We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

De Niro shut down production on Scorsese movie for unbelievable reason

Robert De Niro is known for going to extreme lengths when preparing for roles, but the most famous example shut down production on one of his best movies.

Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull

Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese have collaborated on ten feature films, including new movie Killers of the Flower Moon. The most highly critically acclaimed of these is arguably 1980’s Raging Bull, which tells the true story of boxer Jake LaMotta.

Martin Scorsese‘s Raging Bull spans nearly 25 years, and LaMotta goes through a huge transformation over that time – both mentally and physically. De Niro’s performance, combined with the stunning black-and-white cinematography, and the brutal dynamism of the boxing scenes – expertly edited by Thelma Schoonmaker, of course – undoubtedly makes Raging Bull one of the best sports movies of all time.

One of the most famous aspects of Raging Bull is the fact that Robert De Niro gained 60 pounds for the film’s last act, in which LaMotta is overweight and washed up. Instead of using a fat suit, De Niro insisted on shutting down production until he had gained the weight himself.

In a series of interviews about what is surely one of Robert De Niro’s best movies, producer Irwin Winkler said; “The only time I ever had an argument with Bob [De Niro] in all these years was about gaining the weight. He said to me; ‘shut down production so I can gain 50, 60 pounds’ and I kept saying; ‘it’s not necessary and it’s not good for your health.’ He said; ‘I gotta do it.'”

YouTube Thumbnail

Joe Pesci added; “Robert did it because he really wanted to feel what Jake LaMotta felt. Because Jake LaMotta had always had a hard time making the weight.” There’s no doubt that De Niro’s performance in Raging Bull is one of the reasons that he regularly tops lists of the best actors of all time.

Martin Scorsese said; “There was a hiatus. Bob gained a little weight, and came back to LA, where we shot the scene at the pool. Ultimately, around Christmas time of ’79, we shot the last 7 or 8 days – and Bob was at full weight. We shot quicker at that point too, because of the weight – you could hear it in his breathing, it was taking its toll. We all agreed, let’s get it over with so he can start losing that weight.”

Martin Scorsese is of course one of the best directors of all time, but he’s now over 80 and is very aware that he only has so many films left to make. Now, go read our Killers of the Flower Moon review.

You should also check out our guide to the best movies based on a true story and the best drama movies.