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Robert De Niro's first impression of Leonardo DiCaprio: 'That kid had something special'

Robert De Niro's first impression of Leonardo DiCaprio: 'That kid had something special' credit:Bang Showbiz
Robert De Niro's first impression of Leonardo DiCaprio: 'That kid had something special' credit:Bang Showbiz

Robert De Niro knew Leonardo DiCaprio was special as soon as they met.

The pair - who have starred in three movies together over the past 30 years - first met when Leonardo auditioned for the 1993 drama 'This Boy's Life', which also starred De Niro.

Although Leonardo, now 49, had not auditioned for the central role of Tobias, Robert told the producer how impressed he was by the young actor's audition.

He told PEOPLE: "I said to Art Linson, the producer, I said, ‘Art, that kid was really, it was interesting.’ I didn't push it. I just said, ‘That kid had something special,’ and then they turned around and wound up using Leo."

Robert, 80, and Leonardo went on to work with each other on the 1996 drama 'Marvin’s Room' and the 2023 western crime drama film 'Killers of the Flower Moon'.

Speaking about their 'Killers of the Flower Moon' characters, where he played the nephew of De Niro's character, Leonardo recently told Deadline: "I happened to have done a film [titled] 'This Boy's Life' where I had an abusive stepfather in De Niro. So it was this insanely coincidental, full circle, sort of similar relationship.

"It felt like I was stepping into the same or a similar character 30 years later, grown up. [De Niro] was still [playing] this abusive character. He was the abusive stepfather.

"Developing Ernest [DiCaprio's character] was interesting because out of all the stuff that I researched — all his writings, all the testimony, speaking to relatives in Oklahoma — the one resounding consistent element was that this man was quite slow and easily manipulated, that [De Niro's character] Hale had this mental stronghold over him."

He also spoke about the thrill he got from working with De Niro and director Martin Scorsese and the awe he felt at the "dual relationship between actor and filmmaker".

He said: "It's all we spoke about in our younger age. And to be able to have gotten to have my first opportunity working with Mr. De Niro on 'This Boy’s Life', and then have him refer me to Marty saying, 'Here’s this kid, I just worked with him.' And then having done, what is it, six films with [Scorsese] now? Something like that.

"And then 30 years later now, getting to work with both of them, my two sort of cinematic heroes, and creating this entire story and narrative in these characters was, needless to say, one of the highlights of my entire career and life."