Robert De Niro didn’t think Raging Bull would be successful

Robert De Niro thought Raging Bull would be many things, but didn't believe the Martin Scorsese movie was ever going to make bank at the box office

Robert De Niro in Raging Bull

Raging Bull is commonly regarded as one of the best movies ever made, and rightly so. The Martin Scorsese-directed picture contains some of his most beautiful and technical cinematography, and Robert De Niro’s lead performance in the drama movie is incredible. However, it didn’t set the box office on fire, and De Niro expected as much.

In an interview with Playboy from 1989, De Niro spoke about the reaction to Raging Bull, and wanting to do something because it felt artistically valuable. “No, I didn’t expect it would be,” he said, when asked about Raging Bull not having the best reception. “We just did the movie the way we wanted to do it and that was it. Of course, you always want people to see it and hope that it will be OK, but it’s more important to do movies that have a meaning and some relevance 50 years from now.”

He then alludes to other thriller movies that he isn’t sure will stand the test of time quite like Raging Bull. “I’d rather be part of a movie like that than of a movie that’s not gonna be around,” he states. “Certain types of films – I won’t even say which ones; you know which ones – are recognised for other things.”

The interviewer suggest the Rocky movies, but DeNiro gives a non-answer. Whatever the case, Raging Bull is a feature that’s stood up across decades and generations.

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In the ’80s movie, De Niro plays Jake LaMotta, a former middleweight championship boxer whose obsessive nature eventually causes his personal life to implode. It’s a classic sports movie, in that it’s not really about the sports, even though the boxing matches are incredibly well put together, and De Niro put in a lot of work to get the physicality right.

The same amount as Sylvester Stallone did for Rocky? Who’s to say. Check out our guide to Creed 3 if you’re curious about the next heavyweight bout.