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Overview

REMARKABLE BIOGRAPHY OF AN ICON

There's little debate that Robert De Niro is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, screen actors of his generation, perhaps of all time. His work, particularly in the first 20 years of his career, is unparalleled. Mean Streets, the Godfather Part II, Taxi Driver, the Deer Hunter, and Raging Bull all dazzled moviegoers and critics alike, displaying a talent the likes of which had rarely--if ever--been seen. ...
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De Niro: A Life

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Overview

REMARKABLE BIOGRAPHY OF AN ICON

There's little debate that Robert De Niro is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, screen actors of his generation, perhaps of all time. His work, particularly in the first 20 years of his career, is unparalleled. Mean Streets, the Godfather Part II, Taxi Driver, the Deer Hunter, and Raging Bull all dazzled moviegoers and critics alike, displaying a talent the likes of which had rarely--if ever--been seen. De Niro become known for his deep involvement in his characters, assuming that role completely into his own life, resulting in extraordinary, chameleonic performances.
         Yet little is known about the off-screen De Niro--he is an intensely private man, whose rare public appearances are often marked by inarticulateness and palpable awkwardness. It can be almost painful to watch at times, in powerful contrast to his confident movie personae. In this elegant and compelling biography, bestselling writer Shawn Levy writes of these many De Niros--the characters and the man--seeking to understand the evolution of an actor who once dove deeply into his roles as if to hide his inner nature, and who now seemingly avoids acting challenges, taking roles which make few apparent demands on his overwhelming talent. Following De Niro's roots as the child of artists (his father, the abstract painter Robert De Niro Sr., was widely celebrated) who encouraged him from an early age to be independent of vision and spirit, to his intense schooling as an actor, the rise of his career, his marriages, his life as a father, restauranteur, and businessman, and, of course, his current movie career, Levy has written a biography that reads like a novel about  a character whose inner turmoil takes him to heights of artistry. His many friendships with the likes of Martin Scorsese,  Meryl Streep, Harvey Keitel, Shelley Winters, Francis Ford Coppola, among many others, are woven into this extraordinary portrait of DeNiro the man and the artist, also adding a depth of understanding not before seen.
        Levy has had unprecedented access to De Niro's personal research and production materials, creating a new impression of the effort that went into the actor's legendary performances. The insights gained from DeNiro’s intense working habits shed new perspective on DeNiro’s thinking and portrayals and are wonderful to read.  Levy also spoke to De Niro's collaborators and friends to depict De Niro's transition from an ambitious young man to a transfixing and enigmatic artist and cultural figure.
Shawn Levy has written a truly engaging, insightful, and entertaining portrait of one of the most wonderful film artists of our time, a book that is worthy of such a great talent.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

There are two Robert De Niro. One is the consummate Academy Award-winning actor of Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and The Deer Hunter. The other is a man so private that a rare break of emotion seemed to one journalist observer to be "as astonishing to witness as the shattering of a glacier cliff." That intense privacy melts substantially under the scrutiny of this new biography by Shawn Levy (Rat Pack Confidential; Paul Newman: A Life). By exploring both De Niro's deep immersion film portrayals and his off-screen obliqueness, the biographer captures the depth of this his personality and, in surprising ways, the secret of his acting magic. A telling life.

The New York Times Book Review - Lisa Schwarzbaum
Robert De Niro: A Life is full and fair…armed with scholarship culled from studying De Niro's archives, along with insights gained from interviewees unconstrained by omertà, Levy…has created a thorough, measured, fact-filled, 600-page, movie-by-movie, girlfriend-by-girlfriend study that is right up a movie geek's alley.
Publishers Weekly
11/10/2014
The famously laconic, chameleon actor, gets a respectful treatment by journalist and film critic Levy (Paul Newman: A Life). As the only son of New York bohemian artists who separated and left "Bobby" largely to his own devices, De Niro recognized at age 18 that if actors who weren't very good could make a living then "I can't do any worse than them." As a student of Stella Adler's Conservatory of Acting, the young De Niro grew serious about the métier, learning "the value of application, self-scrutiny, doggedness," a system of self-discipline that would stick with him throughout his long career. De Niro cultivated important relationships early on, yet his most defining roles were under the direction of Martin Scorsese, his Italian New Yorker "alter ego." Their collaboration on such iconic films as Taxi Driver and Raging Bull allowed De Niro to explore and hone his considerable skill and range. Known for his "monomaniacal immersion" in his characters, such as the young Sicilian-speaking Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II (for which he won his first Oscar), De Niro nonetheless created fewer memorable roles in recent years. While Levy calls his later career a "muddle," De Niro significantly helped revitalize the New York film world by establishing a studio in Tribeca and producing his own work. With no help from the publicity-wary actor himself, Levy does a decent, evenhanded job of delineating the career of this national treasure. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
“[A] thorough, measured, fact-filled, 600-page, movie-by-movie, girlfriend-by-girlfriend study that is right up a movie geek’s alley.” New York Times Book Review

"An impressive biography that will surely stand as the definitive De Niro volume." –Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“‘De Niro' is impressive, fair-minded, and doesn't shrink from tough questions....[It’s] jam-packed with insight, anecdotes, and trivia about [De Niro’s] films.” Christian Science Monitor

 “De Niro: A Life is likely as close as anyone can get to figuring out just who the star of “Goodfellas” and “Raging Bull” is in private, and the author’s respectful tone and preference for art over scandal would likely please the book’s subject…[A]n addictive read.” The Oregonian

“[A] well-researched biography.... Making good use of the scripts, working notes, and a copious collection of props and clothing in the De Niro archive at the University of Texas in Austin, Levy creates a portrait of a private man who seems to depend on the creation of characters to sustain himself.” Washington Post

Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-09-28
The life and work of the legendary actor. Film critic and best-selling biographer Levy (Paul Newman: A Life, 2009, etc.) turns his attentive eye to another silver screen icon: Robert De Niro (b. 1943). Though De Niro has been a persistent pop-culture presence since his film career started over 40 years ago, he is famously reticent with the press. Paradoxically, De Niro, a man notorious for his intense and immersive performances, would often embarrassingly fumble through press interviews, hardly displaying the confidence and poise that he exudes on screen. Despite scant sources of candidness by De Niro, Levy expertly culls details for a vivid, complex portrait of the enigmatic actor, from his bohemian parents and upbringing amid the art scene of midcentury Manhattan to his rise alongside the auteur generation of new American filmmakers to his status as a revered idol. De Niro's withholding of his personal life has created a mystique around him, an aura that Levy plays up by tracing De Niro's lineage to an 11th-century Roman cavalryman, an audacious attempt to present his subject in a noble and rarefied air. It is, perhaps, the only misstep by Levy, but like any successful biographer, he captures not only the life of his subject, but the spirit of the times in which De Niro lived, simultaneously charting the success of collaborators and peers like Martin Scorsese. Levy is not simply star-struck; he objectively portrays the criticism of De Niro's later career for choosing easy blockbuster fare. Perhaps the best symbols of De Niro's dedication to his craft are the numerous anecdotes about his massive collection of stage props and set pieces. For De Niro, the success of a role was in his attention to detail, and he never relied on histrionics but rather a minimalist philosophy of revealing only a character's essential emotions—much like he approached his own life. An impressive biography that will surely stand as the definitive De Niro volume.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307716804
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/28/2014
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 608
  • Sales rank: 55,486
  • File size: 9 MB

Meet the Author

SHAWN LEVY is the author of six previous books, including the New York Times bestsellers Rat Pack Confidential and Paul Newman: A Life.  He served as film critic of The Oregonian from 1997 to 2012 and is a former senior editor of American Film and a former associate editor of Box Office. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian, The Independent, Film Comment, Movieline, and Sight and Sound, among many other publications. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
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