Robert De Niro Opens Up About His Family and His Most Famous Roles
06/07/2014 AT 12:30 PM EDT
But as he relaxes in his downtown Manhattan office, its walls covered in photos of his children and his iconic movie roles, he turns surprisingly tender when the subject turns to his father, an abstract expressionist painter who died in 1993.
Robert De Niro Sr. "was loving and affectionate," says the two-time Oscar winner, 70.
"But he wasn't the kind of dad who played baseball. He liked to take me to the movies on 42nd Street: King Kong, Beauty and the Beast."
De Niro honors his dad in the HBO documentary Remembering the Artist: Robert De Niro Sr., premiering June 9.
In the film, he reveals that his father was gay, something he discovered years after his parents separated when he was a toddler.
"He never told me," he says. "He was very private about it."
As he looks back on his five decades of acting and his own life as a dad, De Niro knows the importance of passing along memories.
"I want my children to see what their grandfather did and how he lived," he says. "It was for the family."