Blog #189 1/5/17
Robert De Niro
A few weeks after my book “AT THE FIGHTS: Inside the World of Professional Boxing” was published, Jeanmarie Murphy, the Warner Brother’s Films’ publicist for the film “Grudge Match,” starring Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone, called me.
Would I come to the film set in New Orleans and make photographs of the film production?
What an opportunity!
I flew from New York City to New Orleans and was soon on the set for the filming of the movie’s climactic boxing match. Many parts of movie-making were fascinating to me, similar in ways to studio shoots, but very different in ways, with more moving parts.
I made photographs on the set for a week, making images from “ringside” as well as in a studio I had set up away from the film set. A month later, Sports Illustrated Magazine published many of the photographs.
Here’s my record of this terrific experience.
The set was constructed in the basketball gymnasium of the University of New Orleans. It was an impressive construction that could have hosted a real championship bout.
I focused mostly on the work of Robert De Niro and Sylvestor Stallone.
De Niro, in his trailer, his hands being taped before donning the boxing gloves.
Stallone had mega tattoos, shoulders, chest, back.
These images that I made in his dressing room show the application of the silicone “covering” solution used to hide them.
Here are some of the film’s key scenes:
Waiting for the filming of his pre-fight walk to the ring, De Niro listens to ideas from Jonathan Bernthal, fellow actor who played his main boxing coach and assistant.
In the few minutes before the “walk,” they used the time to practice boxing. Whenever not being filmed, De Niro prepared for the next scenes. I was impressed how he was always focused and involved.
Director Pete Segal working with the actors, blocking out the next shot.
Director, Segal, working with cameraman to set the frame for the next shot.
Segal, indicating to De Niro and Bernthal what he wanted for the next shot.
Filming a scene:
The two stars practiced punching constantly to make it look “real.”
The camera was set at angles that made hits look like hard contact, but there was always a safe distance between glove and chin.
Pseudo-hit, at a safe distance
Kim Basinger played the wife of Stallone’s character; here she watches the fight.
De Niro was always impressively generous and gracious, even while intensely focused on his work.
In order to review what was just filmed, the actors and crew frequently took breaks from shooting to review their work.
Here Segal and one of his producers view the previous “takes.”
The cast, as focused as the director, paid close attention to what they had done and how it looked.
From the left, Alan Arkin, played Stallone’s trainer, Michael Buffer, famous ring announcer played himself, real boxing referee, Pat Russell played himself, Bernthal, Stallone, De Niro, and Robert Sale who served as the film’s boxing coach as well as assistant to De Niro.
Sometimes mistakes meant re-takes, to the point of physical exhaustion.
The make-up was amazing; I photographed both actors every day to show how they were changed during the fight.
Stallone, like his co-star, too, was immensely helpful and generous.
I had the opportunity to make individual portraits away from the set.
There were three other well-known actors in the film:
Alan Arkin, who played a trainer to Stallone’s character.
Kevin Hart played the boxing promoter
The two stars, in character, patiently posed for special portraits like this one.
and this one, with yours, truly
The ever-present ring-card girls.
Most of the important cast members of “Grudge Match.”
From the left: Boxing announcers Larry Merchant, Roy Jones, Jr, and Jim Lampley. Hart, De Niro, Stallone, Bernthal, Sale, Arkin, Buffer, Russell.
And finally, the two warriors!
Glitterati Incorporated, the publisher of the Retrospective, Schatz Images: 25 Years is now offering the two- book boxed set at a discount from the original price. The set comes with an 11″x14” print of the buyer’s choice.