Robert De Niro unable to turn down acting roles because of his ‘estranged wife's expensive lifestyle’

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David Millward
·3 min read
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Robert De Niro - Andrew H Walker/Getty Images
Robert De Niro - Andrew H Walker/Getty Images

Hollywood legend Robert De Niro is unable to turn down acting roles because he must pay for his estranged wife's expensive tastes, the actor's lawyer has claimed.

Caroline Krauss told a Manhattan court that he is struggling financially because of the pandemic, a massive tax bill and the demands of Grace Hightower, who filed for divorce in 2018 after 21 years of marriage.

The court has been asked to settle how much De Niro should pay Ms Hightower, 66, until the terms of the prenuptial agreement the couple negotiated in 2004 takes effect.

“Mr De Niro is 77 years old, and while he loves his craft, he should not be forced to work at this prodigious pace because he has to,” Ms Krauss told the court.

“When does that stop? When does he get the opportunity to not take every project that comes along and not work six-day weeks, 12-hour days so he can keep pace with Ms Hightower’s thirst for Stella McCartney?”

Robert De Niro and Grace Hightower 
Robert De Niro and Grace Hightower

"He could get sick tomorrow, and the party’s over,” she added.

According to the New York Post, Ms Krauss accused Ms Hightower of spending vast amounts of money, including buying a diamond worth $1.2 million(£870,000) from New York jeweller Kwiat.

But Ms Hightower’s lawyer, Kevin McDonough, accused the actor of slashing his monthly payments from $375,000 (£271,000) a month to just $100,000.

Denying that De Niro was struggling financially, Mr McDonough said the actor was legally obliged to maintain Ms Hightower, with whom he had had two children, in the lifestyle she enjoyed while they were married.

“There have been no cutbacks and no slowdowns in Mr De Niro’s lifestyle whatsoever,” he added.

With De Niro also facing a $6.4 million tax bill, the actor has not had the option of being discriminating when being offered roles.

De Niro's output in a screen acting career dating back to 1965 has been prodigious, with more than 140 films to his name.

Robert De Niro in Raging Bull
Robert De Niro in Raging Bull

There have been some notable triumphs. He won the 1981 best actor Oscar for his performance as Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull, five years after being named the best supporting actor for his performance in The Godfather Part II.

However, recently his career has taken a downturn with a number of critically-panned movies.

Dirty Grandpa (2016) was savaged as racist and homophobic. The Telegraph's Robbie Collin described War with Grandpa (2020) as "Hollywood family entertainment at its most humdrum and stupefying."

He has appeared in a raft of adverts, for example, as a pastiche New York gangster promoting bagels made by the Bolton-based baker, Warburton.

In 2019 the actor lent his superstar status to promote the Kia Niro in the UK, with the advert making hay out of the similarity between his name and that of the car.

De Niro is hardly the first Hollywood star who has been forced to accept any roles offered because of an expensive divorce.

Huddersfield-born James Mason, who starred in the original A Star is Born (1945) and North by Northwest (1959), also found he could not pick and choose after he split from Pamela Ostrer and was left having to fund a $1 million settlement in 1962.

Back in court, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Matthew Cooper said, “I want to get Ms Hightower and Mr De Niro to go their separate ways.

“They will still come out of this richer than almost any human being who walks this earth."