The Great Story of Al Pacino Meeting Robert De Niro for the 1st Time

By the mid-1970s, Al Pacino (b. 1940) and Robert De Niro (b. 1943) were two of the biggest actors in American cinema. Though their breakout roles had come a few years earlier, both became household names in Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather pictures.

As Michael Corleone in The Godfather (1972) and the lead in Serpico (1973), Pacino made it there first. He received Oscar nominations for both films and never looked back. But De Niro wasn’t far behind.

Though he was born three years after Pacino, De Niro had his star-making year in 1973 with Bang the Drum Slowly and Mean Streets. The following year, he’d join Pacino in The Godfather: Part II, playing a young Vito Corleone. De Niro won an Oscar for that performance and rolled from there.

Just a few years earlier, they’d been a couple of New York actors trying to make it. And they happened to meet by chance one day on the street in the East Village. Speaking to Variety about their upcoming film The Irishman, Pacino told a cool story about meeting De Niro for the first time.

Pacino randomly bumped into De Niro one day on 14th St.

Al Pacino and Robert De Niro attend First Annual Actors Studios Awards on November 5, 1980 in New York. | Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

In his conversation with the two screen legends, Variety’s Brent Lang heard about their first-ever meeting. By the description of the time — De Niro had “only appeared in a handful of low-budget films” — it was some time in the late 1960s (possibly ’69).

As Pacino was walking with his girlfriend down 14th Street west of Avenue B (right by Stuyvesant Town), he happened to bump into De Niro. Even though he hadn’t acted in a major film yet, Pacino knew him by his growing reputation on the New York scene.

De Niro told Lang he remembers the moment very clearly. As for Pacino, he had the feeling everyone would be hearing from De Niro soon. “There was something about him. He had a certain charisma. He had that look,” Pacino told Variety. “I thought, ‘That kid’s gonna go far.'”

Little did he know they’d both star in one of the biggest Hollywood films of the decade only a few years later.

‘The Irishman’ is Pacino and De Niro’s 4th film together.

Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel attend NYFF57 Opening Night Gala & World Premiere of ‘The Irishman’ on September 27, 2019. | Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

After the Godfather sequel, Pacino and De Niro found themselves often competing for the same roles. But it turned out there were enough great parts for both Manhattan-born actors.

As Pacino soared in films by Sidney Lumet (Dog Day Afternoon) and Brian De Palma (Scarface), De Niro cemented his connection with Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull).

It would be more than 20 years after The Godfather: Part II that they’d appear in the same film together (Heat, 1995). By then, they both had their Oscars and enough acclaim for a lifetime. Thirteen years later, they made the one De Niro regrets (Righteous Kill).

That brings us up to date: The Irishman will be Pacino and De Niro’s fourth film together. If it lives up to half the hype, it will be one to remember.

Also seeWhy Joe Pesci Quit Acting Until Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’