De Niro takes shot at Trump at SAG awards

Robert De Niro has received a Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement award.
Robert De Niro has received a Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement award.

Robert De Niro, considered one of the finest motion picture performers of his generation, has been saluted with a lifetime achievement award from his acting peers, and used the event to take a veiled jab at US President Donald Trump.

The two-time Academy Award winner and star of Oscar-nominated mob film The Irishman received the annual Screen Actors Guild (SAG) tribute celebrating a 50-year career in films ranging from dramas like The Deer Hunter, Raging Bull and The Godfather: Part II to comedies such as Meet the Parents and Silver Linings Playbook.

Stepping onto the stage to a rousing standing ovation and cheers at the Shrine Auditorium on Sunday evening, De Niro took another swipe at Trump, without mentioning him by name, as the president faces a Senate trial this week on impeachment charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

"There's right, and there's wrong and there's common sense, and there's abuse of power, and as a citizen I have as much right as anyone else ... to voice my opinion," the actor said.

"And if I have a bigger voice because of my situation, I'm going to use it whenever I see a blatant abuse of power. And that's all I'm going say about that tonight."

He then went on to thank his "comrades in arms" for bestowing the life achievement honour, presented by the SAG-AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Actors) union.

The versatile 76-year-old actor has more than 100 films to his credit and has emerged as one of Trump's most vocal critics outside of political circles.

In 2018, he launched an expletive-laden attack on Trump on live television as a presenter on stage of the Tony Awards for Broadway theatre. Trump responded on Twitter by calling De Niro "a very low-key individual."

A frequent collaborator with director Martin Scorsese, De Niro built his career with haunting portrayals of loners and tough guys - a deranged ex-convict in Cape Fear, a disturbed vigilante in Taxi Driver, a disillusioned Vietnam War veteran in Deer Hunter, a ruthless gangster in Goodfellas.

A method actor and perfectionist who trained at the Stella Adler Conservatory and the American Workshop and with Lee Strasberg, De Niro earned a reputation for intense preparation.

He learned to speak a Sicilian dialect to play the young mobster Vito Corleone in The Godfather: Part II, a role that earned him his first Oscar in 1975.

And he famously gained 27 kilos for his second Oscar-winning performance as boxing great Jake LaMotta in 1980's Raging Bull.

He also found success playing his hard-bitten screen image for laughs, in such comedic roles as an insecure mob boss in Analyse This and a retired CIA operative in Meet the Fockers.

De Niro joins previous SAG lifetime recipients including Alan Alda, Elizabeth Taylor, Morgan Freeman, Clint Eastwood and Debbie Reynolds.

Australian Associated Press