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Exclusive: Robert De Niro to examine his father's life in HBO doc

April 16, 2013|By Steven Zeitchik
  • Robert De Niro, shown here at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica recently, will take part in an HBO documentary about his artist father, Robert De Niro Sr.
Robert De Niro, shown here at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica recently,… (Jennifer S. Altman / Los…)

In “Silver Linings Playbook,” Robert De Niro won plaudits for playing a complicated father. Now he’ll spend some time exploring his own.

In a new documentary from director Perri Peltz (”The Education of Dee Dee Ricks”), De Niro will examine the life of his father, Robert, a painter and bohemian figure who died in 1993 at the age of 71. Currently titled "Robert De Niro Sr.," the film is being produced by De Niro producing partner Jane Rosenthal and involves the work of Peltz collaborator Geeta Gandbhir. The movie has been acquired by HBO and will likely be shown on the network later this year, Rosenthal said.

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De Niro Sr. was born in upstate New York in 1922. He moved to New York City and married Virginia Admiral in 1942. He would find success as an Abstract Expressionist painter, exhibiting in galleries and museums around the world and garnering acclaim as part of a group of early-midcentury American artists that included Jackson Pollock. De Niro Sr. would also come to be part of a small arts circle  that included Henry Miller and Tennessee Williams.

But his family life was complicated. De Niro Sr. and Admiral divorced shortly after De Niro was born, and the artist continued to lead an eccentric life that his son has described as lonerish. In the 20 years since he died, the younger De Niro has maintained his father's downtown Manhattan studio pretty much as he left it.

The actor can be succinct in interviews about his father, but Rosenthal had been pushing him for years to dig deeper via a film. De Niro appears in the doc with recollections about his father and his influence on his own life. De Niro, of course, also made headlines this winter when he choked up talking about his own role as a father on Katie Couric's syndicated show.

De Niro, who can be seen in the marital comedy “The Big Wedding” later this month as well as the Luc Besson crime drama “Malavita” in the fall, will open the 12th annual Tribeca Film Festival on Wednesday.


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