Robert De Niro delivered the commencement speech to graduates of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts on Friday, opening up his remarks with a blunt warning: “You’re f***ed.”
The Oscar-winning actor grinned as he told the film, art, and media graduates at the Theater at Madison Square Garden that while those with degrees in law and business “used reason and logic and common sense to research a career,” the art school graduates would “have to keep working” to find steady employment.
“You discovered a talent, developed an ambition and recognized your passion,” De Niro said, according to the Associated Press. “When you feel that, you can’t fight it. Just go with it. When it comes to the arts, passion should always trump common sense.”
“You’re an artist – yeah, you’re f***ed,” the actor continued. “The good news is that’s not a bad place to start.”
De Niro, who won an Academy Award for both 1975’s The Godfather: Part II and 1981’s Raging Bull, also offered up some tips on how to make it in Hollywood, according to the Hollywood Reporter. He warned the graduates about facing a “lifetime of rejection,” but said “you don’t want to block the pain too much.”
Rejection might sting, but my feeling is that often, it has very little to do with you. When you’re auditioning or pitching, the director or producer or investor may have someone different in mind, that’s just how it is. That happened recently when I was auditioning for the role of Martin Luther King in Selma! Which was too bad because I could’ve played the hell out of that part. I felt it was written for me! But the director had something different in mind, and she was right. It seems the director is always right.
The Oscar-winner also told graduates to use the word “Next” to move from project to project.
“You didn’t get that part? Next! You’ll get the next one or the next one after that,” he said. “I know you’re going to make it. Break a leg. Next!”
According to the New York Daily News, most of the graduates in attendance laughed off the actor’s blunt advice.
“He was just being honest,” 22-year-old graduate Jamie Jensen told the paper. “We were all just laughing. It’s so true in a way – we all joke about it. You know it going in to art school.”
But Jensen’s mother did not exactly approve of De Niro’s colorful language.
“It was right at the beginning – first line,” Maria Jensen told the paper of the actor’s many uses of expletives. “You don’t really want to use the F-bomb in front of thousands of people. That’s just my take.”