Robert Deniro Discusses His Gay Artist Father In New HBO Documentary

Senior Editor
05.28.14 6 Comments


Did you know Robert Deniro is a Junior? It’s true. But despite not commonly commemorating his father with an honorific suffix a lá Robert Downey (Jr.), Deniro has chosen to remember his father in other ways, like reading from his lost diaries and exploring some of his unexhibited art work (Deniro Sr. was a painter) in a new HBO documentary. Oh, and also his father was gay.

Deniro recently sat for an interview with Out to promote the film:

It’s been more than 20 years since Robert De Niro Sr.’s death from cancer, but his memory is fresh for his son, who has preserved his father’s final home and studio in New York City’s SoHo. Filled with books, paintbrushes, and hundreds of canvases, some of which he never finished, it looks like pop stepped away for a coffee and should be back to finish another still life before dinner. The loft remains a quiet shrine to an artist that few recognize, perhaps mistaking his figurative paintings for a late Matisse or another French master.

Now 70, the actor has decided to reveal this hidden sanctum and his own struggle with his late father’s memory in a new documentary that premieres June 9 on HBO. In Remembering the Artist: Robert De Niro, Sr., the son tears up as he reads from his father’s diaries. He shares intimate stories of his father’s despair about his sexual orientation and his stagnant artistic reputation. At one point, as De Niro was ascending to Hollywood’s top tier, he made a last-ditch effort to rescue his father, who was sick in Paris, where he’d been living as a starving artist. It’s clear that De Niro regrets that he wasn’t able to help him more before he died, and the film becomes a moving portrait of a son who wants to resurrect his father’s legacy before it’s too late. [Out]

It’s hard to think of another actor as well known and as acclaimed as Robert Deniro whose personal life we know as little about. I think that’s part of his mystique as an actor, where you sort of feel like you know him, but you don’t, really, so you keep searching for those little tells and clues into his inner life, and it makes you pay that much closer attention to everything he does. You want that quality in an actor, especially a film actor. Maybe it’s best to protect his mystique, but at the same time… tellmetellmetellmetellme!

I’d like to think Deniro is pulling a reverse Heathers in this movie.

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