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, best-selling 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.
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. 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.
"An impressive biography that will surely stand as the definitive De Niro volume." (Kirkus Reviews)
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As meticulous as its subject
This is an exhaustive and thoughtful portrait of perhaps the greatest American actor of the latter 20th century. De Niro primarily focuses on the actor and his works moreso than the man, which given Robert De Niro's well-known reticence toward the media and interviews shouldn’t come as a surprise. Nevertheless, Levy has authoritatively researched his subject and seems to have gathered every possible quotable snippet RD has put on the record. What I particularly enjoyed about this bio was its critical take on its subject: Levy is not afraid to interpose his views in a balanced way on the actor's work as well as draw on other critics appraisals which makes this neither fawning nor a hatchet job. The end result is a bio that reveals the man primarily through his work, going in depth on his most iconic pictures and roles as well as collaborations with directors such as de Palma and Scorsese. In all, I found this very enjoyable, almost a companion to be read while either watching or reflecting on RDs movies. To this end, De Niro will appeal to film buffs as well those who want to understand the man in relation to the icon rather than those looking for a trashy tabloid take (though RD’s relationship with his artist father, his many spouses, children, and business enterprises are not glossed over). The breezy narration does not distract you from the material to the point I forgot I was listening to an audiobook. Well worth the read.
Quite detailed biography
- sav "alfred"