Robert De Niro in Oscar hunt: ‘The Comedian’ gets December release from Sony Pictures Classics

Two-time Oscar champ Robert De Niro [“The Godfather: Part II” (1974); “Raging Bull” (1980)] is making a run for that long-awaited third trophy this year with Sony Pictures Classics set to release his starring vehicle “The Comedian” in late December.

De Niro plays an insult comic sentenced to community service for attacking a heckler. Two-time Tony winner Patti LuPone plays his harried wife, Emmy winner Danny DeVito is his supportive brother and DeNiro’s long-time pal Harvey Keitel is the father of a woman (Leslie Mann) who reignites his career.

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De Niro first teamed up with “The Comedian” screenwriter Art Linson when the latter was a producer on “The Untouchables” back in 1987; that crime drama won Sean Connery an Oscar for his featured role. In 2008, DeNiro headlined “What Just Happened,” a deft satire that was Linson’s first screenplay. “The Comedian” is his sophomore script and has been in development for a few years.

At the helm of this comedy-drama is Taylor Hackford, who directed Jamie Foxx to an Oscar in “Ray” in 2004. That biopic reaped Hackford bids as both producer and director. He won an Academy Award way back in 1978 for his Live Action Short “Teenage Father” (1978).

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De Niro has contended four more times for Best Actor at the Oscars: “Taxi Driver” (1976), “The Deer Hunter” (1978), “Awakenings” (1990) and “Cape Fear” (1991). After a 21-year gap, he earned a Supporting Actor nomination for “Silver Linings Playbook” in 2012. Should he reap bid #8 for “The Comedian,” he will move up on the all-time Oscar nominations list to the eighth spot, tied with Marlon Brandon, Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Geraldine Page and Peter O’Toole.

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