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GRUDGE MATCH

Razor and Kid Get Ready to Rumble
When Razor enters the arena dressed in the classic black and white of Muhammad Ali, his old-school white silk robe with black edging and white trunks with black stripes seem to glow under the bright spotlights. Kid sports his trademark cloverleaf on the back of a sparkling emerald green Italian silk robe and trunks edged in black. Shimmering with more than 5,000 hand-beaded Swarovski-crystals, Kid's floor-length robe was a throwback to the colorful theatrics of boxing's golden age.

Vogt says both De Niro and Stallone helped design their character's boxing costumes and, while the robes, trunks, socks and boots appear to be a simple ensemble, she learned from the experts appearances can be deceiving. "Proportions are very important and it's amazing how easily it can be thrown off. The placement and size of the lettering on the robe, the height of the shorts, the height of the band, where the trunks cut on the leg, everything has to be in proportions. Both Mr. Stallone and Mr. De Niro were very specific about everything."

Stallone says Vogt did a masterful job with the boxing costumes. 'They really have historical value and are a true flashback, but in a classy way," says Stallone. "A lot of love and intelligence went into making these costumes."

With everything in the story leading up to the boxing match, the execution of the mechanical and emotional beats in the fight was a team effort of technical skill and mechanical expertise involving camera movements, stunt work, reaction shots and well-placed punches.

First and foremost, the fight choreography and on-screen training were constructed to show the progression of movement and skills of two boxers who have not fought in thirty years.

"The ingenious way Pete and Sly developed this ten-round fight started with the psychology of these guys, who have not been in the ring for decades," says Scott. "So, they are going to be rusty and mentally timid. There's going to be missed punches, including ones that land badly. We needed to visually convey all these details, which would happen if you hadn't boxed in years and all of a sudden jumped into the ring for a title match."

Another incredible reality of the climactic match between Razor and Kid is that De Niro and Stallone did all of their own boxing. "We didn't use one stunt double," says Segal. "It was a hundred percent Bob and Sly."

"Stallone's really a gladiator," says Gerber. 'He wouldn't let anything stop him. Even at rehearsals, we'd say, 'Sly, save it for fight, save it for fight.' 'Yeah, yeah, yeah…Don't worry about it.' He'd be jumping around, doing the footwork, throwing punches. 'Dude, you're 67. Save it!' But he just brought more."

Scott says he had doubles ready, suggested using them and even pushed to use a stunt double in a sequence where De Niro is hit and goes down. But the actor refused. "He argued with me and said, 'No, I want to do it again,' and the next time he went even bigger. I don't know any other man that age who could dance around the ring like he did for five days, throw and take punches, giving 150 percent until the final bell."

In fact, Stallone wanted De Niro to bring it on, to throw punches that landed, which was difficult for De Niro. "'I really want you to go at me, hit me,'" Stallone recalls telling De Niro. "But he found it very difficult to punch me in the face. He's just not used to it and I realized it's a process to train yourself to let loose and actually hit somebody."

"I think Sly liked my left hook," De Niro kids. "It's a tough sport, though, and he's got much more experience while I tend to not want to hit anybody, so I'm very careful. I was relying on him quite a bit and I think we worked very well together."

Stallone was so intent on De Niro hitting him he actually had specially designed boxing gloves made for the actor to protect his hands. "I made gloves where you could hit. If the camera's angle is set, you can see the hits. Those were all hits. They're not lethal but they hurt after a while." Stallone says when De Niro put on those "brutal, real eight-ounce killer gloves" and finally started landing a few, "it seriously hurt. No matter where you hit, it hurts," he says. "Bob's going for it, banging away at me and I know he's hurtin, 'cuz I'm hurtin,' and he says 'Oh, I'm sorry,' and I said, 'Don't be sorry. Knock me out!' So, he did it and he did great."

There were six cameras shooting the fight under cinematographer Dean Semler's direction, including the Genesis, Lexis and Canon digital cameras.

The other key to creating the excitement and noise of a real prizefight was having the HBO Sports team be part of the night. "The presence of HBO gave the match an invaluable legitimacy," says Gerber. "From their real boxing match camera operators to their signage to referee Pat Russell to announcers Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant and Roy Jones, Jr., having HBO really gave us the ability to make the fight feel real. It was amazing to watch Lampley, Merchant and Jones create in this fictional world, the idea that they knew who these guys were, they had followed their careers, knew their story, and compared it to other historical examples of rivalries. It was golden."

"These guys work so well together, I think we have a fight that the audience won't expect," says Scott. "It's a hard-hitting, fast-moving, to-the-bone fight."

The cast, crew, and 500 extras spent five sweltering, surreal days in the arena watching the two superstars make history in the ring. Despite being dressed in evening gowns and suits in the 90-degree ringside heat, the crowd was another element that added realism to the fight. Segal attests, "Their responses really added to the energy that both actors were playing off of in the ring. I think they were happy to share this iconic cinematic boxing experience with us. And their genuine enthusiasm really helped make the movie and the fight as great as it is."

As Razor and Kid meet in their final fight, they're seeking redemption as much as victory. "Both of these men are going to their version of Oz, looking for what is going to complete them, in and out of the ring," says Segal. "And it all culminates with this fight where they are stripped down to nothing but their boxing gloves, shoes and shorts, and they have to get in there, face each other and resolve a conflict that's been eating at them for three decades."

The director reflects, "I grew up in sort of what I call the golden age of heavyweights, and, to this day, I'm a huge fan. I think historically, if you look at boxing movies, there is a romance to them. There's good and evil, pain and exhilaration. It's a ballet of violence. But it's also a great metaphor for life-when you're beaten down, can you get up again and keep fighting?"

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