Dr. Stephen A. Sands, a psychiatrist and full-time faculty member of the
Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, served as a technical
adviser and psychological consultant for the film. "Dr. Steve," as
Crystal calls him, "was there to ask the right questions in each situation
because we improvised a great deal."
During his post-doctoral training at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center,
Dr. Sands evaluated a number of forensic cases, including that of Vincent
"The Chin" Gigante, the reputed head of the Genovese crime family.
Gigante was often seen wandering around Greenwich Village in pajamas, taking to
himself. His alleged cognitive problems, which many people maintain was an act,
earned him seven years' postponement of a trial on murder and racketeering
charges during the 1990s while the court considered expert testimony on his
Dr. Sands was on the Analyze That set every day for scenes in which
psychiatric issues were involved, including Vitti's therapy sessions at Ben
Sobel's office/residence in Montclair, the opening scenes at Riker's Island
(which doubled for Sing Sing) where Vitti stages his breakdown, and during the
heist sequence where both Vitti and Sobel individually experience episodes of
"I worked with Billy Crystal, and assisted him in portraying a therapist's
behavior during a psychotherapy session," the doctor says. "I helped
him with different things, such as the content and timing of specific
interpretations, and the kinds of mannerisms to adopt when dealing with a
patient. And I was there at Riker's Island to provide feedback for Robert De
Niro when he was feigning a psychiatric illness, experiencing multiple episodes
of panic, and undergoing neuropsychological and projective testing."
During pre-production, Dr. Sands arranged for De Niro to visit the
psychiatric unit at Bellevue Hospital and meet with patients and psychiatrists
to discuss symptoms associated with his character. The actor actually
participated in group therapy sessions with the patients and doctors during many
of these visits.
Later, while on location at Riker's, Dr. Sands was astonished at the
veracity of De Niro's portrayal, saying, "He could have fooled any
physician, any psychiatrist, into believing he was having a major
The early scenes set in Sing Sing prison, which were so important in setting
up the story, marked a new challenge for De Niro -- singing and dancing.
Michael Dansicker, a vocal coach who had previously worked with De Niro on Meet
the Parents, helped prepare him for the scenes in which he performs excerpts
from West Side Story. Dansicker is an expert on West Side Story,
having worked with Jerome Robbins, the musical's original director and
choreographer, when he reconstructed the show's dances for Jerome Robbins'
"Bob De Niro has a booming baritone voice, and very good timing and
placement," states Dansicker. "An actor in this kind of situation has
to perform on two fronts: he has to maintain pitch and rhythm, and he has to
match the vocal manner of the character he has already created. Actually, De
Niro learned the material very quickly. Our only concern was that he would sound
too good, because we wanted him to sound like Paul Vitti."
The idea of performing this prison-bathrobe cabaret struck De Niro as funny
right away. "I loved the idea," he says, "and so did everybody
else. We were all starting to sing songs from West Side Story, playing
with the idea. I tried to give them pieces from a lot of different selections
and eventually it was just too much material. We had to tighten it to the point
where the scene could sustain itself."
Says Crystal, "I think this will go down in f
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