Robert De Niro brought his infamously frank brand of humor to the NYU Tisch graduating class of 2015 last week.
As the guest speaker for this year’s ceremony at Madison Square Garden, the academy award-winning actor stepped up to the podium with a meek demeanor, lulling the class, professors and guests into a false sense of security, as he fumbled for a tissue in his pocket and proceeded to blow his nose while the crowd waited patiently. That was the conclusion of all pretense, as he launched into his tough love talk about the future of a class full of creative individuals. After a round of thank you’s, De Niro cut right to the chase, “Tisch graduates, you made it…and you’re f***ed!”
The Raging Bull actor went on to explain that there is no “reason, logic or common sense” in choosing a career in the arts. “You discovered a talent, developed an ambition, and recognized your passion. When you feel that, you can’t fight it – you just go with it. When it comes to the arts, passion should always trump common sense.”
The 71-year-old’s speech was inspirational, yet daunting, as he repeatedly drove home the point that embarking on a creative career path is not for the faint of heart. The Tribeca Film Festival co-founder joked, “A new door is opening for you. A door to a lifetime of rejection. It’s inevitable. It’s what graduates call the real world. … How do you cope with it? I hear that Valium and Vicodin work.”
At the end of his speech, De Niro revealed that he was really there to “hand out my pictures and resume to the directing and producing graduates.” After an appreciative uproar of laughter, he concluded with the customary artists good luck wish, telling the graduates to “Break a leg!”
Hopefully the NYU Tisch graduating class retains their sense of humor and pushes through the imminent challenges of a career in the arts, as recommended by The Godfather himself.