Robert De Niro made use of his Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award acceptance speech to do something he seems to love: Get political.
The actor was presented Sunday with the performers union’s top accolade at the 26th Annual SAG Awards because of his “extraordinary depth and ability,” according to a statement by Gabrielle Carteris, president of SAG-AFTRA.
“The characters he creates captivate our imaginations. From the smoldering inferno of young Vito Corleone to the raging bull Jake Lamotta and everybody’s grandpa Ben Whittaker, he continues to touch our hearts and open our minds to new and exciting worlds of understanding and emotion,” Carteris said.
After an introduction by Leonardo DiCaprio and a montage featuring his most iconic roles in films like “Taxi Driver” and “Goodfellas,” the star of 2019′s “The Irishman” addressed the art of acting and thanked SAG-AFTRA for “tirelessly fighting” for actors’ rights.
De Niro added that those efforts are particularly important “these days when there’s so much hostility towards unions.”
“Political leaders who support unions are more likely to support the Affordable Care Act, equitable taxes, humane immigration regulation, a safe environment, a diverse citizenry, reproductive rights, sensible gun control, and fair wages and benefits,” said the actor. “We owe them our support, and we owe them our vote.”
After acknowledging that many people don’t want to hear him talk about politics, De Niro expressed that “we’re in such a dire situation, so deeply concerning to me and to so many others” that he felt he had to say something.
“There’s right and there’s wrong and there’s common sense and there’s abuse of power. And as a citizen, I have as much right as anybody ― an actor, an athlete, a musician, anybody else ― to voice my opinion, and if I have a bigger voice because of my situation, I’m going to use it whenever I see a blatant abuse of power. And that’s all I’m going to say about that tonight,” he said.
De Niro went on to thank his family and colleagues and exited the stage.
While on the red carpet during the award pre-show, the 76-year-old was notably non-politically focused and said that he was “honored to get the award.”
“It’s that simple. To be honored by your peers ... I don’t even know what to say,” he said.