We wouldn’t expect Robert De Niro to sugar-coat things.
And the Oscar winner didn’t when he addressed the graduates at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts on Friday.
Speaking to the actors, dancers, writers, directors, photographers and filmmakers, the 71-year-old listed all the other graduates, like doctors, who are leaving school with jobs and told the group of artists, “You’re f—ed.”
“You discovered a talent, developed an ambition and recognized your passion,” he said in his commencement speech (which can be watched here). “When you feel that, you can’t fight it, you just go with it. When it comes to the arts, passion should always trump common sense. You aren’t just following dreams, you’re reaching for your destiny.”
He told the graduates that now that they’ve “succumbed” to their choice, their path is clear, but “not easy.”
“You have to keep working, it’s that simple,” he said. “A new door is opening for you – a door to a lifetime of rejection.”
But then he lightened the mood by telling the audience at N.Y.C.’s Madison Square Garden that he felt that sting of rejection when he auditioned for the role of Martin Luther King in Selma.
He didn t get the part, “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 you know she was right. It seems the director is always right.”
De Niro then shared a couple of real stories before suggesting that the grads adopt a new mantra, motto, battle cry – “Next!” – which should be shouted when “you didn’t get that part,” adding, “As long as you give your best, it s okay.”
He also revealed the advice that he gives his six kids: Don’t go to acting school, “get an accounting degree instead,” he joked before clarifying, “As corny as it sounds, I say, ‘Don’t be afraid to fail.’ I urge them to take chances, to keep an open mind, to welcome new experiences and new ideas. I tell them that if you don’t go, you’ll never know. You just have to go out there, be bold and go out there and take your chances.”