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Robert De Niro says gaining weight for Raging Bull made it hardest role he's ever had

Part involved a physical transformation for the actor

Clémence Michallon
New York
Wednesday 04 December 2019 17:17 GMT
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The Irishman: Official Trailer Premiere

Robert De Niro has revealed the toughest role he’s had to prepare for in his five-decade career.

The actor, who stars as Frank Sheeran in Martin Scorsese’s newly released The Irishman, was asked during a roundtable for The Hollywood Reporter which of his films had required the toughest preparation.

“I guess Raging Bull“, he said, referring to the 1980 Jake LaMotta biopic directed by Scorsese, ”because of [putting on] the weight and all that.”

De Niro was in his late thirties when he starred as LaMotta, a professional boxer and world middleweight champion.

The role earned him the Academy Award for Best Actor – his second Oscar, following his Best Supporting Actor win for The Godfather Part II.

Asked by The Hollywood Reporter whether he convinced Scorsese to take on the project, De Niro replied: ”I didn’t convince him; we have our own ways of [finding common ground]. He’s religious, I’m not, but we converge on the things that are common interests.”

He then explained that he had read LaMotta’s memoir and called Scorsese to tell him: “The book’s not great literature, but it’s got a lot of heart.”

De Niro recalled seeing LaMotta on the street in New York City and noticing that he was “overweight and this and that” – which he says inspired him to tackle the role.

“I said, ‘Jesus, look what happened to him.’ And I thought the graphic difference of being out of shape and then being a young fighter really was interesting,” De Niro added.

“I thought I’d like to see if I could gain that weight. So that was my interest and Marty had his reasons, and both of us just came together on the project.”

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