Robert De Niro Gained 60 Pounds For This Film Role

Hollywood is full of committed celebrity actors who have gained a lot of weight or lost a lot of weight for a movie role, most of the time, becoming completely unrecognizable.

These extremes have altered some actors in irreversible ways, like Tom Hanks, who has diabetes due to extreme dieting for film roles. As for Robert De Niro, weight gain was no big deal compared to his growing obsession with his film Raging Bull.

He was willing to do whatever it takes to prepare for the film, including gaining 60 pounds.

Robert De Niro has been around a long time

Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro | Samir Hussein/WireImage

De Niro has certainly made a name for himself in Hollywood with hit movies including (but not limited to) Cape Fear, Taxi Driver, Mean Streets, Silver Linings Playbook, and Limitless.

Some of De Niro’s best movies range from Meet the Fockers (and sequels), The Godfather Part II, The Deer Hunter, Midnight Run, and Raging Bull. He has been credited with producing 36 films, taking on roles in 124 films and shows, and according to IMDb, winning 63 awards and receiving 133 nominations.

Not to mention he is also one of the highest-grossing actors in Hollywood, pulling in $3.2 billion in his lifetime so far.

If you aren’t impressed by De Niro’s experiences yet, you might find it intriguing that he recently received the Presidential Medal of Honor presented by Barack Obama.

He told Skylife in an interview, “I felt honored and gratified [receiving the honor]. My family was there. Going back to the past and listening to my success with them present was very emotional.”

His role in the film ‘Raging Bull’

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De Niro played Jake La Motta in the 1980 film Raging Bull. It was a biographical drama about an Italian-American middleweight boxer who was self-destructive and had an obsessive and animalistic rage about him. He also had a constant fear and suspicion that his wife, Vickie, was cheating on him with other men, and even let it fuel his anger when he brutally beat Janiro in response to a comment she made earlier in the film.

His relationship with his wife and family was understandably damaged, and Vickie later demands a divorce. The film is a series of brutal and destructive behavior on Jake’s behalf.

Roger Ebert explains, “Raging Bull is not a film about boxing but about a man with paralyzing jealousy and sexual insecurity, for whom being punished in the ring serves as confession, penance, and absolution.”

According to Vanity Fair, The real-life Jake La Motta helped De Niro train for his role in Raging Bull but admitted, “I didn’t particularly like the film” because he was disturbed by the portrayal of his own behavior. He recalled asking his wife, “Is that the way I was in real life?” and she responded, “You were worse.”

How he got ready for the film, including gaining 60 pounds!

De Niro was passionate about Raging Bull and couldn’t envision it without his long-time friend, Marty Scorsese. According to an extensive overview of the making of Raging Bull by Vanity Fair, the friendship sparked the development of the film in offices, restaurants, and the hospital room over the traditional sets and editing rooms. 

They also report that “De Niro suggested a period of total isolation and immersion—no phones, no distractions of any kind” where they did a ton of research on boxing and Gloria Norris, an assistant, recalls De Niro “rising early to run along the beach.”

She also remembers “him and Scorsese talking out the script scene by scene in the mornings [and] writing up the new material on yellow legal pads in the afternoons.”

Scorsese explains, “It was total concentration. Everything was done at that little table with that silly cabana umbrella, and we’re looking out at the ocean.”

De Niro’s commitment and dedication to the film Raging Bull led to his 1981 Oscar win for Best Actor.