Robert De Niro has a story to tell, and it’s not his own.
The award-winning actor took a seat behind the scenes to produce a documentary about his late father, who was openly gay, called “Remembering the Artist: Robert De Niro Sr.”
“I felt I had to. I felt obligated. It was my responsibility to make a documentary about him,” he said in an interview with Out magazine about the film, which includes archival footage from the ’70s, and was edited by Thelma Schoonmaker, a longtime editor for Martin Scorsese.
While the “Godfather” actor was obviously influenced by his dad, a struggling artist, he didn’t live with him after his parents divorced when he was three.
“We were not the type of father and son who played baseball together, as you can surmise,” he said. “But we had a connection.”
That connection plays out in the documentary, which includes emotional scenes of De Niro reading excerpts from his father’s diaries. Those journals unfolded stories of De Niro Sr.’s sexual identity crises, something the 70-year-old actor understood as a huge challenge for his dad even though as a kid it wasn’t spoken of.
“Being from that generation, especially from a small town upstate,” De Niro Jr. told Out about the era his father grew up in. “I was not aware, much, of it. My mother didn’t want to talk about things in general, and you’re not interested when you’re a certain age.”
Although it was initially meant to be a keepsake for him and his family to enjoy, it will now be shown June 9 on HBO.
“It was not intended to be on HBO,” he confirmed. “It was just something I wanted to do.”
De Niro is seeing his goal through to fruition although he still carries some regrets about the relationship with his father, who passed away more than 20 years ago from cancer.
“I wish we had spoken about it much more,” he said about his father’s sexuality.
“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,” he continued. “Because later may be 20 years from now — and that’s too late.”
The actor keeps his father’s memory alive by preserving Sr.’s final home and studio in the SoHo section of New York City.
“It was the only way to keep his being, his existence, alive,” De Niro told Out. “To me, he was always a great artist.”