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Robert De Niro Once Hurt His Leg on Set Yet Insisted He Was 'Prepared for Unexpected Things' as He Aged

Titi Dokubo
May 01, 2022
07:30 P.M.
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Robert De Niro is one of the most recognized actors in Hollywood and has been in the industry for over five decades. He made a name for himself with intense roles in "Taxi Driver," "The Godfather," and "Raging Bull."

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Getting old did not stop the actor when he starred as Ben Whittaker, an elderly intern, in the award-winning movie "The Intern." In 2021, Robert De Niro, who has not retired, injured his leg on set.

The legendary actor believes that one should be ready for such situations in old age despite his pain. Here is a look into Robert De Niro's life as he ages gracefully.

Robert De Niro at the 92nd Oscars Nominees Luncheon on January 27, 2020 | Source: Getty Images

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Robert De Niro was born to artist parents and began his career on stage on Broadway before discovering the world of cinema. He made a name for himself in 1973 when he starred in "Bang the Drum Slowly."

He gained his reputation in "Mean Streets," but his role as Vito Corleone in "The Godfather: Part II" earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1974.

De Niro has starred in movies such as "Once Upon a Time in America," "Goodfellas," "Heat," "Casino," "Meet the Parents," "American Hustle," "Heist," "The Good Shepherd," among others.

Robert De Niro with his "Etoile d'Or" Award at the 17th Marrakech International Film Festival on December 1, 2018 | Source: Getty Images

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In 2002, the actor who grew up in Little Italy in New York was inducted into the Italian-American Hall of Fame. In 2011, he received the Cecil B. DeMille Award, an honorary Golden Globe Award, for his outstanding contributions to entertainment.

The actor, who turned 78 on August 17, 2021, continues to act in movies. However, he does not behave like a movie star in public; he's polite, quiet, ordinary-looking, and never says much, but he is a great listener. 

De Niro, who is aging gracefully, agreed with his best friend Al Pacino when Pacino revealed that he had not heard "You look good for your age" in a long time as he got older.

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Photo of Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino at "The Godfather" 45th Anniversary screening on April 29, 2017 | Source: Getty Images

In an interview, the actor revealed that he is not the type of person to think about retirement. He said:

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"I don't know what I would do if I retired."

De Niro loves to keep himself busy and even compared himself to his role as Ben Whittaker in "The Intern." Whittaker, who was initially retired in the movie, had no contact with people, and his friends were dying.

Robert De Niro, Larry King, and Haim Saban at the Friends Of The Israel Defense Forces Western Region Gala on November 3, 2016 | Source: Getty Images

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DE NIRO'S OLDNESS

De Niro has understood that aging is a given, and he finds that he could always make fun of it if he wanted to. He revealed that when around younger people, age becomes interesting. He said:

"You become part of another class of person."

Looking back at life, De Niro now appreciates the saying, "it went by so fast," because his children have grown up so fast, and life is passing by more quickly.

Robert De Niro at the 92nd Annual Academy Awards on February 9, 2020 | Source: Getty Images

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However, the actor had learned to take things less seriously. As he got older, he said:

"I don't like waste time. [...] The time is now."

He would not waste his time doing things and loves to take advantage of enjoying the best things in life while also sharing these with his family.

Robert De Niro on the set of "Mean Streets" circa 1973 | Source: Getty Images

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As he got older and settled down, he said things changed with the dynamics of a family. The actor revealed:

"If you get married… It's easier probably not to have children if you're gonna split up."

When De Niro used his improvised line "You talkin' to me?" in "Taxi Driver," he did not know it would become one of his most famous lines in a movie.

Robert De Niro on the set of "The Irishman" on September 25, 2017 | Source: Getty Images

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He recalled that people constantly screamed the line back at him in public places, and once a kid pulled up to him at a red light and used the line. The actor was shocked at how the child recognized him.

The actor is a father of six. He welcomed his oldest child on September 3, 1971, and his youngest child on December 23, 2011.

Robert De Niro as Vito Corleone as he poses with his wife Carmella, played by Francesca De Sapio, and their four children in "The Godfather: Part II" | Source: Getty Images

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ROBERT DE NIRO ON AGEISM

De Niro is not unaware of the problems of getting older, as he has faced ageism even while playing roles that portray his actual age. While he may not be able to play significantly younger roles, some social media users called him out about his age.

In a series of mean tweets, one user tweeted that De Niro looked like a 'wrinkled potato' while another user wrote that he was too old to be making gangsta movies and wanted him to play grandfather roles.

Robert De Niro at the world premiere of "Mixtape" on April 7, 2022 | Source: Getty Images

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De Niro replied that he was already playing grandfather roles, and he was looking forward to playing great-grandfather roles.

"Be prepared for unexpected things."

In 2019, when De Niro starred in "The Irishman," the producers used technology to make him look younger because the movie was set between 1949 to 2000, and he was already looking older than the role he played.

Robert De Niro in an interview on June 10, 2020 | Source: Getty Images

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Pablo Helma, the visual effects supervisor, had to develop the technology. They created a special camera and software that took anti-aging to the next level.

They also needed to adjust the actor's movements to get perfect shots. There was always someone on set to let him know how his younger self would have done specific body movements.

Robert De Niro at a screening of "The Irishman" in London on December 18, 2019 | Source: Getty Images

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De Niro was excited about the anti-aging technology because it gave him more time to act. He said:

"I'm happy, 'cause maybe it will extend my career another 30 years."

In reality, when talking about ageism and the anti-aging movement, De Niro feels indifferent about the subject. He is not worried about living over 100 years.

Robert De Niro at a Q&A session at a screening for Netflix's "The Irishman" on January 4, 2020 | Source: Getty Images

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LEG INJURY

The actor suffered a quadriceps muscle injury while on the set of his unreleased movie "Killers of the Flower Moon." Despite the excruciating pain, the actor blamed his injury on age. He said:

"When you get older, you have to be prepared for unexpected things."

After seeking medical attention, he assured his fans that his injury would not delay production. The doctors would get have to repair the torn quad, after which the actor needs time to let it heal.

Robert De Niro at the press conference for "The Irishman" on October 25, 2019 | Source: Getty Images

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Hopefully, the actor, who never likes to be bored, will be able to let his legs rest for the healing to be complete. However, De Niro has a word of advice for younger people. He said:

"I've seen people come. I've seen people go. [...] You gotta be chill. Take what's good in your life and move forward cautiously and carefully and thank God."

De Niro wants younger people to be calm when things are going well. He wants them to be wary and not think they are on top of the world.

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