De Niro had been looking for another opportunity to work with actress Meryl Streep, with whom he had co-starred in The Deer Hunter (1978). The equally versatile Streep was De Niro's counterpart in many ways, evidenced by her challenging roles in films like Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), Sophie's Choice (1982) and Silkwood (1983). She even matched De Niro's Academy Award wins, taking home Oscars as Best Supporting Actress for Kramer vs. Kramer and Best Actress in Sophie's Choice. De Niro won his for The Godfather: Part II and Raging Bull. "I was always thinking of something I could do with Meryl," said De Niro at the time, "a play, a film, anything. We had a reading and began to see possibilities in it." The desire to work together was mutual, and the role of Molly seemed like the right choice at the right time for Streep. "We wanted something real," she said, "something awkward and crumpled."
Even though the part of Frank Raftis was without the dark intensity of most of his other roles, De Niro found playing Frank every bit as challenging. "It only appeared to be easier," he said of his character. "You always have to worry. You always have to concentrate. It's just more deceptive when you are working on the surface." For simple scenes that had De Niro holding a telephone conversation with his wife, he showed his attention to detail and authenticity by asking writer Cristofer to pen dialogue for his wife's end of the conversation, even though you don't see or hear her in the scenes. He also reportedly had business cards printed up with his character's name and business on them, which never appear in the movie.
The film's director, Ulu Grosbard, had teamed with De Niro once before on the 1981 murder mystery True Confessions, and the two were enthusiastic about working together again. Grosbard, a former diamond cutter from Belgium, began his film directing career in 1968 with The Subject Was Roses and most recently completed the 1999 Michelle Pfeiffer movie The Deep End of the Ocean. Though the bulk of his success came as a stage director on Broadway, De Niro felt that Grosbard was the right choice for Falling in Love, and both recalled their second project together as a positive experience.
A high caliber supporting cast lends complexity to potentially ordinary roles in Falling in Love. Fellow Mean Streets and Taxi Driver co-star Harvey Keitel plays De Niro's best friend, Ed. Keitel, like De Niro, made a career of playing gritty character parts in films like Reservoir Dogs (1992), and Bad Lieutenant (1992). Two-time Oscar winner Dianne Wiest, best known for her steady work in Woody Allen movies like Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) and Bullets Over Broadway (1994), plays Streep's best friend Isabelle. Fans of television show Malcolm in the Middle will enjoy seeing the wonderful Jane Kaczmarek in the role of De Niro's wife, Ann.
Producer: Robert F. Colesberry, Marvin Worth
Director: Ulu Grosbard
Screenplay: Michael Cristofer
Art Direction: Speed Hopkins
Cinematography: Peter Suschitzky
Costume Design: Richard Bruno
Film Editing: Michael Kahn
Original Music: Dave Grusin
Principal Cast: Robert De Niro (Frank Raftis), Meryl Streep (Molly Gilmore), Harvey Keitel (Ed Lasky), Jane Kaczmarek (Ann Raftis), George Martin (John Trainer).
C-107m. Closed captioning.
By Andrea Foshee