Why Raging Bull is Robert De Niro's greatest performance
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It's hard to believe that veteran actor Robert De Niro is 74 this year. The Hollywood great, whose time in the film industry spans over five decades, has been involved in a huge number of projects that have seen him take on drama, crime, comedy and even romance. De Niro’s massively successful career, which has seen him win two Academy Awards, has taken on what have now become, some incredibly iconic characters. From Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle and The Deer Hunter’s Mike Vronsky to Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II and Jimmy from Goodfellas; the list is huge. Of all his films, though, De Niro has never been more committed or convincing than he is as the boxer, Jake La Motta, in Martin Scorsese’s outstanding Raging Bull. Although the movie didn’t enter production until 1979, Raging Bull had been on De Niro’s mind for some time before that. The actor had learnt the story of former boxer Jake La Motta having read his autobiography whilst on the set of The Godfather Part II. De Niro went on to actually meet La Motta and afterwards became determined to portray the once middleweight champion on the big screen. He only believed that one man could do La Motta’s story justice though, and that was director Martin Scorsese. Scorsese and De Niro had at that point collaborated on three features, Taxi Driver, Mean Streets and New York, New York; the first two being met with critical acclaim. During this period in the seventies, De Niro and Scorsese were arguably at their closest in terms of friendship, so it’s no surprise that, after a tough period for the director in which he almost died of an overdose, he agreed to make the movie with De Niro. Released in 1980, Raging Bull followed the rise and fall of boxer Jake La Motta. De Niro, of course, starred as the former boxer with Joe Pesci, who is also excellent in this movie, playing his younger brother Joey. Cathy Moriarty took on the challenging role of Jake’s wife, Vicki, and she too is fantastic with her and De Niro sharing some very tense scenes. The film itself is brilliantly made, being shot in striking black and white. It’s as much about boxing and La Motta’s rise to the top as it is about the boxer’s inner demons and the self-induced struggles he went through as his career went on.
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