Tuesday, April 10, 2012
The Deer Hunter
The Deer Hunter
#79 (1998) and #53 (2007) on the AFI Top 100 American Movies List
The Deer Hunter is a 1978 drama film directed and co-written by Michael Cimino about a trio of Russian American steel worker friends and their infantry service in the Vietnam War. The film stars Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Savage, John Cazale, Meryl Streep and George Dzundza. The story takes place in Clairton, a small working class town on the Monongahela River south of Pittsburgh and then in Vietnam, somewhere in the woodland and in Saigon, during the Vietnam War.
The film was based in part on an unproduced screenplay called "The Man Who Came To Play" by Louis Garfinkle and Quinn K. Redeker about Las Vegas and Russian Roulette. Producer Michael Deeley, who bought the script, hired writer/director Michael Cimino who, with Deric Washburn, rewrote the script, taking the Russian Roulette element and placing it in the Vietnam War. The film went over-budget and over-schedule and ended up costing $15 million. The scenes of Russian roulette were highly controversial on release.
The film won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director and was named by the American Film Institute as the 53rd Greatest Movie of All Time on the 10th Anniversary Edition of the AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies list.
* Robert De Niro as S/Sgt. Michael "Mike" Vronsky. Producer Deeley pursued De Niro for The Deer Hunter because he felt that he needed De Niro's star power to sell a film with a "gruesome-sounding storyline and a barely known director". "I liked the script, and [Cimino] had done a lot of prep," said De Niro. "I was impressed." De Niro prepared by socializing with steelworkers in local bars and by visiting their homes. Cimino would introduce De Niro as his agent, Harry Ufland. No one recognized him. De Niro claims this was his most physically exhausting film. He explained that the scene where Michael visits Steve in the hospital for the first time was the most emotional scene that he was ever involved with.
* Christopher Walken as Cpl. Nikanor "Nick" Chevotarevich. His performance garnered his first Academy Award, for Best Supporting Actor.
* John Savage as Cpl. Steven Pushkov. Savage was a last-minute replacement for Roy Scheider, who dropped out of the production two weeks before the start of filming due to "creative differences"; Universal managed to keep Scheider to his three-picture contract for them by forcing him into doing Jaws 2.
* Meryl Streep as Linda. Prior to Deer Hunter, Streep was seen briefly in Fred Zinnemann's Julia and the eight-hour miniseries Holocaust. In the screenplay, Streep's role was negligible. Cimino explained the set-up to Streep and suggested that she write her own lines.
* John Cazale as Stanley ("Stosh"). All scenes involving Cazale, who had terminal cancer, had to be filmed first. Because of his illness, the studio initially wanted to get rid of him, but Streep, whom he was dating at the time, and Cimino threatened to walk away if they did. He was also uninsurable, and according to Streep, De Niro paid for his insurance because he wanted him in the film. This was his last film, as he died shortly after filming wrapped. Cazale never saw the finished film.
* George Dzundza as John Welsh
* Chuck Aspegren as Peter "Axel" Axelrod. Aspegren was not an actor, he was the foreman at an East Chicago steel works visited early in pre-production by De Niro and Cimino. They were so impressed with him that they offered him the role. He was the second person to be cast in the film, after De Niro.
* Shirley Stoler as Steven's mother
* Rutanya Alda as Angela Ludhjduravic-Pushkov
* Amy Wright as Bridesmaid
* Joe Grifasi as Bandleader
* St. Theodosius Russian Orthodox Cathedral, Cleveland, Ohio. The name plaque is clearly visible in one scene.
* Lemko Hall, Cleveland, Ohio. The wedding banquet. The name is clearly visible in one scene.
* US Steel Central Furnaces in Cleveland, Ohio. Opening sequence steel mill scenes.
* Patpong, Bangkok, Thailand, the area used to represent Saigon's red light district.
* Sai Yok, Kanchanaburi Province, Thailand
* North Cascades National Park, Washington, mountain scenes.
* Steubenville, Ohio, for some mill and neighborhood shots.
* Struthers, Ohio, for external house and long-range road shots. Also including, the town's bowling alley is the Bowladrome Lanes, located at 56 State Street, Struthers, Ohio.
* Weirton, West Virginia, for mill and trailer shots.
* River Kwai, Thailand, Prison camp and initial Russian roulette scene.