‘The Deer Hunter’ at 40: go behind-the-scenes with Robert De Niro on the Vietnam War epic

New book 'One Shot: The Making Of The Deer Hunter' is out now

This month, publisher Jay Glennie has released One Shot – The Making Of The Deer Hunter, a new book documenting his work on the 1979 Vietnam War classic The Deer Hunter.

The book features exclusive interviews with the cast Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep and more. In the year that Michael Cimino’s epic turns 40, Glennie has given NME an exclusive look at his book, with in-depth explanations from him and De Niro. Dive in.

1
De Niro, right on cue

The Deer Hunter
Credit: StudioCanal / One Shot: The Making of the Deer Hunter

“Robert De Niro opened up his archives to me and I found his notes for this particular scene. Bob had choreographed every movement he made with his cue to keep in time to the Frankie Valli song ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ as the guys danced and played pool; this is the dedication he applies to his craft, it looks spontaneous but he spends hours perfecting a scene.” – Jay Glennie

2
Playing a prank

The Deer Hunter
Credit: StudioCanal / One Shot: The Making of the Deer Hunter

“John Savage, the groom enjoying his last beers as a single man before going to Vietnam, loved playing opposite Shirley Stoker, who played his mum. Despite her gruff exterior she was a warm and effervescent lady. I love the camaraderie of this scene. Buddies giving their mate some loving banter for his mum dragging him out of the bar.” – Jay Glennie

3
A white wedding

Credit: StudioCanal / One Shot: The Making of the Deer Hunter

“Ken Kovach who is seen in The Deer Hunter as the choir master took this picture of the wedding party in the St. Theodosius church in Cleveland. 

The ‘wedding scene’ caused a huge amount of animosity between director Michael Cimino and EMI Films and the US distributors Universal Pictures. Described as a “flicker of a candle” by Cimino, it instead turned into what Meryl Streep described to me as a “free form of filmmaking” – Cimino was looking for that happy accident – and took over forty minutes of screen time.” – Jay Glennie

4
Get in, loser

The Deer Hunter
Credit: StudioCanal / One Shot: The Making of the Deer Hunter

“Bob, Chris Walken and George Dzundza all recalled the shoot as being full of love and chemistry, and the setting of this shot, on their hunting trip epitomises that; the warmth from De Niro just emanates.” – Jay Glennie

5
Hangin’ out

The Deer Hunter
Credit: StudioCanal / One Shot: The Making of the Deer Hunter

“Bob, Chris, Meryl Streep and all of The Deer Hunter cast and crew just loved and revered John Cazale. He only starred in five films before his untimely death, and all five films were nominated for Best Picture Oscars – The Godfather (1972), The Conservation (1974, The Godfather II (1974), Dog Day Afternoon (1975) and The Deer Hunter (1978).” – Jay Glennie 

“John [Cazale] was a great. Tragically he never lived to see The Deer Hunter released.” – Robert De Niro 

6
Having a laugh

The Deer Hunter
Credit: StudioCanal / One Shot: The Making of the Deer Hunter

“No matter how serious you take your craft you have to find time to have fun while making a film and Mike [Cimino] allowed us that opportunity on The Deer Hunter.” – Robert De Niro

7
Don’t look down

The Deer Hunter
Credit: StudioCanal / One Shot: The Making of the Deer Hunter

“The helicopter scene let me tell you was hairy. There was me and John, and Chris had gotten off by this time and the chopper had got caught in the railings and twisted the whole bridge around. I looked at John and shouted, “Drop!” We had no choice and we just dropped in the water.” – Robert De Niro

8
Bottoms up

The Deer Hunter
Credit: StudioCanal / One Shot: The Making of the Deer Hunter

“Here are the guys enjoying a hunting trip. Because of the heat of the summer of 1977 during the shooting of The Deer Hunter the unit had to move to Mount Baker, Washington State to find snow-capped mountains depicting the hunting season. By this time the cast had built up a tight camaraderie.” – Jay Glennie

9
A man’s best friend

The Deer Hunter
Credit: StudioCanal / One Shot: The Making of the Deer Hunter

“I love this picture. As soon as I saw it I knew I had to feature it within the book. It is another side to Bob that we are not often afforded. He has such a great smile, full of warmth and humility.” – Jay Glennie

“I always felt that The Deer Hunter was going to be a good movie; otherwise I wouldn’t have done it. It had its flaws, but there was something very special about it. I responded to Mike [Cimino], I responded to his passion and how serious he was about the film.” – Robert De Niro

‘One Shot: The Making of The Deer Hunter’ is available to order at coattail-publications.com

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