Friday, 1 Mar 2024

De Niro: Why do stars need to prove it's never too late to procreate?

JANET STREET-PORTER: Keep it in your elasticated trousers, Robert! As De Niro celebrates becoming a dad again at 79, why do these ageing stars feel the need to prove it’s never too late to procreate?

Most seventy-something blokes that I know wear elasticated trousers to accommodate the bulge that lives where their waistline (remember that?) used to be.

They rarely mention the body part that lies below, except to complain they have to get up and pee too many times every night.

They spend their days in baggy T-shirts, comfy slippers and zip-up fleeces. Activity means doing the crossword in less than 30 minutes, not something that involves flapping your bits about in the bedroom.

Let’s be clear, there’s nothing wrong in going to seed. Ageing is not a negative – it’s unavoidable, inevitable and sometimes a little bit depressing. We’re all going to die in the end.

But a line has been crossed, a lone ranger has really put the cat among the pigeons. Dared to age disgracefully and challenge the norm.

A line has been crossed, a lone ranger has really put the cat among the pigeons. Dared to age disgracefully and challenge the norm. Pictured: Robert De Niro and his girlfriend Tiffany Chen

It’s Tiffany who has been through pregnancy and childbirth, with all the physical and mental effort involved. Pictured with newborn Gia Virginia Chen-De Niro

At an age when most men (and women) are finding their joints stiffening up and their muscles drooping, one superstar has sent out a message that shames the rest of his generation. He’s a PROUD NEW DAD for the seventh time!

Superstar Robert De Niro has refused to age like normal folk and fathered a baby just before he hits his EIGHTIETH birthday, with his (much younger) girlfriend, Tiffany Chen.

This newborn’s first view of dad will be a wrinkly face with thinning hair, a bit like her own.

Robert De Niro is a brilliant actor, a living legend, winner of two Oscars and a Golden Globe. 

Superstar Robert De Niro has refused to age like normal folk and fathered a baby just before he hits his EIGHTIETH birthday, with his (much younger) girlfriend, Tiffany Chen. Pictured: Chen on a walk with newborn Gia Virginia Chen-De Niro in New York City

This newborn’s first view of dad will be a wrinkly face with thinning hair, a bit like her own

And now he’s a one-in-a-million dad – casually telling a TV reporter this week ‘I just had a baby’ as if it was nothing more than brushing his teeth or changing the cat litter.

After six kids, does this man know what ‘having a baby’ entails? It’s not like ordering something for dinner at one of your own trendy restaurants. 

Or a cocktail with close pal Leo De Caprio. Even a tech miracle could not allow De Niro to actually ‘have’ the baby in any medical sense. 

The person doing all the behind-the-scenes work is his latest partner, martial arts expert Tiffany Chen. 

It’s Tiffany who has been through pregnancy and childbirth, with all the physical and mental effort involved. De Niro just (we assume) provided the necessary DNA and loads of encouragement.

Fatherhood is a skill this wonderful actor has spent many decades perfecting – this is his SEVENTH happy event, with his eldest children (with first wife Diahnne Abbott) Dina and Raphael, checking in at 51 and 46. 

They were joined by twins, Aaron and Julian, now 27, by his long-term partner Toukie Smith. 

The family expanded further when De Niro fathered Eliott (25) and Helen (11) with his second wife, Grace Hightower.

The person doing all the behind-the-scenes work is his latest partner, martial arts expert Tiffany Chen (left)

His current relationship is thought to have started when the star met Ms Chen – an accomplished martial arts expert – whilst making The Intern in 2015.

What makes an ageing man keep adding to his already large family? Is it a way of propping up your ego?

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Can you imagine the furore if a woman had a child at 79, using surrogates and sperm donors?

Throughout his impressive career, Robert De Niro has regularly played tough guys, men you would never want to encounter on a dark night in a back street slum. 

In films like The Godfather Part 2, Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and The Irishmen, he exemplified a brutal masculinity. 

These menacing and powerful characters were adored by millions of flabbier and less macho chaps sitting on their backsides at home watching the fights and bloodshed from the safety of the sofa.

De Niro was their hero. And for women, he was a sex symbol, without a doubt. I worshipped him. 

Marching through his sixties and seventies, he turned to comedy, playing dumb dads and confused grandads.

Amazingly, playing a geriatric on screen didn’t seem to affect De Niro’s love life. Some men amust be super-human. 

He might wear comfy shoes and loose, accomodating trousers, like most of his generation, and he might not have the trim waist and ripped physique of his thirties, but – by producing a baby at 79 – Robert Niro has sent a clear and worrying signal to all men of a certain age.

It’s never too late to procreate.

Mick Jagger (also 79) has eight children- the youngest, Deveraux, was born in 2016 to ballerina girlfriend Melanie, when Mick was 73. 

Rod Steward has eight children, with five different mothers, but his youngest son, Aiden (by Penny Lancaster), was born when Rod was 66.

Mick Jagger (also 79) has eight children- the youngest, Deveraux, was born in 2016 to ballerina girlfriend Melanie, when Mick was 73

Rod Steward has eight children, with five different mothers, but his youngest son, Aiden (by Penny Lancaster), was born when Rod was 66

With offspring that range in age from 51 to 11, De Niro will be getting their opinions on the new addition whether he likes it or not. 

He’s said he hopes to ‘expand’ the family even further, and says the baby was planned. He describes being a dad as ‘always good and mysterious…anyone can relate to that’.

It must cost a fortune to run a family this large. Education, homes, support and appropriate presents. 

Which might be why De Niro has never stopped working, shooting 19 films in the last decade. 

This year he will have four films released and he’s already committed to several in 2024. How much time does that leave to be a hands-on dad?

As he’s got older, the roles have become more stereotyped, the scripts less challenging. 

No longer the brooding gangster, he’s become the wacky senior citizen taking on the younger generation. 

Some movies have titles he might prefer to forget, like Dirty Grandad (2016) with Zac Efron – described as the ‘careless fumbling of a classic talent’. 

Or the War with Grandad (2020) – slated as ‘fitfully funny and mostly misguided’. In his new comedy – About My Father – released later this month, he plays yet another ageing relative – an Italian dad whose son is marrying an American girl.

It’s a sad truth that men can reproduce, while many women just get to do the dirty work back home and wait for the father in question to come through the door.

Although De Niro was my secret crush, I’d never swap roles with Ms Chen.

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