Robert De Niro is someone who remains as a huge public figure with an ultra private life, so it was a surprise when we learned that the Raging Bull actor created a HBO documentary on the patriarch of his family, his late father, Robert De Niro Sr. A famous expressionist painter, legendary actor Robert De Niro Jr. decided to create a documentary profiling the man in the documentary Remembering the Artist Robert De Niro Sr.
The HBO documentary made its debut at Sundance with the actor in attendance, and to the surprise of many the film made a revelation that De Niro Sr. had a tough life as a closeted gay man. In the film Robert De Niro discusses watching his father express himself artistically and reads some passages from his father’s private journals. One excerpt from his father’s journal reveals that De Niro Sr. left his son’s mother when he realized that he was gay.
De Niro, who participated in a Q&A panel at the screening in Sundance, said of the special film documenting his father’s artistry:
“I did this for him. I wanted my younger kids — who were born after he died — to know what their grandfather did. I even kept his painting studio intact so they could see it.”
Originally the film was only meant to be made with De Niro’s family in mind, but the producers of the film convinced De Niro that the world also needed to see this film, as his father’s legacy was important. Filmmaker Perri Peltz explained the importance of the film:
“It tells the story not just of Robert De Niro’s Sr.’s work — which is amazing — but the entire art world of the time.”
Going from what De Niro said at the Sundance panel for Remembering the Artist Robert De Niro Sr. it seems like the two share the trait of humility. De Niro said that he wanted to feature his father’s paintings in his restaurant Tribeca Grill in New York, but he was leery about what his father’s response would be.
“I asked him if he would let me hang some of his paintings there and I thought for sure he’s not gonna, not gonna like that, but he actually went along with it. He hung them himself, especially the three big paintings in the back of the grill. It will be there as long as the place exists.”
De Niro is one of the founding member of another popular film festival called the Tribeca Film Festival.