I've watched all the special features on the new DVD release of Raging Bull. I was amazed by how much of the dialogue between Joe Pesci and Robert DeNiro was improvised. But not as amazed as I was by the real Jake LaMotta's enthusiastic cooperation not only with the making of the movie, but also with the documentaries. He really seems to like and respect the movie. Maybe I'm wrong, but to me that seems indicative of a great deal of maturation on his part. I mean, to enjoy this movie that lays bare his most vulnerable self as well as his most despicable--from portrayals of his violent paranoia and his grovelling self abuse in prison, it seems hardly the image the brutish champion fighter would want presented.
There was an eerie moment in the documentary that had shots of DeNiro in the movie delivering the On the Waterfront monologue inter-cut with shots of LaMotta performing the same monologue. LaMotta delivers it not like he's the character saying it but like he's a movie fan repeating lines that moved him deeply. As though he's saying, "You hear him? How he puts it? He coulda been a contender. He could've been somebody."
It made me think again about the relevance of that monologue in the movie. Obviously, unlike Brando's character, LaMotta in fact was a contender. More than that, a champion. I like to think that it means that to the truly passionate, the accomplishment of goals cannot ever truly be fulfilling.
Things must've really mellowed out after the events of the movie. LaMotta said he even went to the premiere with Vicky, his second wife played by Cathy Moriarty in the movie. He said that, when they came out of the movie, he asked Vicky if he was really that bad. She told him, "You were worse."