Douglas Thmopson - Author and International Journalist

‘Bob is a number of things all at once.There are lots of different people in him. He finds release and fulfilment in becoming other people. He's found a solution for living at a time like this in his work.

‘As far as the police thing went we lost a day filming but later the French officials said sorry and the judge in the case was removed. We moved fast them. We have a lot of action sequences. We shot one car chase going all over Paris at 100 miles an hour. My wish was to do this for real.'

De Niro said that there was ‘no thought, no connection' to the death of Princess Diana: ' We didn't shoot in the exact spot but in other parts of the tunnel. John (Frankenheimer) just wanted to shoot there and he had planned it before that accident. That tunnel was not particularly that dramatic in the sense you just go over a thing and through the small, short tunnel. I've been in these situations where you want to tell somebody to slow down and you don't. I always feel one of the last things she must have thought was: “Should I say something?” As for the filming there was no connection, no thought, no anything....'

He did much of his own stunt work. It is flawlessly woven into what he says is a story of betrayal and honour. Ronin is a Japanese word for a samurai who takes up new work when his liege lord dies -- like the unemployed Cold War warriors brought together for a special assignment. Once again the most major of American actors as opposed to movie stars is carrying a multi-million dollar movie, playing a man of decision, of action.

It's weekend brunch time in uptown New York and Dre Niro is dressed for a baseball game. He's wearing jeans, a brown leather jacket and the feeling he's got a hit movie and a wary look for ruminating on the past decade. This shy man is playing nervously with his fingers an looks as though he would be intimidated if asked to carry a spear in the school play. But he made all these movies with Scorsese, Johnny Boy in ‘Mean Streets', Travis Bickle in ‘Taxi Driver', Jimmy Doyle in ‘New York, New York', Jake LaMotta in ‘Raging Bull', Jimmy The Gent Conway in ‘GoodFellas'. These movies, says De Niro, took him back to the streets, back to his beginnings, back to the melting pot.

He's part Italian, Irish, French and Dutch which makes him all-American. If Brando and James Dean were rebels then De Niro has been our screen identity seeker since 1973 and ‘Mean Streets' which was his first collaboration with Martin Scorsese. They've grown up together.

‘My childhood? The people I love still live in Little Italy and I love to see them them,' said De Niro, ‘My parents divorced when I was two but they stayed friends.Their friends were other artists, poets, art critics, writers -- people who expressed themselves in their work. My father used to take me to a lot of movies. Around the age of ten I knew I wanted to be an actor.

‘Later, at one of the acting schools I went to the director asked me why I wanted to be an actor.I told him I didn't know.He said:”You want to be an actor to express yourself.” And later on when I got into acting seriously I remembered this and said that is the reason I want to be an actor -- to express myself.

‘I believe the only way anybody will become anything is to become fully what he is and do what he wants to do.'

After her marriage broke-up his mother started a typing service to support herself and her son in an apartment on West 14th Street . De Niro -- Bobby Milk to the Kenmare Street gang because he was so pale and strange -- got his entertainment watching the action in the neighbourhood bars and pool halls.

All the Mafia movies -- to some epic poetry like ‘Mote d'Arthur' -- are part New York anthropology and the city has been a major player in De Niro's life, his marriages -- to Diahnne Abbott and Grace Hightower, the present Mrs De Niro -- and his long involvement with restaurant owner Toukie Smith, and his work.

His best work like ‘Ronin' has involved playing characters with edge and his best 1990s work until now was his pairing in Michael Mann's ‘Heat' with Al Pacino. In that he played a calculating obsessive criminal.

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