By Bob Jimenez Photos by Bob Jimenez
Boxer Jake LaMotta turns 91 years old next month making him the oldest living gladiator in America.
Last Tuesday, the production crew of “Raging Bull II, a pre-sequel and sequel to the 1980 film, threw a surprise birthday party at Universal Studios, where filming is taking place.
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It was classic Hollywood fantasy. LaMottta drives up in a golf cart and a pretty brunette jumps out of an over-sized cardboard cake and slips a piece of real birthday cake into his mouth. The candles on the cake say 90 instead of 91; more Hollywood fantasy.
LaMotta, for all the excitement, says very little beyond tipping his cowboy hat in gratitude, but when he is asked the secret of being alive so long, he half whispers: “Take life one step at a time.”
In his day, trainers and coaches, no doubt, gave LaMotta the same advice just before he entered the ring. “One punch at a time,” blows that the boxer delivered with such ferocity that he quickly earned the nickname, “The Bronx Bull” and later “The Raging Bull.” He just kept coming at his opponents all the way to the title: “World Middle Weight Champ of the World.”
Martin Guigui directs Raging Bull II, a look at LaMotta’s life before the rage begins and after it ends. It’s an ambitious, if not risky undertaking that some film critics already speculate will not equal the Scorsese original For one thing, they write, the role of LaMotta that made Robert DeNiro famous, has, in the sequel, been given to actor William Forsythe. Second, Martin Guigui just isn’t in the same league as Martin Scorsese.
It’s a petty and cliquish thing to say. Martin Scorsese became the great director he is because he took chances. Guigui is doing nothing different, and like any director reaching higher into his art form, a film like this could, one day, earn him the same notice as his more famous contemporary. What are these critics saying? The creation of art is only limited to well-established artists and no one else?
Besides, Guigui is well up to the task; meticulously professional, patient and knows good acting. He’s written 12 screenplays, executively produced seven films and has directed six other, including a 2012 nail biter titled: “Beneath the Darkness,” staring seasoned actor Dennis Quaid.
The making of Raging Bill II is important for another reason. Guigui is making it in California; not in New York, creating local Hollywood jobs and giving California a tax revenue boost it sorely needs. The best part is, by keeping the production in California, Guigui stays close to his mother, wife, and two young daughters.
Jake LaMotta likes the attention. He sticks around to take more photos with the pretty brunette, members of the production crew along with Guigii and Forsythe. There’s no telling what the stalwart boxer is thinking. Maybe taking all that punishment in the ring was worth the warmth and respect with which he is now showered. Or maybe he looks at director Martin Guigui and thinks to himself; Keep at it; become a Raging Bull!