Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: Zach Galifianakis Takes On Brad Pitt In Latest 'Between Two Ferns' Plus Louis C.K. Stops By Watch: Zach Galifianakis Takes On Brad Pitt In Latest 'Between Two Ferns' Plus Louis C.K. Stops By Watch: First Trailer For 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron,' Brings Mass Destruction Along With Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver Watch: First Trailer For 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron,' Brings Mass Destruction Along With Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver Watch: 'Star Wars' Prequels Recut Into 2 Hour 40 Minute 'Turn to the Darkside: Episode 3.1' Watch: 'Star Wars' Prequels Recut Into 2 Hour 40 Minute 'Turn to the Darkside: Episode 3.1' Edward Norton Says He Didn't Return To Play Hulk Because He Wanted More "Diversity" In His Film Roles Edward Norton Says He Didn't Return To Play Hulk Because He Wanted More "Diversity" In His Film Roles Oscar Buzz: Who Could Be Set For Nods In The Supporting Actress Race? Oscar Buzz: Who Could Be Set For Nods In The Supporting Actress Race? Juliette Binoche Says Her Performance In 'Godzilla' Made Quentin Tarantino Cry Juliette Binoche Says Her Performance In 'Godzilla' Made Quentin Tarantino Cry Listen To Chvrches "Get Away" From The Rescored Version Of Nicolas Winding Refn's 'Drive' Plus Check Out The Trailer Listen To Chvrches "Get Away" From The Rescored Version Of Nicolas Winding Refn's 'Drive' Plus Check Out The Trailer The Essentials: The 10 Best Michael Keaton Performances The Essentials: The 10 Best Michael Keaton Performances George Lucas Says Studios "Don't Have Any Imagination And Don't Have Any Talent" George Lucas Says Studios "Don't Have Any Imagination And Don't Have Any Talent" Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 7 ‘Friendless Child’ Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 7 ‘Friendless Child’ Watch: Spoiler-ific Local News Report On 'Batman v. Superman' That Caused WB To Lauch A Lawsuit Watch: Spoiler-ific Local News Report On 'Batman v. Superman' That Caused WB To Lauch A Lawsuit Watch: Baz Luhrmann's Chanel No. 5 Short Film "The One That I Want" Starring Gisele Bündchen Watch: Baz Luhrmann's Chanel No. 5 Short Film "The One That I Want" Starring Gisele Bündchen WTF: Horror Hit 'Annabelle' Yanked From French Theaters Due To Rioting WTF: Horror Hit 'Annabelle' Yanked From French Theaters Due To Rioting Gone Girls And Gone Boys: 11 Films That Dissect Marriage Gone Girls And Gone Boys: 11 Films That Dissect Marriage Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Tribeca: Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese & Jerry Lewis Reflect On 'The King Of Comedy,' Improv, Deleted Scenes & More

The Playlist By Gabe Toro | The Playlist April 29, 2013 at 2:57PM

The Tribeca Film Festival closed last night with a digitally-restored screening of “The King Of Comedy.” Thirty years later, the film still reverberates as an acidic take on celebrity worship that has, oddly enough, become timeless, and the re-master is gorgeous. The film was greeted with rapturous applause, but the real fireworks started after a raucous Q+A featuring a chatty Martin Scorsese, a shy Robert De Niro, and a more-than-eager Jerry Lewis.
2
Robert De Niro Martin Scorsese Jerry Lewis

The Tribeca Film Festival closed last night with a digitally-restored screening of “The King Of Comedy.” Thirty years later, the film still reverberates as an acidic take on celebrity worship that has, oddly enough, become timeless, and the re-master is gorgeous. The film was greeted with rapturous applause, but the real fireworks started after a raucous Q+A featuring a chatty Martin Scorsese, a shy Robert De Niro, and a more-than-eager Jerry Lewis.

Scorsese and De Niro spoke first about the genesis of “The King Of Comedy,” a script by Paul Zimmerman that late-night devotee Scorsese could not figure out. “It was between ’75, to 1980 before I could actually get it,” the director said. “I discovered it as I went along.” Scorsese referred to how “The King Of Comedy” was very much looked upon as one of the last of a dying breed of picture. “We did ‘Raging Bull,’ and that came out ten days before they released ‘Heaven’s Gate,’” he said. “This film was one of the last vestiges of that type of picture. It snuck in under that radar, because that whole world had changed.”

Rupert Pupkin King of Comedy De Niro

Scorsese showed an active engagement with the material early on, noting how he was a massive fan of the world he saw through the prism of late night talk shows. “I was introduced to Lenny Bruce, Jack Kerouac, people I hadn’t been introduced to otherwise,” he said. “That world was very close to me. So all the characters you see, they’re all part of that. Ed Herlihy, guys that like, were all a part of that world.”

To prepare for the shoot, Scorsese and De Niro attempted to hone the character of deluded standup Rupert Pupkin by hitting stand-up joints and shadowing other comedians. De Niro claimed he worked with the likes of Richard Beltzer and Robin Williams to find the character, but the eureka moment came from the wardrobe. Regarding the iconic red suit Pupkin wears in the film, De Niro recounts, “We went to this store on Broadway, Blue Mountain.”

“Shirt-maker to the stars!” Scorsese added.

“And we saw it on a mannequin,” De Niro continued, “and said, let’s just do that.”

“The face, mustache and shirt were all there,” Scorsese confirms. “The red tie and everything. We said, that’s him, let’s do it.” Scorsese also claims to have spent time with the autograph hounds waiting for the late-night stars, a milieu that shows up in a pivotal early scene of “The King Of Comedy.” But Scorsese easily credits De Niro and screenwriter Zimmerman for fleshing Pupkin out. “The actual monologue was written by Paul Zimmerman,” Scorsese says of the climactic stand-up routine. “That whole monologue, [De Niro] did it in one take. On video. The level of the humor is kind of middle ground. It’s not terrible. It’s not great. It’s enough to get by.”

King Of Comedy, De Niro, Jerry Lewis

Scorsese, who says it wasn’t a “comedy” per se (“We didn’t intentionally make it funny!” he protests), nonetheless emphasized how hard the film’s production was. "We did a lot of takes, sometimes 25 to 35 takes, variations of the reading of one line,” he says, noting they shot a million feet of film. Much of that is still sitting around, he says, mentioning one scene between De Niro and Diahnne Abbott, playing attractive barmaid Rita, that had to be deleted.

“There’s a scene where he calls her, and she goes to the phone,” De Niro recalls, referring to the amount of excised scenes. “And she goes out and she meets Rupert, and goes to his loft,” Scorsese added, often finishing De Niro’s sentences. “ And it doesn’t go well. It’s an interesting sequence, but the whole thing had to be lifted out. It’s one of those things people are interested to see as an extra.”

This article is related to: Tribeca Film Festival, Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis, Martin Scorsese, The King of Comedy


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates