De Niro will receive the honor at the Golden Globes awards ceremony Jan. 16, actor Kevin Spacey announced at a news conference Tuesday.
De Niro has been nominated for eight Golden Globe Awards in both the comedy and drama categories, winning once for "Raging Bull." He also has won two Academy Awards (for "Raging Bull" and "The Godfather: Part II") and the Kennedy Center Honor.
Before announcing De Niro's name, Spacey — who has a gift for impersonations — gave a little clue about the winner's identity by imitating the bemused smirk that is De Niro's trademark. Spacey described him as being "universally acknowledged as one of the greatest actors of all time."
De Niro is also being hailed for his contributions as a director, as a producer through his Tribeca Productions, and as a co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, which was created to help revitalize lower Manhattan after the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center attacks.
Ricky Gervais will return as the ceremony's host. Philip Berk, president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which presents the Globes, also announced that the broadcast once again will air live coast-to-coast from the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills.