AFI Movie Club: THE DEER HUNTER

The AFI has named THE DEER HUNTER one of the great films in cinematic history – including the film on the 100 YEARS… 100 FILMS lists, as well as the list of the most thrilling films of all time. AFI also honored two of the film’s stars – Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep – with the AFI Life Achievement Award.

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Trivia About THE DEER HUNTER

DID YOU KNOW? The DEER HUNTER marked John Cazale’s very last film. His friend and co-star Robert De Niro paid the insurance premium for Cazale – who was suffering from terminal cancer at the time – because the studio could not afford to cover him and threatened to recast the role. Despite Cazale’s short film career comprising only five films, each of those works – THE GODFATHER I and II, THE CONVERSATION, DOG DAY AFTERNOON and THE DEER HUNTER – would go on to be nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award®.

DID YOU KNOW? Capturing the steel mill scenes proved problematic for the filmmakers. The producers negotiated for months and were forced to purchase an additional $5 million in insurance before US Steel allowed the production to film cast members working at its central blast furnace in Cleveland, OH. Also, the operators of a steel mill in Weirton, WV, won the support of local government officials to ban filming at their plant; however, the governor at the time intervened and the mill was made accessible for firing.

DID YOU KNOW? Robert De Niro and John Savage performed their own stunts during the scene in which characters Mike and Steven fall into a river from a helicopter.

DID YOU KNOW? The production of THE DEER HUNTER also had to deal with physical ailments during filming. While filming in Thailand, a crew member was hospitalized after an insect bite caused his legs and feet to swell, another presented with typhoid and malaria systems, and many members of the production – including star Robert De Niro – suffered from an illness which caused a high fever. and a persistent chest cold.

DID YOU KNOW? When producer Allan Carr took over marketing for THE DEER HUNTER, he convinced the studio to license the film to air on a well-respected local Los Angeles station called Z Channel before its theatrical release. Many Los Angeles Academy voters subscribed to Channel Z in the late 1970s, which made it easier for voters to view the film. He also asked the studio to release the film in a theater in New York and one in Los Angeles for two weeks before the end of the year to qualify for the Academy Awards® – a new concept at the time.

DID YOU KNOW? The setting in Kanchanaburi, Thailand had to be guarded by heavily armed military officers after the Thai government was overthrown in a coup. The new government granted the filmmakers permission to remain on location for the remaining three weeks of filming.

DID YOU KNOW? THE DEER HUNTER was nominated for nine Oscars® at the 1979 ceremony. The film won five Oscars® that night, including Best Editing, Best Sound, Best Supporting Actor (Christopher Walken) , Best Director (Michael Cimino) and Best Film.

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The Movie Doesn’t End in the Credits: Family Discussion Questions

Join the conversation on Twitter and instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your answers in the comments section below.

-How does the film portray male friendship in an atypical way for the time? How does the friendship of the characters played by Robert De Niro, John Savage, Christopher Walken and John Cazale evolve throughout the film?

-What do you think someone watching THE DEER HUNTER for the first time would take away from the Vietnam War and the era?

-The filmmakers had to convince the Thai government that the film was apolitical to be allowed to shoot in Thailand – do you think that’s the case? Why or why not?

-An earlier AFI Movie Club Movie of the Day, THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, also focuses on the difficult lives of soldiers returning from war. How are these two films similar even though they were released 30 years apart? How do these films portray the difficulties of the soldier differently?

-When THE DEER HUNTER was released, the Russian roulette scene was considered controversial for the time, even being a reason that prevented the film from getting access to network television. Looking back at the scene, is it still controversial? Why or why not?

-How does the film talk about the aftermath of war and post-traumatic stress disorder through the character of Nick? How was this a watershed moment to bring up the subject of PTSD at the time?

-How would you rate THE DEER HUNTER?

Watch filmmaker Jodie Foster talk about the impact of the Russian roulette scene in THE DEER HUNTER in this exclusive video from the AFI Archives.

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AFI has created a global, virtual gathering of those who love cinema. Each day’s film is accompanied by fun facts, family-friendly talking points and material from the AFI Archives to enrich your viewing experience.

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