Robert De Niro has had a fulfilling career in Hollywood, earning the reputation as one of the greatest actors of all time due to his multiple award wins, including two Oscars. Despite his success on-screen, De Niro has maintained a private personal life, having been married twice and ending his second marriage with Grace Hightower in 2018.
Recently, new information has surfaced regarding their divorce, with De Niro’s ex-wife shedding light on the situation. Additionally, according to De Niro’s lawyer, the actor is being compelled to work to support Hightower’s opulent lifestyle.
It’s common for actors to marry other celebrities within the entertainment industry, with it being less common for them to marry someone outside of the business.
Robert De Niro – Grace Hightower
Being with someone who understands the pressures of being recognized everywhere can make it easier to cope with. However, despite the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, things are rarely straightforward.
Just like regular people, marriages in the entertainment industry can break down. While some unions end quickly, others have stood the test of time, such as Mark Harmon and his wife Pam Dawber, who have been married for over 30 years.
Robert De Niro is another actor with long-lasting marriages, having been married twice. His second marriage to Grace Hightower lasted 21 years and ended in 2018. Although he has been rumored to be dating someone new, it seems that his ex-wife’s lavish lifestyle is causing issues even three years after their split.
Before delving into De Niro’s personal life, it’s worth taking a look at his lengthy and successful career.
Robert De Niro – early life
Robert De Niro was born on August 17, 1943, in New York City. Both of his parents were accomplished artists, with his mother being a talented painter and his father working as a painter and poet.
From a young age, De Niro was enamored with movies and often accompanied his father to the theater, particularly enjoying films featuring Greta Garbo. Thanks to his mother’s job as a copyeditor for a dramatic workshop, he was able to attend acting classes for free and made his stage debut at the age of 10 as the lion in The Wizard of Oz.
De Niro was eventually accepted into the prestigious High School of Music and Art in New York, but he dropped out just days later as he felt unprepared. At 16, he realized that he wanted to pursue a career in acting and his mother used the money she had saved for his college tuition to support his dream. He studied acting at the Conservatory of Acting, where he was taught by the renowned actress Stella Adler.
Despite his success, De Niro did not feel like a standout student in Adler’s class. He stated, “I was totally invisible in her class, I was a student that she, I don’t think, really remembered. I took a lot from her. But I was not a special student. I was there and learned a lot.” He also noted that he has never had a mentor in his career.
Two-time Academy Award winner
De Niro regarded famous actress Stella Adler as a great teacher, although he found her to be somewhat self-absorbed. He didn’t consider anyone as his mentor, but admired actors such as Marlon Brando, James Dean, and Montgomery Clift, who possessed an intangible quality that went beyond just interpreting a character.
In 1968, De Niro made his proper debut in the movie Greetings, and later gained recognition for his role in Bang the Drum Slowly in 1973. He grew up in New York City and befriended director Martin Scorsese at a young age, and this friendship would become an essential part of his life. Scorsese gave him a part in Mean Streets, which led to De Niro’s breakthrough performance in 1974, making him one of the best actors in Hollywood.
His portrayal of Vito Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather: Part II earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and he felt that this role and award had a significant impact on his career. He said that winning an Academy Award ensured that he would continue to work as an actor.
Robert De Niro – marriages
According to De Niro, the first blockbuster-type film he remembers from his youth was The Godfather: Part I, which was followed by Jaws and then The Godfather: Part II. With the latter film, Francis Ford Coppola wanted De Niro for the role of Vito Corleone, which helped solidify his reputation as one of the best actors in the business. De Niro’s critically acclaimed performance in Taxi Driver also garnered him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, and he received additional nominations for The Deer Hunter and Raging Bull, the latter of which he won the Best Actor in a Leading Role Oscar for in 1981.
During this time, De Niro also settled down and married actress and singer Diahnne Abbott in 1976. They welcomed a son, Raphael De Niro, and Robert adopted Diahnne’s daughter Drena from a previous marriage. However, in 1988, De Niro and Diahnne divorced. Ten years later, he married actress Grace Hightower, after previously dating model Toukie Smith for eight years and having twins via in vitro fertilization and a surrogate mother. The couple first met at a London nightclub in 1987, where Hightower was working at the famous Mr. Chow restaurant.
Marriage to Grace Hightower
More than ten years later, their intimate ceremony was held at their Marbletown, New York home. Actors Harvey Keitel and Joe Pesci were among the guests.
Grace described their early relationship as an “ease-in” rather than a whirlwind. A year later, their son Elliot was born, and the couple kept their children’s lives private. In 2016, De Niro announced publicly that Elliot had been diagnosed with autism and advocated for open discussion on the causes of the condition.
However, their marriage eventually broke down, and De Niro filed for divorce in 1999, citing a lack of effort on his part. A custody battle ensued, but before it became too bitter, the couple reconciled and renewed their vows in 2004 with the presence of Meryl Streep, Martin Scorsese, and Ben Stiller.
Throughout their marriage, Grace pursued her career as an actress, singer, and entrepreneur, even starting her own coffee brand, Coffee of Grace.
Divorced in 2018
After welcoming their daughter, Helen, in 2011, De Niro and Hightower’s renewed bond was not meant to last forever. In November 2018, the couple announced their split after being married for 20 years.
Although De Niro has diversified his interests, investing in successful ventures like Nobu, Tribeca Grill, and the Greenwich Hotel in New York City, he was not immune to the pandemic’s financial impact. According to his lawyer, the actor now has to work to provide for himself and his ex-wife, whom he honors as a wonderful mother, during this difficult time of transition in their relationship. De Niro has become an entrepreneur, branching out beyond his acting career to invest in successful ventures, such as restaurants and hotels.
Robert De Niro “forced to work”
The specifics of the divorce settlement between De Niro, 77, and his former wife are not public knowledge. However, news outlets suggest that the actor is struggling to maintain his ex-wife’s lavish lifestyle. According to Page Six, De Niro’s lawyer, Caroline Krauss, claims that Hightower has an insatiable thirst for Stella McCartney and has even purchased a diamond ring worth more than $1 million. Business Insider reported that De Niro reduced Hightower’s monthly credit card limit from $100,000 to $50,000 to curb her spending habits.
A legal battle is now underway, and De Niro is losing a lot of money. According to Krauss, his restaurants have lost millions due to the pandemic. “Mr. De Niro is 77 years old, and while he loves his craft, he should not be forced to work at this prodigious pace because he has to,” Krauss told a Manhattan judge during a virtual divorce hearing, as reported by Page Six.
Fires back against the actor
“When will he have the opportunity to stop? When can he refuse to take every project that comes his way and not work 12-hour days for six days a week to keep up with Ms. Hightower’s desire for Stella McCartney?” Krauss continued. “He could become ill tomorrow, and it would all be over.”
However, Hightower’s attorney Kevin McDonough responded to De Niro’s claims by stating that talk of his financial situation being in shambles is “ridiculous.”
“I don’t believe that a man who has publicly stated that he is worth $500 million and earns $30 million a year suddenly needs to reduce [spousal support] by 50% in March and ban her from the house,” McDonough said.
Only time will tell who will win in court, Robert De Niro or his ex-wife Grace Hightower. What are your thoughts on this? Please share your opinion in the comments section.