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Raging Bull is widely considered as the best work from the team of Robert De Niro and director Martin Scorsese, who have collaborated on 8 films throughout their illustrious careers. It is also on every list of the greatest 80s films, and several greatest of all time lists. The production was a fascinating one, and the back stories interesting.
Let’s got 12 rounds with the story of boxer Jake LaMotta…
1. Raging Bull and Robert De Niro may have saved Martin Scorsese’s life. In the years before the film, Scorsese was in bad shape, using cocaine and pills heavily. After collapsing and being rushed to the hospital where he almost died, De Niro visited his friend and implored him to do the film. Scorsese agreed, and the production got his life back on track.
2. There were actually three LaMotta brothers, Jake, Joey, and John Savage. However, screenwriter Paul Schraeder cut Paul’s part from the film and worked in some of his backstory into Joey’s (Joe Pesci’s) character.
3. De Niro famously gained 60 pounds to portray LaMotta later in life, out of boxing and running a nightclub in Florida. Production shut down for four months while De Niro gained the weight.
4. 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.
5. In the scene where Joey hits Jake repeatedly in the face, Pesci was really punching De Niro.
6. The movie was shot in black and white for several reasons: they wanted the film to be different from the 1976 Oscar winner Rocky, they wanted it to depict the period in which the events took place, and Scorsese didn’t want to showcase so much blood in color.
7. Hershey’s chocolate was used for blood.
8. As the heavier Jake LaMotta, De Nito quotes Marlon Brando from On the Waterfront. In The Godfather Part II, De Niro also played a younger version of Brando’s Vito Corleone and reused his famous line “I’ll give him an offer he can’t refuse.”
9. Joe Pesci had given up acting and was running an Italian restaurant in new York when he was cast in the role.
10. The boxing scenes don’t even take up 10 minutes of the film’s running time, but they are so important and impactful that Scorsese spent six weeks filming them.
11. While preparing to play Jake LaMotta, Robert De Niro actually met with La Motta and became very well acquainted with him. While LaMotta consulted on the boxing scenes, he was not allowed to go to New York and film the scenes outside of the ring so as not to be a distraction.
12. In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #4 Greatest Movie of All Time.