American actor Robert De Niro is shown at the Cannes Film Festival on May 25, 2008. He will chair the Cannes jury in 2011. ((Francois Mori/Associated Press))

Robert De Niro, the American actor known for his roles in The Godfather and Goodfellas,  will head the jury at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

De Niro won a best actor Palme d'Or in Cannes in 1976 for his breakthrough role in Taxi Driver.

Considered one of the top American actors of his generation, De Niro also earned an Oscar for the 1980 film Raging Bull.

Cannes organizers said Thursday they wanted to pay tribute to the co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival in selecting him as jury chair.

De Niro co-founded Manhattan's Tribeca Film Center in 1989 and established the Tribeca festival in 2002 in an effort to boost the economy in Manhattan after the 9/11 attacks.

In his acceptance of the job, De Niro said serving on juries in the 1980s and managing the Tribeca and Doha Tribeca Festivals had given him " an increased appreciation for the jury."

He said they undertake "an important role in choosing films that are represented in the world of film at its highest level, and these types of festivals help connect the international film community and have a lasting cultural impact."

Other members of the nine-person jury will be selected at a later date. The Cannes Film Festival runs May 11-22 in Cannes, France.