Truth and Movies

Check out these rare on-set photos from The Deer Hunter

Robert De Niro opens his archives for new book ‘One Shot The Making of The Deer Hunter’.

Words

Jay Glennie

Robert De Niro has been my cinematic idol for as long as I can remember – so to meet and interview him and for him to open his archives has been a dream come true; and then to be told to call him Bob is just surreal.

With the inclusion of Meryl Streep, Chris Walken, Vilmos Zsigmond – heroes of mine – I knew that I had been handed a golden baton and it was just a case of not dropping it.

Here I was working with Bob’s amazing archives, being passed images and wonderful pre-production material from executive producers Marion Rosenberg and Joann Carelli and many more from the cast and crew, which all opened up the story of the making of the film to me.

The Deer Hunter features one of the great casts: the late great John Cazale, Meryl Streep, Chris Walken, John Savage… and alongside director Michael Cimino, in the auditions, sat Robert De Niro; he was fundamental in casting the film. It was one the most surprising facts that I learnt during the writing of this book. Meryl, Chris, John, George Dzundza all spoke of meeting Bob during their auditions.” – Jay Glennie

“It was normal. It felt right to be involved and offer Mike [Cimino] any support I could. It happens seamlessly when you work with a collaborative director.” – Robert De Niro

“No matter how serious you take your craft you have to find time to have fun while making a film and Mike [Cimino] allowed has that opportunity on The Deer Hunter. I look back fondly at those days of filming. We were open to any possibilities that might occur.” – Robert De Niro

“The guys had built up a great chemistry. Third from the left is Chuck Aspegren. Bob and Michael Cimino met Chuck while on a scouting trip. Chuck was the foreman at a steel mill. One night enjoying a beer Bob suggested to Cimino that they offer Chuck the role of Axel.” – Jay Glennie

“When you meet characters like this, people you meet on location, you gotta use them. I am not being disparaging to actors but sometimes you need to that flavour and authenticity somebody like Chuck brought to the movie. They have spent their whole life existing this way and it is hard to replicate that richness. No, Chuck was in.” – Robert De Niro

“Here are John Savage, Michael Cimino and Robert De Niro celebrating successfully plunging into raging River Kwai after making their escape. Michael Cimino always said that The Deer Hunter was never intended to be about the Vietnam War, indeed Chris Walken told me that he could never recall the war being mentioned.

“Rather it was Cimino’s intention to show the effect the war had had on a community and the way lives had been affected and damaged by the brutality of war. For Cimino the playing of Russian roulette was a metaphor of how governments treated serviceman and women.” – Jay Glennie

“I love this picture. It is a side of Bob that you do not often see. The image of the introverted artist is the one that has been constantly sold but the Bob his co-stars and the crew spoke of was a man dedicated to his craft and open and fun. And some forty years later the Bob that has so graciously helped me is very far removed from the moody monosyllabic, nothing of the sort, the guy is a legend!” – Jay Glennie

“This shot is from when the guys are playing pool on the morning of Steven’s wedding; it’s a wonderful scene. It was bought to life further for me when I found in Bob’s archives a note choreographing every movement he made with his cue keeping in time to the Frankie Valli song ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ as the guys danced, drank and played pool. This is his dedication to his craft, it all looks spontaneous but he spent hours perfecting his portrayal.” – Jay Glennie

“When Meryl Streep agreed to contribute to ‘One Shot’ I was thrilled, and she was everything I hoped she would be – fun and gracious. She told me that The Deer Hunter held so many special memories for her, one of which was a lifelong friendship with Bob that she holds very, very dear. Their on-screen chemistry was beautiful.” – Jay Glennie

‘One Shot: The Making of The Deer Hunter’ is available to buy now via coattail-publications.com

Published 15 Dec 2019

Tags: Christopher Walken Meryl Streep Michael Cimino Robert De Niro

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