Robert DeNiro has made a new documentary that is very close to his heart. Remembering the Artist: Robert De Niro, Sr., is the actor’s way of paying tribute to a man who was not only an artist, but was homosexual. In an interview with Out magazine, DeNiro said that he felt he had a responsibility to make the film.
DeNiro’s father divorced his mother, Virginia, who was also an artist and poet, when he was three years old. Though his father’s sexuality was never openly spoken of in the family, DeNiro said that he was dimly conscious of the fact that his father was gay. The two were not close, but his father had a significant influence on his life and the way he was driven to succeed. He actually credits that aspect of his personality to both of his parents.
Though they did not do typical father/son activities like playing ball, DeNiro said that they had a definite connection. He did not get to spend a lot of time with his father, but always felt loved by him. This documentary is not the only tribute DeNiro has bestowed upon his father.
When DeNiro Sr. passed away in 1993, DeNiro Jr. decided to maintain his father’s art studio. In an area once called Siberia, the SoHo studio has been inventoried, cataloged and kept the way his father left it. Now surrounded by multimillion-dollar apartments, DeNiro’s art studio is a beloved relic of a time gone by. As a member of the community that gave the art world Willem De Kooning, Jackson Pollack and Mark Rothko, DeNiro Sr. was also a painter from the abstract expressionist movement.
DeNiro’s father, according to the documentary, struggled with his homosexuality. The actor said of his father, that he was from a small town in upstate New York. Though his father was from a generation that did not deal well with culturally unacceptable behaviors like homosexuality, he wishes that the topic had been talked about more than it was. Obviously, growing up, there is a certain age when a boy just does not want to hear about his parents’ sexuality, no matter what their preferences, but he said that his mother never wanted to discuss the issue.
DeNiro reads excerpts from the artist’s diaries for the documentary. He would like to share some more publicly, once he has gotten through more of them. He would also like to get the green light from certain key players first. He feels that his father’s words are important to share because they are a major representation of what the man’s legacy is all about. DeNiro wants to make it clear that the important part of this tribute is to get the entire story out there. The point of all of this is the truth and “that is what people are attracted to.”
The two-time Oscar winner said that when he was growing up in Greenwich Village and Little Italy, he was not fearful of being told “No.” His parents taught him to go out into the world, do what you have to do and expect to be stopped every once in awhile. He said that he never took this as a rejection.
It was that healthy approach to life that allowed DeNiro to feel loved by a father who did not live in the same house as he did. Rather than feeling rejected by his dad and becoming sullen, he learned to appreciate his father more and used the love to help fuel his own success. DeNiro’s documentary about his father is a further extension of that love. Remembering the Artist: Robert De Niro, Sr. premieres on June 9th on HBO.
By Stacy Lamy