-Broadway theatrical productions, he made early screen appearances in Brian De Palma's low-budget Greetings (1968) and The Wedding Party (1969, made in 1963).

He also went on to feature in De Palma's Hi, Mom! and Bloody Mama (both 1970), Jennifer on My Mind, Born to Win and The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight (all 1971).

His other major films include The Deer Hunter (1978), The Mission (1986), Casino (1995), as well as recent comedies Analyse This (1999) and its 2002 follow-up, Analyse That.

While his critics accuse him of choosing less demanding roles of late, there is little doubt about the box office potential of the Analyse franchise, reflected in his reported $20m salary for last year's sequel.

The son of New York artists, he is as well known for his desire for privacy off-screen as for his fastidiousness in performance.

Prostate cancer
17 Mar 00  |  C-D
De Niro has prostate cancer
21 Oct 03  |  Film
Moore to judge film festival
01 May 03  |  Film

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