Why Roy Scheider Turned Down The Deer Hunter, According To Producer Thom Mount

Scheider passing on “The Deer Hunter” opened the door for Robert De Niro. The actor already had “Raging Bull” in the works with Martin Scorsese and was planning to take a break from acting before shooting that film. De Niro’s wish was understandable, given he ended up delivering such a physically taxing and emotionally draining performance as Jake LaMotta. In the meantime, though, he found himself won over by the script for “The Deer Hunter” and chose to forgo his hiatus to star as Michael Vronsky. De Niro recalled to GQ:

“I liked the story and the dialogue. I just thought it was a terrific script. It was so simple and it seemed so real to me. The characters spoke to me. I liked that they didn’t say much, that there wasn’t anything that was condescending or patronizing toward them.”

Both “Raging Bull” and “The Deer Hunter” are about self-destruction, though in the former it’s driven by Jake’s insecurities and short temper, not PTSD like in “The Deer Hunter.” Even so, De Niro delivers some of his most powerful, least glamorous work in both films; they’re always ranked at the top of his filmography for good reason.

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