In the mid-1970s, Robert De Niro brought his friend and colleague Martin Scorsese a script about a fan obsessed with a talk show host and said he was not interested. Years later, De Niro tried again, and Scorsese said yes, which would be a major contribution to one of the great collaborations in American cinema.
The King of the Comedy is Scorsese and De Niro's meditation on the often hostile lines of this form between private and public life, and it remains one of the eeriest films of the 1980s. Here are 13 facts about the making of The King of Comedy from the way the film uses improvisation to the scene that Jerry Lewis himself staged.
The King of Comedy was inspired by a really obsessed fan.
Although he first came to the screen in 1983, the King of Comedy actually had its origins in the early 1970s, when Paul D. Zimmerman – then an author for Newsweek – Reflected on the nature of fame and fandom after reading a story about a man obsessed with Johnny Carson.
Directly inspired by "an article in Esquire about a man who kept a diary in which he judged every show by Johnny Carson:" Johnny disappointed me tonight, "he wrote," recalled Zimmerman later. "The talk shows I began to think about connections between autograph hunters and killers, both of whom persecuted the famous – one with a pen and one with a gun."
With this new correlation in mind, Zimmerman began working on a treatment for the film.  2. Marti n Scorsese was not the first director.
With the seed of a fan obsessed with a talk show presenter, Zimmerman began working on a script with a famous director for what The King was to become the Comedy but this director was not Martin Scorsese, Zimmerman said, initially developing the film with Milos Forman ( One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest ), and the two men each developed their own Drafting the story After a few years of work, Forman left the project, and Zimmerman went on to finally catch the attention of a leading actor h.
3. Martin Scorsese did not want to do it at first.
The King of the Comedy came into the hands of Martin Scorsese via Robert De Niro, who had written the script and brought it to Scorsese in 1974. Scorsese, who knew Zimmerman as a journalist, liked the script, but found it difficult to "rejoice" about it. Years later, when Scorsese finished Raging Bull De Niro again brought him the script and with a little thought about the nature of fame under his belt, Scorsese became more interested.
"I read it, but I did not quite understand it," Scorsese recalled during a retrospective at Tribeca Film Festival 2013. "As we continued to work, I understood. I discovered it when we went on. "
. 4 Johnny Carson was the first choice for Jerry Langford.
With Scorsese on board as a director and De Niro as the lead role of Rupert Pupkin, the duo focused on finding the right actor for the talk show host in the center of the film, Jerry Langford. Of course, De Niro and Scorsese first made the obvious choice and asked Johnny Carson – whose obsessive fans were primarily an inspiration to the movie – to play the role. Carson declined the offer.
. 5 Johnny Carson was not the only potential Jerry Langford.
When Carson spoke out against Jerry Langford, Scorsese and De Niro looked at a number of other famous showmen who might be able to take on the role, but none of them was successful. Among the other potential jerries were Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Orson Welles and Dick Cavett. When Scorsese began to look for possible inspiration for various Las Vegas acts, he was reminded of the comedic duo of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, which made him interested in Lewis during his annual MDA Labor Day Telethon. Scorsese offered the role of Lewis, who accepted her.
. 6 Rupert Pupkin's appearance sprang from a mannequin.
With the beginning of pre-production De Niro began to immerse himself with Scorsese in the role of Rupert Pupkin. The actor guided his director from comedy clubs to the homes of autograph hunters in search of inspiration. But perhaps the most random part of the Rupert Pupkin puzzle arrived when De Niro Scorsese and costume designer Richard Bruno brought to Lew Magram, a clothing store referred to as "Shirtmaker to the Stars". There they found a doll that was almost as dressed as Rupert's ends in the film.
"It was amazing," Scorsese recalled. "The red tie, the shoes, everything. It even had the mustache. That's him. Let's do it. "
. 7 Jerry Lewis renamed his character.
Jerry Lewis brought much of his own style and way of working into the film, and it all started with the character's name. According to Lewis, the character's name in the script was actually Robert, not Jerry, but he persuaded Scorsese to change him to take into account the reactions he would receive in acting in New York City.
"I said," Marty We're going to shoot in New York, Marty. Do yourself a favor and call him Jerry Langford. & # 39; He said, "Why?" "Because everywhere in New York your construction workers and taxi drivers confirm that it's Jerry." And that's exactly what happened, "Lewis said to GQ ." If you remember, in the movie, whenever I was on the road: Hey, Jerry. & # 39; "Yo, Jer." "Hey, you old fool." It worked very well with us. Whenever I went to New York, it happened. It still happens. "
8. Martin Scorsese hated to make The King of the Comedy .
The King of the Comedy brought with it a series of logistical difficulties, with Scorsese having to postpone the start of production In order to avoid a strike of the directors, and shooting on the streets of New York City often caused headaches.To make things worse, Scorsese had been so anxious to finish Raging Bull that The King of Comedy rolled around at the time he contracted pneumonia, but in retrospect, Scorsese found that the deliberately twitching material behind the camera itself was uncomfortable.
"As I turned it, I noticed that I did not like dealing with history, it was so uncomfortable and disturbing that it crossed so many boundaries that normally separate private and public life, "said S corsese later the film critic Richard Schickel. "And I was not a pro, I do not know if I'm a pro today."
Scorsese also later admitted that he found the film so "disturbing" that he did not see it after it was completed.  9 Jerry Lewis staged a scene himself.
Lewis's comedic timing and his attention to detail were crucial in front of the camera, but during filming The King of Comedy Scorsese stated One day Lewis Scorsese told a story about a woman who had stopped him as he walked down the street and she was on a pay phone, it was not in the script, but Scorsese put it
"Jerry worked it out in terms of timing as it stopped him," said Scorsese.
10 In the film, improvisation played a key role. To the To give scenes a sense of immediacy and explosive suspense as well as a little awkwardness, Scorsese encouraged the cast to improvise, in particular Sandra Bernhard was selected for the role of Masha partly because of her ability to perform spontaneously on the stage. The scene in which Masha captivates Jerry and tries to seduce him contains much of the film's improvisation, as does the scene in which Rupert appears uninvited to Jerry. According to Scorsese, the scene in which Jonno (Kim Chan), the butler of Jerry, could not open the door was an accident left in the film because Chan and Lewis were able to improvise around him.
. 11 There were some tensions between Jerry Lewis and Sandra Bernhard.
The scene in which Masha covers Jerry with tape up to her neck trying to seduce him while trapped in a chair is one of the most famous sequences in the Scorsese canon. but it did not come without difficulty. Much of the scene was improvised, and that sense of spontaneity highlighted the differences in Lewis and Bernhard's performance style. This led to a certain tension as Lewis began to resist Bernhard's audacity.
"He is like my father 1000 times", Bernhard recalled later. They like women, but women have their place. He'll come across a person like me, especially a woman like me, and it'll freak him out.
This tension culminated in Bernhard's, the moment in which Jerry brought Masha to solve him, only to push them. Lewis originally wanted Bernhard to fall on a candlelit glass table, and Bernhard hesitated. Jerry expressed his argument, but in the end Scorsese intervened and opted for the simpler version of the attack shown in the film.
"The sexual threat to Jerry was very important, but he started to laugh. Then it became difficult to handle, and his comments and jokes became more nervous, which disturbed Sandra for a while, "Scorsese recalled. "He finally cleared things up and helped her in the scene."
12th The film shows some Scorsese family cameos.
Long-time Scorsese fans know that the director liked to include his parents, Charles and Catherine Scorsese, in his films, and the couple may be best known for their roles in . Goodfellas as Vinnie or Tommy's mother. Both Scorsese parents also have roles in The King of Comedy . Charles Scorsese appears only as a "First Man at Bar," but Catherine Scorsese has a larger, if not visible, role. She is the voice of Rupert's mother, and apparently she was so convincing that Scorsese remembered that it was the only time De Niro had decomposed while filming the film.
The King of the Comedy also contains some other fascinating features cameos. If you look closely enough at one of the crowd scenes, you'll see Mick Jones and Joe Strummer from The Clash.
. 13 The King of Comedy was initially a flop.
The King of Comedy was released in February 1983, earning little more than $ 2.5 million at the end of its cash flow. Although it was loved by many critics and time appreciated, even Rotten Tomatoes admits that the movie was "largely misunderstood at its release." For Scorsese, the reaction to the movie in its release year was a moment faster of watching TV on New Year's Eve 1983.
"I got dressed to go home to my friend Jay Cocks, and I watch Entertainment Tonight . They put the year together and I put on my shirt and they said, "Now the flop of the year: The King of the Comedy ." And I was … "Oh … OK". he said with a laugh.
Conversations with Scorsese by Richard Schickel (Knopf, 2011)