Robert De Niro’s father was gay. How do we know that only now? Because De Niro Jr. decided it was time to make a documentary about his father, Robert De Niro Sr.
The documentary is called “Remembering the Artist: Robert De Niro Sr.,” and reveals the truth about his father’s real sexual identity. Actually, for many people, this news does not come as a surprise; his father was quite open about his homosexuality despite the fact that he had been married for a few years. His parents actually divorced when De Niro was three years old, and he reflects that his relationship with his father was not “regular.” De Niro comments, “We were not the type of father and son who played baseball together, as you can surmise, but we had a connection.”
In an interview with Out magazine, De Niro spoke about making the film: “I felt I had to. I felt obligated. It was my responsibility to make a documentary about him.” He also spoke about the era his father grew up in: “Being from that generation, especially from a small town upstate, I was not aware. My mother didn’t want to talk about things in general, and you’re not interested when you’re a certain age.”
The film includes archival footage from the ’70s, and was edited by Thelma Schoonmaker who, like De Niro, worked on many movies with Martin Scorsese. There are scenes where Robert De Niro Jr. becomes very emotional when reading excerpts from diaries his father kept. He understands as an adult the problems his father had to face about his sexual identity — something he did not understand or appreciate as a child.
De Niro’s original intention was to make the film as a tribute to the memory of his father just for himself and the family; he had no plan to place it in the public domain. Subsequently, he changed his mind, so the film will now be shown on HBO on June 9.
Robert De Niro Sr. passed away from cancer 20 years ago, but his son still carries some regrets about the relationship with his father. Speaking further about his father’s sexuality, he said, “I wish we had spoken about it much more. For my kids, I want them to stop and take a moment and realize that you sometimes have to do things now instead of later, because later may be 20 years from now — and that’s too late.”
De Niro, 70, preserves his father’s memory by taking care of his final home and studio in the SoHo section of New York City. De Niro told Out,“It was the only way to keep his being, his existence, alive. To me, he was always a great artist.”
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