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Best known for his gritty film roles playing a gangster, a boxer or a mob boss, Robert De Niro rarely opens up about his family life.
However, with the documentary about his father, Remembering the Artist: Robert De Niro Sr., making its television premiere on HBO in June, the normally private New York-based Oscar winner did a rare personal interview with Out magazine for the June/July issue.
Describing his father, who died of cancer 20 years ago, as “always a great artist,” the Taxi Driver star also told Out: “Yeah, he probably was [conflicted about being gay], being from that generation, especially from a small town upstate.”
“I was not aware, much, of it,” he said. “I wish we had spoken about it much more. My mother didn’t want to talk about things in general, and you’re not interested when you’re a certain age.”
Admitting that the topic makes him very emotional, the 70-year-old actor said: “We were not the type of father and son who played baseball together, as you can surmise. But we had a connection,” he went on to explain. “I wasn’t with him a lot, because my mother and he were separated and divorced. As I say in the documentary, I looked after him in certain ways.
“He was absent in some ways. He was very loving. He adored me … as I do my kids.”
De Niro tells the story of the late figurative painter through his diaries, and revealed: “I haven’t even read all the diaries — I started. I read the ones for the film, but I haven’t read all the other material. I will, of course.”
When asked if he was coming out on his father’s behalf, he replied: “I felt I had to. I felt obligated. It was my responsibility to make a documentary about him. I was always planning on doing it, but never did.
“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.”
Remembering the Artist: Robert De Niro Sr. premieres June 9 on HBO.
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