Robert De Niro gave graduates of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts program a reality check, delivering a commencement speech they'll likely never forget.

"Tisch graduates, you made it," congratulated the two-time Academy Award winner and keynote speaker on Friday. "And, you're f--cked." 

Known for tough-guy roles in movies such as The Godfather Part II and Raging Bull, De Niro's salty comments at the commencement elicited rapturous applause from the class of aspiring artists, actors and filmmakers marking the occasion at Madison Square Garden.

De Niro, a proud New Yorker who won his first Academy Award in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather Part II, wanted to prepare the Class of 2015 for the rough road ahead.

"Think about that," added De Niro, "the graduates from the college of nursing, they all have jobs."

"The graduates from the college of dentistry, fully employed," observed the 71-year-old, who said those students used reason, logic and common sense when selecting their careers.

"But when it comes to the arts, passion should always trump common sense," proclaimed De Niro, who dropped out of high school at 16 to pursue acting.

"The good news is, that's not a bad place to start."