Robert De Niro, the 79-year-old award winning actor of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull fame, has often kept his personal life rather close to his chest. But as his latest movie alongside Margot Robbie and Christian Bale, Amsterdam hits the scene, many are wondering about his family life behind the scenes. Along with being one of the most celebrated actors of his time, De Niro is also the father to six children. Over the course of his career, the actor has maintained a fairly low-key while bringing some of the most memorable characters of the big screen to life. Although De Niro rarely discusses his personal life publicly, there are some interesting facts to learn about his family, previous relationships and marriages, and his six children. Learn more about the actor’s personal life with the comprehensive timeline below.
Drena De Niro
De Niro marred Diahnne Abbot in 1976, and subsequently became the stepfather to Diahnne’s daughter from a previous marriage, Drena. Diahnne and De Niro met on the set of the 1976 film Taxi Driver, which starred De Niro in one of his most iconic roles. Drena, born September 3, 1971, took her stepfather’s last name and went on to follow in both of her parents’ footsteps.
Drena is an actress and model. Her transition to acting began in her mid-20s, when she played a receptionist in the film Grace of My Heart. Over the course of a few decades, Drena built up a strong filmography with a number of credits, including a role in 2018’s Oscar-nominated film A Star Is Born, starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, as well as a role in the film Joy, co-starring her stepfather and starring Jennifer Lawrence. Drena is close with both her mom and stepfather, and often shares a photo or two with De Niro on her Instagram page, usually posing with her own kiddos.
Raphael De Niro
Raphael De Niro is the first child between Diahnne Abbot and Robert De Niro. The couple welcomed their son on November 9, 1976. Much like his half-sister, Drena, Raphael also started his career in acting. Early on, Raphael appeared in films alongside his father, including Awakenings and Raging Bull. Although he started out in acting, Raphael made a pretty drastic career change as an adult.
Raphael went on to become a real estate broker, founding the firm De Niro Team, Douglas Elliman, described as a “real estate advisory team with 15 years of proven success in New York City resale and new development,” per their Instagram page. Of his clients, Raphael has worked with the likes of Jon Bon Jovi, Kelly Ripa, and more when it comes to their real estate pursuits. Raphael has been married twice and has children. When Raphael was just a pre-teen, his father and mother filed for divorce.
Julian & Aaron De Niro
Following his divorce from Diahnne Abbot, De Niro started dating model Toukie Smith. During their relationship, which lasted from 1988 to 1996, De Niro and Toukie welcomed twin sons, Julian and Aaron De Niro. The twin boys were conceived via in vitro fertilization, and born via surrogate in October 1995. Both Julian and Aaron are fairly private about their lives. Although they did attend red carpet events with their father and mother as youngsters, as adults they lead relatively quiet lives.
Elliot De Niro
By 1997, De Niro married his second wife, Grace Hightower. The couple welcomed their son, Elliot De Niro, in 1998. Elliot is a young person with special needs, and Grace and her husband were adamant about finding their son an outlet to enjoy and be himself. They enrolled Elliot in tennis lessons and he fell in love with the sport.
“He wasn’t crazy about it, at times,” De Niro confessed of his son’s enthusiasm for tennis in a video for ESPN. “His mother was good at pushing [him], and wanting him to be physical and work out,” De Niro went on. “He has realized, ‘Oh, I can accomplish this,’” Grace said of her son. “It has helped him socially,” she went on. “It helps him be more confident when he sees that he’s actually good at this,” De Niro said of his son’s relationship with tennis and exercising. “That’s the best self-motivator one can have. He’s gonna feel better about himself, which he does. So, it’s a win-win for everybody, especially [Elliot].”
Per Heavy, Robert revealed back in 2016 that Elliot is on the autism spectrum. He had just yanked the controversial film Vaxxed from the Tribeca Film Festival, stating that the controversial anti-vaccine film is something “everyone should see.” According to Heavy, De Niro claims via The Telegraph that Elliot “changed overnight” after having a measles vaccination administered.
While it’s clear that De Niro had Grace have a strong bond and support for their son, the couple nearly split less than three years after getting married. They initially called it quits on their marriage in 1999, but the divorce was never finalized. In 2004, De Niro and Hightower renewed their vows.
Helen De Niro
With their marriage back on track, De Niro and his wife made the decision to expand their family further. In 2011, the couple welcomed their daughter, Helen De Niro, via surrogate. Little is known about Helen, after all she is nearly 10 years old. But years after she was welcomed into the De Niro family, Helen’s parents officially made the decision to end their marriage. Grace and De Niro separated in 2018, and their divorce is very much still up in the air due to ongoing legal issues and more.
Throughout his career, De Niro has rarely discussed his personal life. But during a June 2020 appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, the actor welcomed the opportunity to talk about his children and raising them over the course of the last few decades. “My children are all half Black and I don’t have, even me, I take certain things for granted,” the actor admitted to eponymous host, Jimmy Fallon.
“When people say that they tell their kids, ‘Keep your hands [out] when you’re stopped by any cops, keep your hands on the steering wheel, don’t make a sudden move, don’t put your hands below, don’t do this,’ you understand that,” he continued, adding, “That’s scary. That has to change.”
Along with revealing such details about watching his six children navigate the world, he’s also been quite candid about how he feels when it comes to them following in his footsteps and pursuing a career in acting. “For my kids, I tell them, ‘If you want to be an actor or you want to do this or that, that’s fine as long as you’re happy,’” the actor told People. “Just don’t sell yourself short. That’s the most I would say — push yourself a little more and reach for what you really think it is you want to do. Don’t be afraid.” He was very adamant that he wanted this kids to “find their own lane.”
While he has been very reticent to discuss his six children in the past, De Niro appears to be very supportive and love them very much — like any other involved parent. “I love my children, just being with them,” the actor gushed to Us Weekly April 2019. “It’s not easy. Sometimes it’s fun and you love your kids, and sometimes you want to kill them!” Like any parent, it’s clear that Robert De Niro’s relationships with his six children have been totally unique, but also familiar for his longtime fans who might be parents, too.