One might think that ‘Bobby D’ is your quintessential New York Italian-American given that he has been in countless mafia films and has dual Italian-American citizenship, but he’s actually more Irish despite his name.
Three of Robert De Niro’s four grandparents had Irish ancestry and the legendary actor himself even traveled around Ireland as a teenager in the 1960s. His father, Robert Sr, was half-Irish from his mother Helen O’Reilly’s side of the family, who are all Irish.
Three of Robert De Niro's grandparents were Irish. In 1962, as a teenager, he hitchhiked from Dublin to Galway and travelled by ferry to the Aran Islands. #IrishFact pic.twitter.com/8RYhy04IvS— Dublin Airport (@DublinAirport) November 26, 2017
De Niro, when speaking about his time in Ireland as a teen stated, “I hitchhiked from Dublin to Galway and took the ferry to the Aran Islands, then I went down through the south. People gave me blankets for sleeping outside and I had breakfast with them in the morning. They were very friendly.”
When he was on his 1962 trip as a 19-year-old, De Niro said he didn’t find any of his distant Irish relatives, but has said in the past that he is trying his best to track down his Irish connection.
O’Reilly was completely Irish and traces her roots back to her own grandparents who escaped Ireland during the potato famine of the 1840s. They were Edward and Margaret O’Reilly, and John and Mary Burns.
Where the ‘De Niro’ comes in, however, was when his grandmother married World War I veteran and second-generation Italian, Henry De Niro.
The Hollywood star has looked into his Italian roots as well, finding relatives of his Italian grandfather in Campobasso, a town between Naples and Rome.
His Irish roots are largely overlooked by many, but I would say there was at least a hint of his connection to the emerald isle when he couldn’t become a ‘fully-made’ man in Goodfellas because his character was part Irish.
Robert De Niro's incredible life and career
De Niro was born on August 17, 1943, in New York City and began his acting career in the late 1960s, appearing in several stage productions.
De Niro made his film debut in the 1969 film "Greetings" and quickly established himself as a talented actor, appearing in several notable films in the 1970s, including "Bang the Drum Slowly" (1973), "Mean Streets" (1973), and "The Godfather Part II" (1974), for which he won his first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
De Niro continued to make a name for himself in the 1980s, starring in classic films such as "Raging Bull" (1980), for which he received his first Academy Award for Best Actor, "The King of Comedy" (1983), and "Brazil" (1985). He also formed a successful collaboration with filmmaker Martin Scorsese, appearing in several of his films, including "Goodfellas" (1990) and "Casino" (1995).
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, De Niro continued to act in numerous successful films, including "Heat" (1995), "Analyze This" (1999), and "Meet the Parents" (2000), as well as a number of dramatic films such as "The Good Shepherd" (2006) and "Righteous Kill" (2008).
Throughout his career, De Niro has been known for his dedication to his craft, taking on challenging roles and working with some of the greatest filmmakers of his generation. He has won numerous awards and accolades, including two Academy Awards and several Golden Globe Awards, and has been recognized for his contributions to the film industry.
In addition to his acting career, De Niro is also a successful producer, having produced several films, including "A Bronx Tale" (1993) and "The Irishman" (2019). He has also been involved in various philanthropic efforts, supporting organizations such as the Robin Hood Foundation and the Tribeca Film Institute.