Show Business: The Quiet Chameleon

"Yeah, well... I think that... umm ... you know ... uh-hah." Actor Robert DeNiro is not voluble. Nor, offscreen, is he particularly visible. Lean, with lanky brown hair and narrow, green-brown eyes, a pallid face by turns near-handsome and homely, he has the protective coloration of a chameleon.

But turn a camera or raise a curtain on him and the reticent, barely descript DeNiro undergoes a metamorphosis. In Bang the Drum Slowly, he remade himself into a slovenly, Southern-bumpkin, baseball player; in Mean Streets, into a jittery, petty street hoodlum. Now, with his...

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