In “The Untouchables”, Robert De Niro plays the most famous gangster in the United States. If he hesitated to accept the role of Al Capone, the actor finally invested himself to offer a new extraordinary physical transformation to the director Brian De Palma.
The Untouchables : the fantastic 1930s
After Scarface and comedy Mafia SaladBrian De Palma returns to gangster flick with The Untouchables. But this time, the filmmaker does not place himself on the side of the members of the underworld but of that of the authorities. Based on a script by the excellent David Mamet (Gears, Spartan), the feature film released in 1987 relates Eliot Ness’ crusade to stop Al Capone in the early 1930s, during prohibition.
The diehard cop determined to bring down the Chicago crime figure is Kevin Costner’s first big role, and The Untouchables propels the actor to the rank of star. It also reveals Andy Garcia, who lends his features to one of Ness’s associates alongside Charles Martin Smith and Sean Connery. Thanks to the character of Jim Malone, mentor of the squad, the latter wins the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
On the side of the criminals, Robert De Niro plays the kingpin nicknamed Scarface. Billy Drago plays the formidable Frank Nitti, his henchman who never balks at dirty work and who offers the film its most chilling scenes. Patricia Clarkson is finally making her film debut playing Catherine Ness. To complete this reunion of talents, Ennio Morricone signed the soundtrack, which earned him a third Oscar nomination after The Harvests of the Sky and Mission.
The reunion between Brian De Palma and Robert De Niro
At the end of the 60s, after having been appearing for Marcel Carné in Three bedrooms in Manhattan, Robert De Niro begins his career under the leadership of Brian De Palma. Together, they shoot three feature films: Greetings and its sequel Hi, Mom !, in which the actor plays a Vietnam veteran, as well as the comedy The Wedding Party. The filmmaker then introduced the actor to a certain Martin Scorsese, with whom he began in 1973 an essential collaboration with Mean streets.
Almost twenty years after their debut together, The Untouchables therefore marks the reunion between Robert De Niro and Brian De Palma. A fourth collaboration which almost did not take place. Originally, Bob Hoskins is engaged to lend his features to Al Capone. But Brian De Palma insists on imposing a star in the role of the Mafioso and thinks of his former collaborator and friend. As the director confides in an interview for Entertainment Weekly in 2006, the interpreter of the young Vito Corleone in The Godfather, 2e part is initially doubtful:
I spent weeks trying to convince him because he was going to have to put on weight and he had other films in the works.
Bob Hoskins is finally fired and receives the sum of 200,000 dollars in compensation, according to information from Los Angeles Times in 1986.
A new metamorphosis
Robert De Niro therefore accepts to play the boss despite his reluctance, not being his first physical transformation. But as usual, the actor will show an implication for the less impressive. As for Raging Bull, he accepts to gain weight. For this, he goes to Italy and adopts a consequent local regime, which allows him to earn twelve kilos in just five weeks.
The actor contacts tailors who had dressed Al Capone and their order of tailor-made outfits. Picky, he goes so far as to obtain Sulka silk underwear, the gangster’s official supplier, even if they are never visible on the screen. In order to accentuate the resemblance to the criminal, he shaves his head, explaining about it toEntertainment Weekly for the thirtieth anniversary of the feature film:
I tried to put on as much weight as possible and shave my head more to look as plump as possible with the time I had to prepare.
On arrival, the resemblance between Al Capone and Robert De Niro is stunning.