Raging Bull is a 1980 biopic on Jack La Motta and directed by Martin Scorsese. Paul Schrader and Mardik Martin wrote the script from the memoir Raging Bull: My Story.
The ageing boxer in the beginning sequence alludes to the “I shouda have been a contender” scene from On The Waterfront complaining that his brother should have been there for him. Terry Malloy also suffered the indignity of taking a dive as he did but Terry exuded a nobility that transcended his circumstances. Jack La Motto was paranoiac, foul mouthed and with a taste for underage girls. Then Terry was pure make-believe while the boxer was large as life. Mardik Martin wrote the script in a conventional manner closer in spirit to the biography. Paul Schrader made several changes to the script, one of which was to make the role of Joey La Motta, Jake’s brother, the second most prominent character. Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro also had a hand in rewriting the script until they had the film as they wanted. Opening sequence has La Motta (Robert De Niro) practicing his 1960s night-club act, and over the hill and in girth( Reportedly the production was shut down so that De Niro could gain 50-plus pounds) Then the film flashes back to 1940s New York, when Jake’s career was on the rise.
The film stars Robert De Niro as Jake LaMotta who won deservedly Oscar for his acting. Jack is shown as a temperamental and paranoid but tenacious boxer (a lifesaver considering all those pent up bile and stress) alienates himself from his friends and family. Also featured in the film are Joe Pesci as Joey, La Motta’s brother and manager, and Cathy Moriarty as his abused wife. The film features supporting roles from Nicholas Colasanto, Theresa Saldana, and Frank Vincent, who has starred in many films directed by Martin Scorsese. After receiving mixed initial reviews, it went on to garner a high critical reputation and is now widely regarded as one of the greatest movies ever made, along with the pair’s other famed collaboration from that era, Taxi Driver (1976).
The film won eight Oscar nominations but won only two: Robert De Niro (acting) and Thelma Schoonmaker(editing). Award for Best Picture went in favor of Robert Redford and Ordinary People. Raging Bull has often been cited as the best American film of the 1980s.
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Produced by Robert Chartoff
Written by Paul Schrader
Starring Robert De Niro
Cinematography Michael Chapman
Editing by Thelma Schoonmaker
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) 14 November 1980 (US)
19 February 1981 (UK)
Running time 129 minutes
Country United States
Budget $18,000,000 (est.)
Champion (1949, Mark Robson)
Requiem for a Heavyweight (1956, Alvin Rakoff)
The Set-Up (1949, Robert Wise)
Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962, Ralph Nelson)
Pugili (1995, Lino Capolicchio)
Cobb (1994, Ron Shelton)
Dempsey (1983, Gus Trikonis)
The Prizefighter and the Lady (1933, W.S. Van Dyke)
Rocky V (1990, John G. Avildsen)
Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956, Robert Wise)
Movies with the Same Personnel
New York, New York (1977, Martin Scorsese)
Mean Streets (1973, Martin Scorsese)
The King of Comedy (1983, Martin Scorsese)
GoodFellas (1990, Martin Scorsese)
‘Round Midnight (1986, Bertrand Tavernier)
Who’s That Knocking at My Door? (1968, Martin Scorsese)
New York Stories (1989, Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese)
A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese through American Movies (1995, Martin Scorsese, Michael Henry Wilson)
Other Related Movies
is featured in: A Decade Under the Influence (2003, Ted Demme, Richard LaGravenese)
is related to: Taxi Driver (1976, Martin Scorsese)
Body and Soul (1947, Robert Rossen)
Fat City (1972, John Huston)
The Great White Hope (1970, Martin Ritt)
The Harder They Fall (1956, Mark Robson)
Mean Streets (1973, Martin Scorsese)
On the Waterfront (1954, Elia Kazan)
Cape Fear (1991, Martin Scorsese)
Confessions of Tom Harris (1969, John Derek, David Nelson)
The King of Comedy (1983, Martin Scorsese)
New York, New York (1977, Martin Scorsese)
Night and the City (1992, Irwin Winkler)
The Great John L. (1945, Frank Tuttle)
On the Ropes (1999, Nanette Burstein, Brett Morgen)
( wikipedia, Allmovie.com)
* Robert De Niro read the autobiography of Jake LaMotta while filming The Godfather: Part II (1974) in 1974 and immediately saw the potential for a film to make with his collaborator, Martin Scorsese. It took over four years for De Niro to convince everyone, including Scorsese, to get on board for this film.
* Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci are really punching each other in the famous “hit me” scene.
* To achieve the feeling of brotherhood between the two lead actors, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci actually lived and trained with each other for some time before filming began. Ever since then, the two have been very close friends.
* Sound effects for punches landing were made by squashing melons and tomatoes. Sound effects for camera flashes going off were sounds of gunshots. The original tapes were deliberately destroyed by the sound technicians, to prevent then being used again.
* The scene by the chain link fence where Jake meets his girlfriend was ad-libbed.
* Robert De Niro accidentally broke Joe Pesci’s rib in a sparring scene. This shot appears in the film: De Niro hits Pesci in the side, Pesci groans, and there is a quick cut to another angle. See also Casino (1995).
* Jake (Robert De Niro) asks Joey (Joe Pesci) “Did you f*** my wife?”. Director Martin Scorsese didn’t think that Pesci’s reaction was strong enough, so he asked De Niro to say “Did you f*** your mother?”. Scorsese also did not tell Pesci that the script called for him to be attacked.
* To visually achieve Jake’s growing desperation and diminishing stature, Martin Scorsese shot the later boxing scenes in a larger ring.
* Robert De Niro gained a record 60 pounds to play the older ‘Jake La Motta’, and Joe Pesci lost weight for the same scene (De Niro’s movie weight-gain record was subsequently broken by ‘Vincent D’Onofrio (I)’, who gained 70 pounds for his role as Pvt. Lawrence in Full Metal Jacket (1987)).
* Director Cameo: [Martin Scorsese] asking Jake to go on stage.
* In preparation for his role, Robert De Niro went through extensive physical training, then entered in three genuine Brooklyn boxing matches and won two of them.
* To show up better on black-and-white film, Hershey’s chocolate was used for blood.
* The original script was vetoed by producer Stephen Bach after he told Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro that Jake LaMotta was “a cockroach”. De Niro and Scorsese took a few weeks in Italy to do an uncredited rewrite of the script, during which time the two found some sympathetic aspects of La Motta, which eventually satisfied the producers.
* According to Martin Scorsese, the script took only two weeks to write on the island of St Martin in the Caribbean.
* Was voted the third greatest sports movie of all time after Rocky (1976) and Bull Durham (1988) by ESPN.
* Although only a few minutes of boxing appear in the movie, they were so precisely choreographed that they took six weeks to film.
* Joe Pesci, at the time a frustrated, struggling actor, had to be persuaded to make the film rather than return to the musical act he shared with fellow actor Frank Vincent.
* Martin Scorsese’s father Charles Scorsese is one of the mob wiseguys crowding the LaMotta brothers at a Copa nightclub table.
* While preparing to play Jake LaMotta, Robert De Niro actually met with La Motta and became very well acquainted with him. They spent the entire shoot together so De Niro could portray his character accurately. La Motta said that De Niro has the ability to be a contender, and that he would have been happy to be his manager and trainer.
* Actor John Turturro makes his film debut as the man at table at Webster Hall. Both Turturro and Robert De Niro have played characters named Billy Sunday. De Niro as Master Chief Leslie W. ‘Billy’ Sunday in Men of Honor (2000), and Turturro as Coach Billy Sunday in He Got Game (1998).
* Beverly D’Angelo auditioned for the role of Jake’s wife, Vicki LaMotta. She also auditioned for the role of Patsy Cline in Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980) at around the same time. Martin Scorsese chose Cathy Moriarty (whom the producers saw before D’Angelo), freeing D’Angelo to appear in “Coal Miner’s Daughter”.
* The role of Jake’s wife was the last to be cast.
* Sharon Stone also auditioned for the role of Vicki LaMotta.
* Martin Scorsese claims that nothing should be read into his using the On the Waterfront (1954) quote. Jake LaMotta, in his declining years, used to appear on stage reciting dialogue from television plays and even reading William Shakespeare. According to Scorsese, he’d planned to use something from “Richard III” (because in the corresponding real-life event LaMotta used it), but director Michael Powell suggested that “Richard III” wouldn’t work in the context of the film because the film in general and LaMotta in particular are inherently American. Scorsese picked the lines from “On the Waterfront”.
* Some scenes and phrases are from On the Waterfront (1954) because Jake LaMotta admired Marlon Brando’s character and used to quote the movie in real life.
* Martin Scorsese was worried about the On the Waterfront (1954) recitation because he knew he’d be inviting critical comparison between the scene in this film and the original film’s scene. Robert De Niro read it in various ways. Scorsese chose the take in which the recitation is extremely flat specifically to mute the comparison, and to suggest that it is simply a recitation and not indicative of how Jake LaMotta felt about his brother.
* No original music was composed for the film. All of the music was taken from the works of an Italian composer named Pietro Mascagni. Martin Scorsese selected it because it had a quality of sadness to it that he felt fit the mood of the film.
* The biblical quote at the end of the film (“All that I know is that I was blind, and now I can see”) was a reference to Martin Scorsese’s film professor, to whom the film was dedicated. The man died just before the film was released. Scorsese credits his teacher with helping him “to see”.
* The home movie sequences were in color to make them stand out from the rest of the film. Another reason was the feeling of reality, because at the particular time represented by the home movies, 8mm color home movie cameras were very popular.
* The rooftop wedding scene was directed by Martin Scorsese’s father after he fell ill while filming.
* In 1978, when Martin Scorsese was at an all-time low due to a near overdose resulting from an addiction to cocaine, Robert De Niro visited him at the hospital and told him that he had to clean himself up and make this movie about a boxer. At first, Scorsese refused (he didn’t like sports movies anyway), but due to De Niro’s persistence, he eventually gave in. Many claim (including Scorsese) that De Niro saved Scorsese’s life by getting him back into work.
* Was voted the 5th Greatest film of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
* When the real Jake LaMotta saw the movie, he said it made him realize for the first time what a terrible person he had been. He asked the real Vicki “Was I really like that?”. Vicki replied “You were worse.”
* Martin Scorsese had trouble figuring out how he would cut together the scene when La Motta last fights Robinson (in particular when he is up against the ropes getting beaten). He used the original shot-list from the shower sequence in Psycho (1960) to help him figure it out. Scorsese later commented that it helped most in that the scene was the most horrific to him.
* According to Martin Scorsese in the “Raging Bull” DVD, this was going to be one of eight boxing movies to come out in 1980.
* Martin Scorsese shunned the idea of filming the boxing scenes with multiple cameras. Instead, he planned months of carefully choreographed movements with one camera. He wanted the single camera to be like “a third fighter”.
* Robert De Niro’s performance as Jake LaMotta is ranked #10 on Premiere Magazine’s 100 Greatest Performances of All Time (2006).
* Neither Director of Photography Michael Chapman nor Martin Scorsese could get the right look for the amateur LaMotta home movies that comprise the only color sequences in “Raging Bull”. Both men gave in to their natural instincts for camera placement and framing, which was the antithesis of what they wanted to achieve. They solved the problem by asking Teamsters working on the set to handle the camera in order to give the 16mm film the appropriate feel of amateur home movies.
* Jake LaMotta’s autobiography, co-written with friend ‘Peter Savage’, omitted mention of his brother, as did Mardik Martin’s original screenplay. Unhappy with the result, the producers hired Paul Schrader to restructure it, and in the course of doing research on La Motta, the writer came across an article on the relationship between Jake and his brother Joey LaMotta. Schrader incorporated the relationship into the revised screenplay, co-opting the Savage character and creating a composite of the two men in the person of Joey La Motta. That relationship became the central plot theme in the revised screenplay and one of the primary reasons for the film’s success.
* Frank Vincent also plays a character named Batts in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas (1990).
* According to Martin Scorsese on the DVD, when first screening some test 8mm footage of Robert De Niro sparring in a ring, he felt that something was off about the image. Michael Powell, who at that time had become something of a mentor and good friend to Scorsese, suggested that it was the color of the gloves that was throwing them off. Realizing this was true, Scorsese then decided the movie had to be filmed in black and white.
* The f-word is used 114 times in this film.
* In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #4 Greatest Movie of All Time.
* Ranked #1 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 10 greatest films in the genre “Sports” in June 2008.
* Was voted the 4th best film of all time in AFI’s 10th anniversary of the 100 Years… 100 Movies series.
* ‘Nicholas Colasonto”s character, Tommy Como, is based on the real-life mobster Frankie Carbo, who basically ran all boxing in New York City during the 1940s and ’50s. He eventually was sent to prison for conspiracy and extortion after being prosecuted by U.S. Attorney General Bobby Kennedy.
* Cathy Moriarty’s film debut.(imdb)
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