“Drawing the storyboards is my way of visualising the entire film before I shoot it. In a sense, drawing the film as I wish to see it.” —Martin Scorsese
In 1980 Martin Scorsese released his now iconic neo-noir biographical sports drama Raging Bull, a film which is now regarded by many as one of the greatest cinematic pictures of all time.
Scorsese, initially reluctant to take on the project, rebuffed the advances by Robert De Niro when the actor suggested a biographical film about the life of boxer Jake LaMotta: “A boxer? I don’t like boxing. Even as a kid, I always thought that boxing was boring. It was something I couldn’t, wouldn’t grasp,” the director once said. De Niro, not willing to take no for an answer, continued to explain more about LaMotta’s life, detailing the abusive, obsessive and self-destructive traits of his personality.
After going back and forth with the actor, Scorsese finally agreed to create the film and, of course, Scorsese famously cast De Niro in the lead and recruited the likes of Joe Pesci, Cathy Moriarty, Nicholas Colasanto, Frank Vincent and more as he told the story of a “middleweight boxer as he rises through ranks to earn his first shot at the middleweight crown,” the official synopsis reads. “He falls in love with a gorgeous girl from the Bronx. The inability to express his feelings enters into the ring and eventually takes over his life. He eventually is sent into a downward spiral that costs him everything.”
The film would go on to be a major critical and commercial success upon its release, earning eight Academy Awards nominations which included the high-profile Best Picture and Best Director. In the end, De Niro would scoop Best Actor and Thelma Schoonmaker would walk away with Best Editing.
Highly celebrated in the years that followed, the film became involved as part of a Martin Scorsese retrospective exhibition which was housed at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria a few years ago. A large amount of behind-the-scenes information was made available for fans to discover the inner-workings of Scorsese’s creativity. Of the selected material on show was a series of hand-drawn storyboards from numerous different projects detailing the director’s pre-planning process.
“The dynamics of his storyboards are so intense, that you can almost squeeze sound out of them,” Nils Warnecke, co-curator of the exhibit, said in an interview. “You get the feeling of pace, brutality and emotions,” he added.
When the real Jake LaMotta eventually saw the movie, the boxer explained how it had made him realise, for the first time, what a terrible person he had been over the years. Feeling the emotion of the situation, he asked his ex-wife: “Was I really like that?” to which she replied, “You were worse.”
Below, explore a series of images from the aforementioned exhibition which details Scorsese’s early vision and, in the words of the director, a chance to see the “entire movie in advance.”