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Robert De Niro’s Gay Father

Four Figures, Robert De Niro

It’s always a surprise to read that someone famous is talking about having grown up with a gay parent, and Robert De Niro – in typical fashion – is doing it in a big way. The documentary he made about his father, “Remembering the Artist, Robert De Niro, Sr.,” will air for the first time on HBO in June, and there is a lot of media attention around the film, some of it specifically around the element of De Niro Sr.’s homosexuality. Having not seen the film yet we do not know how much screen time will be dedicated to Robert De Niro Sr.’s homosexuality or the impact that had on his family, but obviously it informed all of his artistic work, and had a profound impact on his son.

De Niro’s own words on the topic are all worth reading, particularly his interview with OUT Magazine, in which his regret over failures in communication come through with heartbreaking clarity.


If I may return to some of the things you read from the diaries in the documentary, your father said he felt like being an artist was an “affliction,” and he thought being gay was a sort of affliction. Do you think he was conflicted about his life’s passion?

About his homosexuality? Yeah, he probably was, being from that generation, especially from a small town upstate. I was not aware, much, of it. 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. Again, 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.

The paining at the top of this post is Robert De Niro, Sr.’s Four Figures, c. 1977
Oil on canvas, 30 1/4 x 51 1/4 inches

More of De Niro’s work can be seen on the website for DC Moore Gallery, which will be curating a show of his work for the third time this June.

Posted in Arts and Literature, Personal Stories.

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