Raging Bull is a 1980 American biographical black and white sports drama movie directed by Martin Scorsese, produced by Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler and adapted by Paul Schrader and Mardik Martin from Jake LaMotta’s memoir Raging Bull: My Story. It stars Robert De Niro as Jake LaMotta, an Italian American middleweight boxer whose self-destructive and obsessive rage, sexual jealousy and animalistic appetite destroyed his relationship with his wife and family. Take a look below for 28 more fascinating and interesting facts about Raging Bull.
1. When he was preparing for his role, Robert De Niro went through extensive physical training, then entered in 3 genuine Brooklyn boxing matches and won 2 of them.
2. When the real Jake LaMotta saw the movie he said that it made him realize for the first time what a terrible person he had been. When he asked the real Vicki LaMotta if he was really like that, she replied, “You were worse.”
3. De Niro accidentally broke Joe Pesci’s rib in a sparring scene. The shot actually appears in the movie, when De Niro hits Pesci in the side and Pesci groans.
4. De Niro and Joe Pesci are really punching each other in the famous “hit me” scene.
5. To show up better on a black and white movie, the crew used Hershey’s chocolate was fake blood.
6. The scene where Vicki LaMotta is first introduced to Jake LaMotta by the chain linked fence was entirely improvised by Cathy Moriarty and Robert De Niro.
7. The reason why the movie was made in black and white was to differentiate it from Rocky, as well as for period authenticity. Martin Scorsese also didn’t want to depict all the blood in a color movie.
8. The sound effects for punches landing was done my squashing melons and tomatoes. The sound effects for camera flashes going off were used as gunshots.
9. Jake LaMotta’s brother Joseph LaMotta sued the production for $2.5 million for the movie’s alleged unflattering depiction of him.
10. Martin Scorsese didn’t want to film 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.
11. The movie was edited in Scorsese’s New York apartment every night after the filming for the day had finished.
12. Most of the fight scenes in the movie are shot through an intense light source to obtain a slight mirage within the image.
13. Robert De Niro read Jake LaMotta’s memoir Raging Bull in 1974 while making The Godfather: Part II and saw the story’s potential. It took 4 years of drafts, persuasion and pestering to get Scorsese interested in making the movie.
14. Scorsese’s father Charles made his movie debut as one of Mob boss Tommy Como’s cronies. He’s one of the wiseguys crowded around the Copacabana nightclub table. He’s since made cameos in 7 of his son’s movies.
15. The last and hardest role to cast was Jake’s second wife Vickie. Casting director Cis Corman auditioned 200 actresses, looking for someone with the right combination of sexuality and strength. Pesci found an 18 year old Bronx schoolgirl called Cathy Moriarty in a nightclub. She’d never acted before, so Corman coached her for 2 weeks before taking her to meet Scorsese and De Niro.
16. To get a feeling of brotherhood, De Niro and Pesci lived and trained with each other before filming started. They’ve been close friends ever since.
17. Scorsese used slow motion in many of LaMotta’s point of view scenes outside the ring to give him a paranoid intensity, especially when he’s looking at Vickie with envy or suspicion.
18. Scorsese wanted LaMotta’s brutal beating in his last fight with Sugar Ray Robinson to feel like a horror movie, so he based the rapid cuts on the shower scene from Psycho, even going as far as using Alfred Hitchcock’s original shot list.
19. Peter Savage, who’s the co-writer of LaMotta’s original book, has a cameo as the journalist who’s talking to Joey at the bar before he assaults the mobster Salvy.
20. To visually achieve Jake’s growing desperation and diminishing stature, Scorsese shot the later boxing scenes in a bigger ring.
21. De Niro did up to 1,000 rounds when training with the real Jake LaMotta. He thought De Niro had what it took to become a professional contender.
22. Joe Pesci is actually 6 months older than Robert De Niro, despite playing the younger brother of De Niro’s character in the movie.
23. Scorsese was, at one point, so surprised by De Niro’s weight gain that he shut down production, fearing for his health.
24. According to Scorsese, the script took only 2 weeks to write on the island of St. Martin in the Caribbean.
25. Even though there are only a few minutes of boxing in the movie, they were so precisely choreographed that they took 6 weeks to film.
26. The movie claims that Jake LaMotta was never knocked down but, in real life, he was knocked down by Danny Nardico in a fight in Coral Gables, Florida.
27. The rooftop wedding scene was directed by Scorsese’s father after he got sick while filming.
28. To contrast De Niro’s weight gain for the final scene, Pesci lost weight and grew a moustache.