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Watch: Robert De Niro’s Blunt, Inspiring Speech to 2015 Graduates of Tisch School of the Arts

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“Tisch graduates, you made it,” actor Robert De Niro said Friday in his NYU Commencement address. “And you’re f—ed.”

But, as he makes clear in his 15-minute speech laced with humor, profanity and serious advice to the 2015 graduates of the Tisch School of the Arts,it couldn’t be any other way: “When it comes to the arts, passion should always trump common sense. You aren’t just following dreams, you’re reaching for your destiny. You’re a dancer, a singer, a choreographer, a musician, a filmmaker, a writer, a photographer, a director, a producer an actor — an artist. Yeah, you’re fucked. The good news is that’s not a bad place to start.”

A selection of De Niro’s advice:
Accept the “lifetime of rejection” that comes with the field. “There will be times when your best isn’t good enough. There can be many reasons for this, but as long as you give your best, it’s okay.” Say “Next” and move on.

Accept that you’re not in charge: “The way the director gets to be right is you help him or her be right. … You’ve been hired because the director saw something in your audition, your reading, in you that fit their concept. You may be given the opportunity to try it your way, but the final decision will be the director’s. … It’s best when you can work it out together.”

Collaborate. “As a director or a producer, you also have to be true to yourself and to the work. … The power doesn’t come from the title, the power comes from trust, respect, vision, work and again, collaboration. You’ll probably be harder on yourself than any director. I’m not telling you to go easy on yourselves, I assume you didn’t pick this life because you thought it would be easy. ”

Network. “Treasure the associations and friendships and working relationships,” he said, citing the nine films that he has made with director Martin Scorsese, with more to come. But De Niro, 71, is open to developing new working relationships: “I’m here to hand out my pictures and resumes to the directing and producing graduates.”

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About New York Theater
Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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