The collaboration between Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese has born real fruit over the years. Both men seem to do their best work with each other and, true to form, this week’s Killers of the Flower Moon is among De Niro’s best performances in years. An Oscar nomination feels almost guaranteed.
So it’s worth looking back in time to discover how Robert De Niro first met Scorsese, crossing paths with one of the best directors of his career. It seems unthinkable to imagine a De Niro filmography without his best movies, but we have Scorsese to thank for the likes of Raging Bull, Goodfellas, and the underrated masterpiece The King of Comedy.
The meeting of minds between these two greats wouldn’t have happened at all without Brian De Palma. It was the ’70s legend, the man behind films including Carrie and Scarface, who first connected one of the best actors of the 20th century with his directorial soulmate.
Speaking on The Dick Cavett Show in 1978, Scorsese said that it was De Palma who introduced him to “Bobby”. That’s what Scorsese calls him; we’d never dream of it, Mr De Niro, sir.
De Palma explained that De Niro had appeared in three consecutive movies for him in the late 1960s and early ’70s: Greetings, The Wedding Party, and Hi, Mom!. This encouraged De Palma to make the introduction to Scorsese.
“Bobby’s very quiet. You don’t exactly know what’s going to happen,” said De Palma. “He never takes predictable choices, he’s always coming up with some kind of strange, off-the-wall approach.”
This made him an ideal filmmaking bedfellow for Scorsese, who had some off-the-wall ideas of his own. He first cast De Niro in the 1973 crime drama Mean Streets, in which he played a small-time crook. Less than a decade later, Scorsese directed De Niro to his second Oscar thanks to boxing movie Raging Bull.
Now, 50 years after their first collaboration, Killers of the Flower Moon stands as one of the best new movies of 2023. De Niro is sinister and manipulative, but also disarmingly charismatic, as the slimy businessman William King Hale. If there’s any justice, he’ll be claiming his first Academy Award since Raging Bull.
For more, check out our Killers of the Flower Moon review and find out more about the best thriller movies ever made. Meanwhile, learn why De Niro was unimpressed by Leonardo DiCaprio’s improv and find out why De Niro had a good time making one of his biggest flops.