Robert De Niro is one of the most critically acclaimed actors in history, having starred in some of the most highly regarded films of the past 50 years. Has he ever won an Oscar?
Robert De Niro has won two Academy Awards for his performances and been nominated for seven. His first win came in 1975, when he was awarded Best Supporting Actor for his role as Vito Corleone in “The Godfather Part II”. His second Oscar, this time for Best Actor, came in 1981, for his performance as Jake LaMotta in “Raging Bull”.
For more on Robert De Niro’s Oscar wins and those he missed out on, keep reading.
Best Supporting Actor
De Niro has been nominated for seven acting Oscars, as well as receiving a Best Picture nomination as a producer on “The Irishman” in 2020. Despite missing out in recent decades, De Niro’s first nomination led to a win.
After unsuccessfully auditioning for the role of Santino “Sonny” Corleone in 1972’s “The Godfather” (the part instead went to James Caan), De Niro was cast in 1974’s follow up.
The film is both a sequel and a prequel to the previous film, with the concept that it simultaneously portrays the rise of Don Vito Corleone and the fall of his son and new Don, Michael, played by Al Pacino.
De Niro played the younger version of Vito, tasked with following in the footsteps of Marlon Brando’s iconic performance.
The film follows Vito from his native Sicily to the US and the beginnings of his mob empire. As such, De Niro speaks Sicilian for much of the film, which he was able to do fluently.
“The Godfather Part II” received stellar reviews upon release and to this day is considered one of the greatest sequels of all time. De Niro’s performance was celebrated with a Best Supporting Actor win at the 47th Academy Awards, his first Oscar.
He would go on to receive his second Best Supporting Actor nomination in 2013, for his role in “Silver Linings Playbook”, but the award went to Christoph Waltz for his role in “Django Unchained”.
De Niro followed this achievement with Best Actor nominations for “Taxi Driver” in 1977 and “The Deer Hunter” in 1979. These awards went to Peter Finch for “Network” and Jon Voight for “Coming Home”, respectively.
His third nomination for Best Actor came in 1981 for his role as Jake LaMotta in “Raging Bull”, a biopic based on the autobiography of the same name.
De Niro was initially hesitant to star in a movie about a boxer, despite director Martin Scorcese encouraging him to read the book, but changed his mind partly for a somewhat bizarre reason.
While walking the streets of New York, De Niro encountered LaMotta himself and observed that Jake, now in his mid-50s, had gained a significant amount of weight. The contrast of LaMotta’s physical fitness in his prime and weight gain in retirement intrigued De Niro, who wanted to replicate it.
After accepting the part, De Niro trained with LaMotta himself, reaching the point that LaMotta felt he could have fought competitively. He then went to Italy for four months and ate the finest, high-carb meals he could, gaining about 60lb in the process.
More than just a physical transformation, “Raging Bull” is a towering De Niro performance and he was awarded his only Best Actor Oscar.
A decade later in 1991, he received his next nomination for “Awakenings”, which went to Jeremy Irons for “Reversal of Fortune”.
A year later he received his, as of writing, final Best Actor nomination for his role as Max Cady in “Cape Fear”, with the award going to the similarly psychotic role of Anthony Hopkins’ Dr. Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs”.