"You made it," actor Robert De Niro told New York University's Tisch School of the Arts graduates on Friday. "And you're f***ed."
The reality check to aspiring actors, dancers and others with creative degrees in the opening lines of De Niro's commencement speech received an uproarious applause.
"The graduates in accounting? They all have jobs," the legendary actor continued. "Where does that leave you? Envious of those accountants? I doubt it. They had a choice. Maybe they were passionate about accounting but I think it's more likely that they used reason and logic and common sense to reach for a career that could give them the expectation of success and stability. Reason, logic, common sense at the Tisch School of Arts? Are you kidding me? But you didn't have that choice, did you? You discovered a talent, developed an ambition and recognized your passion."
That aversion to practical thinking, he told students, is what will make them successful.
"When it comes to the arts, passion should always trump common sense," De Niro told the new alums. "You aren't just following dreams, you're reaching for your destiny. You're a dancer, a singer, a choreographer, a musician, a filmmaker, a writer, a photographer, a director, a producer, an actor, an artist. Yeah, you're f***ed. The good news is that that's not a bad place to start."
De Niro, a two-time Oscar winner, warned students to expect rejection and to not take it personally, like when he jokingly found out he couldn't play Martin Luther King Jr. in "Selma."
In the end, he sounded confident that the Tisch graduates will get their big breaks.
"I'm here to hand out my pictures and resumes to the directing and producing graduates."