The Deer Hunter is a 1978 drama film directed and co-written by Michael Cimino about a trio of Russian American steel worker friends and their infantry service in the Vietnam War. The film stars Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Savage, John Cazale, Meryl Streep and George Dzundza. The story takes place in Clairton, a small working class town on the Monongahela River south of Pittsburgh and then in Vietnam, somewhere in the woodland and in Saigon, during the Vietnam War.
The film was based in part on an unproduced screenplay called “The Man Who Came To Play” by Louis Garfinkle and Quinn K. Redeker about Las Vegas and Russian Roulette. Producer Michael Deeley, who bought the script, hired writer/director Michael Cimino who, with Deric Washburn, rewrote the script, taking the Russian Roulette element and placing it in the Vietnam War. The film went over-budget and over-schedule and ended up costing $15 million. The scenes of Russian roulette were highly controversial on release.
The film won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director and was named by the American Film Institute as the 53rd Greatest Movie of All Time on the 10th Anniversary Edition of the AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies list.