Top 10 Facts About Raging Bull

Joseph Pickett October 31, 2012 Comments Off



It has been now more than 30 years since one of the great directors of our age – Marin Scorsese – teamed up with one of the great actors of our age – Robert De Niro – to tell the story of middleweight legend Jake La Motta.

Raging Bull is now remembered as one of the great films of the late 20th century. It was based on the true story of middleweight champion Jake La Motta, and is a gripping, violent and fascinating film. Below are some facts about Raging Bull that you may not have known.

1.Where De Niro Learned About La Motta

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Robert De Niro read the memoir Raging Bull by Jake La Motta in 1974. He was in the middle of making The Godfather: Part II, and he was immediately drawn to the power of the story. It became a passion of De Niro’s to see it produced for the big screen. After four years of script drafts, arguing and persuading Martin Scorsese to direct the film, it finally went into production in late 1979. It took about one year to shoot the film, and they had to take about three months off while De Niro gained 50 pounds to look like La Motta did after he retired.

2. How They Cast Vickie

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One of the most difficult roles to cast in Raging Bull was Vickie, Jake’s second wife. The casting director auditioned hundreds of actresses, including one Sharon Stone, but could not find the desired combination of strength and sexuality. Jose Pesci noticed Cathy Moriarty in a bar. Moriarty was just a schoolgirl from the Bronx and have never acted before. The casting director for the film worked with her for two weeks before he took her to meet Martin Scorsese and De Niro.It is rather amazing to think that Moriarty had no acting experience before this film. She did quite an extraordinary job for a rookie.

3.Why The Final Fight Was Shot Like That

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Martin Scorsese wanted the horrible beating that La Motta got in his last fight with Sugar Ray Robinson to have the look and feel of a true horror film. He actually based the quick cuts in the scene on the famous shower scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho. He even used the original shot list from Alfred Hitchcock’s notes on the film. The fight has a very scary feel to it unlike anything else that has ever been shot in a boxing film.

4.How De Niro Gained All That Weight

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Robert De Niro gained more than 50 pounds for the latter parts of the film. He did it by going on a three month tour of France and Italy. While he was there, he ate three big meals every day. He made sure to eat meat, butter, ice cream, beer and plenty of pasta. He managed to gain about 60 pounds. He said later that the first 15 pounds was a lot of fun, but the rest of it was very hard work.

5. How De Niro Trained to Play a Fighter

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To get ready to play Jake La Motta, De Niro fought in several boxing matches in Brooklyn and actually a few. He also spent hundreds of rounds sparring in a gym with the real Jake La Motta. La Motta later said that De Niro was a professional quality fighter and could have actually fought for a living.

6. How They Shot The Home Movie Footage

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There are several home movie sequences in the second part of the film. They originally were shot by the cameramen on the film, but they kept framing the shots correctly. Scorsese gave the 16 mm camera to some of the set crew. They shot several minutes of shaky footage that really looked like home quality filming. Scorsese then took a coat hanger and scratched up the film to make it look rough.

7. What Happened When Jake Took Out The Hammer

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There is a scene where Jake La Motta is desperate for money and he pounds the jewels out of his title belt with a hammer. The script did not call for the dishes and crockery to start to fall off the shelves. But Robert De Niro and Moriarty did not miss a beat and they stayed in their characters. Their reactions and their lines were improvised and stayed in the final cut.

8. How The Film Was Originally Cut

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The original script of Raging Bull called for there to be cuts back and forth between the young La Motta and the La Motta in his older years. This was to happen all through the film in several flashback and flash forward sequences. However, after he edited the film in this way, Scorsese decided that he did not like it as much as he thought he would. He decided in the end that the film worked better if the older La Motta was only in the beginning and the end of the film.

9. Who Is Frank Vincent?

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In Raging Bull, one of the regular Scorsese bit actors named Frank Vincent gets a nasty beating from Joe Pesci. In 1991, Vincent again gets another terrible beating from a Joe Pesci character in Goodfellas. But, in 1995′s Casino, Vincent gets his revenge at last! He gets to beat Pesci’s character to death with a baseball bat.

10.How Joe Pesci Came From Nowhere to Win the Part of Jake’s Brother

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Joe Pesci was a failed actor by the late 1970s. He was in a small gangster film with Frank Vincent in 1976 called The Death Collector. The movie was never in theaters, and Pesci gave up on film. However, a few years later, a VHS copy of The Death Collector somehow got into the possession of Robert De Niro. He showed the film to Martin Scorsese. Both of them thought that Pesci would be fantastic to play La Motta’ brother in Raging Bull. At the time, Pesci was the manager of an Italian restaurant in New York City when Scorsese came calling and offered him the part. His work in the film was widely praised, and he went on to win the Best Supporting Actor award for the film Goodfellas in 1991.

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