Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Lords of the ring: cinematic boxing stars square off

Raging Bull's De Niro, Rocky's Stallone aren't pulling any punches to resolve their grudge in boxing-themed comedy

  • Print

New YORK CITY -- The unlikely Christmas movie Grudge Match may be a lightweight comedy, but it has heavyweight cinematic lineage.

Its stars, Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone, each made one of the biggest boxing movies in the latter half of the 20th century. De Niro played self-destructive real-life champ Jake La Motta in Martin Scorsese's 1980 masterpiece Raging Bull, the movie that won De Niro a best-actor Oscar.

Stallone, of course, wrote and starred in Rocky, John G. Avildsen's 1976 hit, which introduced the world to Philadelphia palooka Rocky Balboa, a loser who discovers his inner contender. The movie spawned five sequels and more recently, a musical coming to Broadway this spring.

Don't hold your breath waiting for a Raging Bull musical. But at least Grudge Match offers up a kind of sports fantasy scenario, pitting De Niro and Stallone against each other in the ring in the respective roles as Billy (The Kid) McDonnen and Henry (Razor) Sharp, a pair of long-retired Pittsburgh pugs pushed back in the ring by a simmering, decades-long rivalry.

It's actually the second onscreen pairing of De Niro and Stallone, who appeared together in the 1997 drama Cop Land. And while Stallone has frequently written the screenplays of his films, he does not have a hand in Grudge Match. At a press conference for the film, he asserts it never would have occurred to him.

"I had no intention of doing this," he says. "It was something I thought was absurd.

"No one wants to see (me doing) another boxing film, especially when you're approaching 160 years old. I might be a little rickety with some bones coming out," said Stallone, who is, in fact, 66.

In fact, it was De Niro, 70, who sold the idea to Stallone about doing the project together after he had been pitched the idea by director Peter Segal.

"I liked the idea of us doing it," De Niro says. "And so that was it."

Stallone eventually warmed to the story.

"We get to prove that you don't have to be crawling around at a certain age, that you're obliged to start winding down," he says. "It's kind of like going against trend.

"Plus, if you still have something to prove, and I think a lot of people as they reach 60 and above, they go: 'I have some unfinished business.' But unfortunately, life does not afford you the opportunity to go back and right the wrong. This is the beauty of fantasy and imagination to have these guys be able to go and correct a moment from their lives and make their lives feel somewhat fulfilled."

Director Segal says the film does indulge in "winking at their iconography" when it comes to referring to their past glories. De Niro's character has a nightclub act in the same template as La Motta in Raging Bull. And Stallone has a scene in a meat freezer, la Rocky, where he is about to throw a few punches at some sides of beef before his elderly trainer (Alan Arkin) scolds him: "We're just here to buy a little dinner. You don't have to punch everything."

Given that actors can be as competitive as sports figures about their work, I ask Stallone his opinion of Raging Bull and De Niro his opinion of Rocky.

"I never saw his movie. Was it any good?" Stallone jokes.

"I never saw his either," De Niro says with a laugh.

"At first, I thought it was about homesteading," Stallone says. "Or ranching."

Getting serious, Stallone continues: "It's probably one of the most brilliant biographies of all time. It's just incredible. And it's timeless. What can you say? It's just a perfect, perfect performance.

"Now I know he's not going to say that about me, so let's just move on."

De Niro, for his part, eschews comparisons.

"They are two different styles of film, obviously," he says. "They were very well done and I was impressed with the ones I saw, with what Sylvester had done with it as a craftsman, in all seriousness."

Grudge Match opens in Winnipeg on Christmas Day at McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital and Towne cinemas.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 19, 2013 C1

History

Updated on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 6:35 AM CST: Changes headline, replaces photo, adds video

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Winnipeg Jet goalie Michael Hutchinson

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A Canada goose makes takes flight on Wilkes Ave Friday afternoon- See Bryksa’s 30 Day goose a day challenge- Day 09- May 11, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS 060710 The full moon rises above the prairie south of Winnipeg Monday evening.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you plan on attending any of the CMHR opening weekend events? (select all that apply)

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google