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Raging Bull (1980) Poster

(1980)

Trivia

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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 LaMotta "Was I really like that?". Vicki replied "You were worse."
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.
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.
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).
To show up better on black-and-white film, Hershey's chocolate was used for blood.
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.
The scene where Vicki LaMotta is first introduced to Jake LaMotta by the chain-linked fence was completely improvised by Cathy Moriarty and Robert De Niro.
When Martin Scorsese visited some boxing matches he was immediately struck by two images: the blood-soaked sponge wiped across the fighter's back, and the pendulous drops of blood hanging off the ropes.
Robert De Niro gained a record 60 pounds to play the older Jake LaMotta, and Joe Pesci lost weight for the same scene (De Niro's movie weight-gain record was subsequently broken by Vincent D'Onofrio, who gained 70 pounds for his role as Pvt. Lawrence in Full Metal Jacket (1987)).
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 technician Frank E. Warner, to prevent them being used again.
The reasons why the film was made in black and white were mainly to differentiate it from Rocky (1976) as well as for period authenticity. Another reason was that Martin Scorsese didn't want to depict all that blood in a color picture.
On March 31, 1981, Robert De Niro's Best Actor Oscar win created a rarity in the Academy's history, in that the real-life Jake LaMotta was in the audience witnessing the victory. That same evening Sissy Spacek won her first Best Actress Oscar for playing singer Loretta Lynn (Coal Miner's Daughter (1980)) who was also in the pavilion audience, making the gala event unique.
Martin Scorsese had trouble figuring out how he would cut together the last fight between Jake LaMotta and Sugar Ray 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.
The film was edited in Martin Scorsese's New York apartment every night after filming for the day had finished.
Jake LaMotta's brother Joseph LaMotta sued the production for US $2.5 million for the film's alleged unflattering depiction of him.
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".
Jake (Robert De Niro) asks Joey (Joe Pesci) "Did you fuck my wife?". Director Martin Scorsese didn't think that Pesci's reaction was strong enough, so he asked De Niro to say "Did you fuck your mother?". Scorsese also did not tell Pesci that the script called for him to be attacked.
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.
Most of the fight scenes are shot through an intense light source to obtain a slight mirage within the image.
In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #4 Greatest Movie of All Time.
The majority of the film with Jake LaMotta as a younger man - including the boxing scenes - were shot first. Then production shut down for several months, giving Robert De Niro enough time to bulk up for his role as the older and much fatter La Motta. In those months, De Niro gained 60 pounds. It was De Niro's idea to do it this way. These scenes were generally shot with the minimum of takes as De Niro would become exhausted much more quickly.
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".
To visually achieve Jake's growing desperation and diminishing stature, Martin Scorsese shot the later boxing scenes in a larger ring.
The cross that once hung over Martin Scorsese's parents' bed can be seen hanging over Jake LaMotta and Vicki LaMotta's bed.
Joe Pesci is actually six months older than Robert De Niro, despite playing the younger brother of De Niro's character in the film.
United Artists were very frustrated by the amount of time Martin Scorsese took during post-production, thinking he was unnecessarily slow. Scorsese took unusual care as he genuinely believed that Raging Bull (1980) would be his last film and so he didn't want to compromise his vision. Conversely, as he neared completion, he also felt that the film was a form of cinematic rebirth for him. For this reason, he dedicates the film to his film professor (from New York University) Haig Manoogian "with love and resolution". Manoogian had helped Scorsese get his first film produced.
Jodie Foster didn't audition for Raging Bull. Producers didn't find her suitable for the character of Vickie La Motta and considered her as too young and tomboyish. Despite that she still wanted to get the role. Most likely because of her admiration for De Niro and Scorsese's work. Her mom thought about a way to convince the producers that Jodie was no longer the girl from Freaky Friday or Taxi Driver anymore but a young woman. The result was a session with photographer Emilio Lari at a rented estate in Los Angeles in the Summer of 1978 when Jodie Foster was fifteen years old. The pictures taken here later found their (unauthorized) way to adult magazines during the Hinckley aftermath.
La Motta's color family home movie sequence was personally scraped by Martin Scorsese with a coat-hanger to ensure a rough, naturalistic feeling.
Robert De Niro did as many as 1000 rounds when training with the real Jake LaMotta. He thought De Niro had what it took to become a professional contender.
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.
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 boxing scenes amount to barely 10 minutes of the film's running time.
Was voted the 4th best film of all time in AFI's 10th anniversary of the 100 Years... 100 Movies series.
This differs radically from other boxing movies like Rocky (1976) and _Body and Soul_ in that the camera was inside the ring for the fight scenes, not outside the ropes.
Cathy Moriarty's hair was set with corn syrup which caused problems in the exterior scenes because bees were attracted to it.
Thelma Schoonmaker's husband, director Michael Powell, was consulted about the weight gain scenes. In Powell's 1943 film The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), the lead character gets significantly bigger during the course of the movie. Martin Scorsese and 'Robert de Niro' were curious how the actor Roger Livesey had achieved that effect. Powell informed them that Livesay had gotten bigger through careful use of camera angles, shaving his hair to make his head appear larger and judicious use of padding. Scorsese and de Niro felt that the film was too realistic to get away with that kind of effect so the decision was made for de Niro to physically bulk up through overeating.
Martin Scorsese was at one stage so startled by Robert De Niro's weight gain that he shut down production, fearing for the actor's health.
According to DP Michael Chapman, the actual fight scenes were filmed at the normal 24fps rate. For scenes where Jake retires to his corner between rounds, Chapman gradually overcranked his camera by 'ear' from 24fps up to 48fps as Jake walked away (simultaneously adjusting the diaphragm to maintain exposure consistency), and then reversed procedure as Jake emerged from his corner to resume fighting - all in one shot. For the scene where Jake is doused with water in his corner, Chapman overcranked anywhere from 96fps to 120fps.
When Paul Schrader was working on the script, he put in numerous shocking moments such as Jake LaMotta masturbating and dipping his penis into a bucket of ice. Schrader later admitted that the film held less personal significance to him than it did for Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese and he added the shocking material just to see what he could get past the studio. Ultimately, the masturbation was cut and, instead of putting his penis into the ice, La Motta pours the ice down his underwear.
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.
The role of Jake LaMotta's wife was the last to be cast.
According to Martin Scorsese, the script took only two weeks to write on the island of St Martin in the Caribbean.
Although only a few minutes of boxing appear in the movie, they were so precisely choreographed that they took six weeks to film.
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", which was a favorite recital source for LaMotta in real life.
Paul Schrader was directing Hardcore (1979) when Robert De Niro talked to him about needing help with a script. The first thing Schrader did was drive down to Key West and check the archives of a local newspaper. It was there that he learned that there were two La Mottas, something which is not referenced in Jake LaMotta's autobiography. That was when Schrader knew he had found the hook for the screenplay.
It is claimed in this film that Jake LaMotta was never knocked down but in real life LaMotta was knocked down by Danny Nardico in a fight in Coral Gables, Florida.
The rooftop wedding scene was directed by Martin Scorsese's father Charles Scorsese after he fell ill while filming.
Mardik Martin wrote the most traditional, linear script for the film (more of a traditional Jake LaMotta biography), but backed off on the project due to exhaustion after months of research. Paul Schrader made several changes to the script, including making, Joey La Motta, Jake's brother, the second most prominent character (by combining his actions with that of Jake's friend, Peter Savage) and starting the story in the middle of La Motta's career rather than at the beginning. Although they kept Schrader's overall structure, Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro spent 5 weeks rewriting his version of the script until they had exactly the film they wanted (Scorsese and De Niro are uncredited as screenwriters for the film).
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.
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).
According to Martin Scorsese in the "Raging Bull" DVD, this was going to be one of eight boxing movies to come out in 1980.
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.
Ranked #1 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Sports" in June 2008.
Cinematographer Michael Chapman drew inspiration for his monochrome camerawork from the famous Weegee snapshots of 50s New York.
The opening sequence - in which Jake prances around a ring in slow motion - features the lighting from photographers' flashes. There was actually only person setting off the flash bulbs, and that was director of photography Michael Chapman running around in the ring in a black velor tracksuit.
Meeting resistance from United Artists about making a boxing film with a dark anti-hero, producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff refused to tolerate making Rocky II (1979) until _Raging Bull_ was approved.
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.
Cathy Moriarty's film debut.
The original script was vetoed by producer Steven 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.
This marked the first time since his first film Who's That Knocking at My Door (1967) that Martin Scorsese was able to work with his film school friend Thelma Schoonmaker due to her having been denied membership in the then all-male Motion Picture Editors Guild.
Of all the great dramatic films in history, it was the great Buster Keaton's comedy Battling Butler (1926) that was one of Scorsese's biggest inspirations in getting the "feel" of the boxing scenes just right, particularly (and most likely) from Keaton's surprisingly realistic, climactic fight. As quoted in the book "Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull" edited by Kevin J. Hayes (Cambridge University Press. Copyright 2005), Scorsese called Keaton "the only person who had the right attitude about boxing in the movies" for him.
According to the book "The Academy Awards: The Complete Unofficial History" by J. Piazza & G. Kinn (2008), "All the action on the set of Raging Bull (1980) was shut down for four months so that 'Robert de Niro' could keep it going in his digestive system. He gained 56 pounds".
It was based on the strength of their performances in the low budget The Death Collector (1976) that Martin Scorsese decided to cast Joe Pesci and Frank Vincent.
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.
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.
Was voted the 5th Greatest film of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
Robert De Niro's performance as Jake LaMotta is ranked #10 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time (2006).
Nicholas Colasanto's character, Tommy Como, is based on the real-life mobster Frank 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 'Robert Francis Kennedy'.
The word "fuck" is used 114 times in this film.
Was voted the third greatest sports movie of all time after Rocky (1976) and Bull Durham (1988) by ESPN.
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".
Frank Vincent also plays a character named Batts in Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas (1990).
United Artists were unable to actively promote Raging Bull (1980) for awards consideration as it was then embroiled in serious financial trouble following the Heaven's Gate (1980) debacle.
Part of a cycle of ring fighter movies, mostly boxing, some wrestling, initiated by the box-office and critical success of the Academy Award Best Picture winning boxing movie Rocky (1976). The films include Rocky II (1979), Rocky III (1982), Rocky IV (1985), Tough Enough (1983), Title Shot (1979), _Raging Bull_, The Champ (1979), Matilda (1978), The Main Event (1979), The Prize Fighter (1979), The Greatest (1977), Body and Soul (1981), Paradise Alley (1978), ...All the Marbles (1981) (aka "The California Dolls"), The One and Only (1978), Every Which Way But Loose (1978) and Any Which Way You Can (1980).
Producer Irwin Winkler first became involved in the film in 1975. It took roughly five years for the script to be finalized.
Sharon Stone also auditioned for the role of Vicki LaMotta. She would eventually work with Scorsese and De Niro in Casino (1995)
Executives at United Artists were very reluctant to finance the film as they were perturbed by the extreme profanity and violence in the screenplay. With some justification, as it transpired: at one point it was doubtful whether the film would be released in the UK at all due to its extreme nature.

Cameo 

Charles ScorseseMartin Scorsese's father is one of the mob wiseguys crowding the LaMotta brothers at a Copa nightclub table.

Director Cameo 

Martin Scorsese:  asking Jake LaMotta to go on stage.

Director Trademark 

Martin Scorsese:  [beating]  In each Scorsese movie featuring both of them, Frank Vincent and Joe Pesci beat one another. In Raging Bull (1980) and Goodfellas (1990), Pesci's character beats Vincent. Vincent finally gets revenge by beating Pesci in Casino (1995).

Spoilers 

The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

The television commentary during Jake LaMotta's last fight with Sugar Ray Robinson, when he loses the title, is the actual TV broadcast of the bout.

See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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