Tisch Graduates, De Niro is Talking to You

Tribeca Film Festival founder keeps it wonderfully real during NYU Commencement address.

Robert De Niro grew up near the Tisch School of the Arts. He has made eight feature films with Martin Scorsese, Class of 1964, who met editor Thelma Schoonmaker at Tisch.

On Friday, De Niro followed 2014 Tisch Commencement speaker Scorsese with a wonderful, similar pep talk of his own. It’s De Niro’s best role since Silver Linings Playbook, full of memorable passages like this one:

“On this day of triumphantly graduating, 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. Well, I don’t know. You can’t be too relaxed and do what we do. And you don’t want to block the pain too much. Without the pain, what would we talk about? Though I would make an exception for having a couple of drinks, if hypothetically you had to speak to a thousand graduates and their families at a Commencement ceremony.”

Rejection may sting, De Niro admitted, but he believes that it very rarely has anything to do with the person pitching, auditioning, pleading. He then went on to recall his extensive auditioning process for the 1973 sports drama Bang the Drum Slowly.

The actor also told graduates that as he looked out at the audience, he could imagine students wearing identical, custom-made Tisch T-shirts rather than the traditional cap and gown. On the back, it would read “Rejection, it isn’t personal” and on the front, “Next!” And that’s how De Niro ended his flawless speech – with a hearty “Next!”

Two other FishbowlNY favorite inspirational lines from De Niro:

“When it comes to the arts, passion should always trump common sense. You aren’t just following dreams, you’re reaching for your destiny.”


“Don’t be obdurate.”

Previously on FishbowlNY:
An Epic Film Collaboration That Began Five Decades Ago at NYU