Some things just should not be messed with, and a bona fide cinematic classic is one of those things. Many film fans were rightly outraged when the news broke of a Raging Bull sequel involving neither legendary auteur Martin Scorsese or the master of method Robert De Niro, but now it appears that MGM – parent company of United Artists, the company which distributed the original – is stepping in to prevent the sacrilege.
Released in 1980, Raging Bull related the rise and subsequent fall of legendary middleweight boxer Jake LaMotta. In a career of highs, De Niro’s portrayal of LaMotta must rank amongst his finest moments; well known for his unfaltering attitude to cinematic authenticity, De Niro famously spent much of his preparation time for the movie’s closing scenes eating his way around the Italian restaurants of Europe, acquiring the necessary bulk to play the aging and bloated LaMotta.
De Niro also trained with Jake LaMotta himself, becoming – in LaMotta’s eyes – a decent middleweight fighter. Following the release of Raging Bull, De Niro boxed in a few amateur bouts, winning two and losing one. Not bad, but not a patch on the 83 wins, 30 by knockout, achieved by LaMotta in his career.
Now, at the ripe old age of 90, Jake LaMotta is ready to get back in the ring again, this time with corporate giants MGM as the distributors prepare to send a hefty lawsuit his way. The nonagenarian sold the rights for his co-authored book to production company RBII, something which MGM allege he had no right to do.
Now MGM want LaMotta to throw in the towel and halt production on the new movie, despite the fact that filming has already begun with one time Scorsese collaborator Paul Sorvino and Joe Mategna, the voice of Simpsons mob boss Fat Tony.
As news of the impending lawsuit broke, LaMotta was downbeat, “How can you fight a company that big?” he asked. “All of these business things, I don’t bother with it because I’m not capable, physically or mentally, because I don’t hear so well.”
It doesn’t sound like Jake LaMotta plans to put up much of a fight which, on reflection, is probably for the best; pictures released from scenes shot so far reveal heavy handed tough guy daftness, with none of the balletic artistry of the 1980 original. It’s also in full color, which will severely hamper any sort of flow between the monochromatic original and its intended sequel.
What’s more, LaMotta of the sequel is played by William Forsythe –a veteran of such classics as the Halloween remake and Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo. In a recent interview, he described the current cast as “bringing more heart” to the Raging Bull story. If bringing more “heart” to the story involves dropping the gritty, tortured anti-hero elements to LaMotta’s character – the very elements that made the film an instant classic 32 years ago – it doesn’t sound like a film I want to see. If you need me, I’ll be watching the DVD of the original on repeat until this all blows over.
Guest article by Rob Pell. He spends far too much time playing with gadgets, likes Marmite and writes for Simplifydigital, the UK broadband, digital TV and home phone experts. Simplifydigital are Ofcom accredited and provide independent advice to consumers looking for the right broadband, TV and home phone packages.