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Way Back When: Robert De Niro, Best Supporting Actor Nominee

Robert De Niro
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Robert De Niro is nominated for an Oscar for his performance in ‘Silver Linings Playbook,’ but today we take a look back at this legendary performer and best supporting actor nominee’s earlier work.


One of Robert De Niro’s earliest roles was in Brian De Palma’s satirical 1968 film ‘Greetings,’ which follows the lives of three friends and tackles issues like Vietnam, the Kennedy assassination, and amateur film-making. De Niro’s character is Jon Rubin, an aspiring filmmaker and peeping tom. You can check out a much younger and sort of sillier De Niro in the clip below:

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‘Sam’s Song’

So here’s an interesting story: In 1969, De Niro made a short film about some friends on a yacht, but the film was sort of pre-mumblecore and wasn’t really about anything, so it never went anywhere. Then, in 1980, Cannon Films took the footage and inserted it into another story about a guy who escapes from prison to avenge his brother’s murder, and the footage from ‘Sam’s Song’ is edited as such to imply that De Niro’s character makes child pornography. The new film was called ‘The Swap’ and was released to capitalize on De Niro’s fame. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to watch, but this three minute preview seems to be thankfully made up entirely of clips from the original ‘Sam’s Song':

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‘The Wedding Party’

De Niro reunited with Brian De Palma for the 1969 film ‘The Wedding Party,’ about a guy whose fiancee is a bit zealous about their upcoming wedding and future plans, giving him a case of serious cold feet. It’s a wacky, witty comedy shot in black and white, and you can actually watch the film in its entirety thanks to modern technology:

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‘Bloody Mama’

Exploitation master Roger Corman made this film in 1970, based on the true story of Ma’ Barker, a God-fearing woman who takes her sons on a sadistic crime spree across the south. De Niro plays Lloyd Barker, a drug addict who resorts to sniffing glue if he can’t get his hands on something better. The film and story are similar to another film Corman produced — ‘Big Bad Mama,’ which starred Angie Dickinson in a similar Ma’ Barker role, but instead of sons, she has daughters. At the time, filmmakers were heavily capitalizing on the success of ‘Bonnie and Clyde,’ inspiring an influx of dozens of Depression-era crime spree tales.

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‘Hi, Mom!’

De Niro and De Palma continued their working relationship with ‘Hi, Mom!’ — a black comedy and follow-up to ‘Greetings,’ in which De Niro reprises the role of Vietnam vet and peeping tom Jon Rubin. This time around, Rubin moves into a new apartment and peeps on his neighbors from across the way, leading him to meet a young woman and discover black theater. The trailer:

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next: see tommy lee jones before he was famous

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