10 Actors Who Almost Died Because Of Intense Method Acting

8. Robert De Niro Gains Weight To Play Jake LaMotta And Can't Breathe Properly - Raging Bull

Martin Scorsese Raging Bull
United Artists

Raging Bull is often regarded as one of the best movies ever made - indeed, esteemed critic Roger Ebert branded it as the "best film of the '80s" (a sentiment that his friend and former co-star Gene Siskel echoed). As directed by Martin Scorsese, the movie is a true masterpiece, but it's Robert De Niro's wonderful, transformative performance that really cements Raging Bull is a totally definitive classic.

But it didn't come easy - especially for De Niro. In order to play real life boxer Jake LaMotta in his later days, production was halted and De Niro (here's where it sounds awesome to be a Hollywood actor, by the way) was sent on a four month vacation to France and Italy, countries he was expected to "eat his way around." De Niro did not disappoint; he went from 145 pounds to an epic 251 pounds. Yikes.

The sudden weight increase played havoc on his health, of course; De Niro began to struggle with his breathing, posture and - would you believe? - his talking. Production was even shut down for a while, because Martin Scorsese began to worry that his leading man was on route to having a heart attack.


Sam Hill is an ardent cinephile and has been writing about film professionally since 2008. He harbours a particular fondness for western and sci-fi movies.