Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorsese

Scorsese at the Tribeca Film Festival, 2007
Born Martin Charles Scorsese
November 17, 1942 (1942-11-17) (age 69)
Queens, New York, U.S.
Nationality American
Education Cardinal Hayes High School
Alma mater New York University / Tisch
Occupation Film director, producer, actor, screenwriter
Years active 1963–present
Influenced by Jean Renoir, Alfred Hitchcock, Michael Powell, Federico Fellini, Orson Welles, John Ford, Satyajit Ray, Jean-Luc Godard, Michelangelo Antonioni, Stanley Kubrick, Roberto Rossellini, John Cassavetes, Robert Bresson, Emeric Pressburger, Luchino Visconti, Ingmar Bergman, Elia Kazan
Influenced Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, David Yates, John Woo, Tim Burton, David Fincher
Spouse Laraine Marie Brennan (1965–ca 71; divorced)
Julia Cameron (1976–77; divorced)
Isabella Rossellini (1979–82; divorced)
Barbara De Fina (1985–91; divorced)
Helen Morris (1999–present)
Parents Charles Scorsese,
Catherine Scorsese

Martin Charles Scorsese[1] (pronounced /skɔrˈsɛsi/;[2] born November 17, 1942)[3][4][5][6] is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, actor, and film historian. In 1990 he founded The Film Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to film preservation, and in 2007 he founded the World Cinema Foundation. He is a recipient of the AFI Life Achievement Award for his contributions to the cinema, and has won Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes, BAFTAs, and DGA Awards.

Scorsese's body of work addresses such themes as Italian American identity, Roman Catholic concepts of guilt and redemption,[7] machismo, modern crime and violence. Scorsese is hailed as one of the most significant and influential American filmmakers of all time, directing landmark films such as Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas – all of which he collaborated on with actor and close friend Robert De Niro.[8] He won the Academy Award for Best Director for The Departed, having been nominated a previous five times.


Personal life

From left: Salvo Cuccia, Martin Scorsese and Vittorio De Seta at the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival

Martin Scorsese was born in New York City. His father, Charles Scorsese (1913–1993), and mother, Catherine Scorsese (born Cappa; 1912–97), both worked in New York's Garment District. His father was a clothes presser and an actor, and his mother was a seamstress and an actress.[9] His father's parents emigrated from Polizzi Generosa, in the province of Palermo, Sicily. Scorsese was raised in a devoutly Catholic environment.[10] As a boy, he had asthma and couldn't play sports or do any activities with other kids and so his parents and his older brother would often take him to movie theaters; it was at this stage in his life that he developed passion for cinema. Enamored of historical epics in his adolescence, at least two films of the genre, Land of the Pharaohs and El Cid, appear to have had a deep and lasting impact on his cinematic psyche. Scorsese also developed an admiration for neorealist cinema at this time. He recounted its influence in a documentary on Italian neorealism, and commented on how Bicycle Thieves alongside Paisà, Rome, Open City inspired him and how this influenced his view or portrayal of his Sicilian genes. In his documentary, Il Mio Viaggio in Italia, Scorsese noted that the Sicilian episode of Roberto Rossellini's Paisà which he first saw on television alongside his relatives, who were themselves Sicilian immigrants, made a significant impact on his life.[11] He has also cited Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray as a major influence on his career.[12][13] His initial desire to become a priest[14] while attending Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx gave way to cinema, and, consequently, Scorsese enrolled in NYU's University College of Arts and Science, (now known as the College of Arts and Science), where he earned a B.A. in English in 1964. He went on to earn his M.F.A. from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts in 1966, a year after the school was founded.[15]

Marriages and children

Scorsese has been married five times. His first wife was Laraine Marie Brennan; they have a daughter, Catherine. He married the writer Julia Cameron in 1976; they have a daughter, Domenica Cameron-Scorsese, who is an actress and appeared in The Age of Innocence, but the marriage lasted only a year. The divorce was acrimonious and served as the basis of Cameron's first feature, the dark comedy, God's Will,[16] which also starred their daughter, Domenica.[17][18] Their daughter also had a small role in Cape Fear using the name Domenica Scorsese and has continued to act, write, direct and produce.[19]

He was married to actress Isabella Rossellini from 1979 to their divorce in 1983. He then married producer Barbara De Fina in 1985; their marriage ended in divorce as well, in 1991. He has been married to Helen Morris since 1999; they have a daughter, Francesca, who appeared in The Departed and The Aviator. He is primarily based in New York City.

Scorsese has commented, "I'm a lapsed Catholic. But I am Roman Catholic, there's no way out of it."[20]


Early career

Scorsese attended New York University's film school (B.A., English, 1964; M.F.A., film, 1966)[21] making the short films What's a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This? (1963) and It's Not Just You, Murray! (1964). His most famous short of the period is the darkly comic The Big Shave (1967), which features Peter Bernuth. The film is an indictment of America's involvement in Vietnam, suggested by its alternative title Viet '67.[22] Scorsese has mentioned on several occasions that he was greatly inspired in his early days at New York University by his Armenian-American film professor Haig P. Manoogian.

Also in 1967, Scorsese made his first feature-length film, the black and white I Call First, which was later retitled Who's That Knocking at My Door with fellow student, actor Harvey Keitel, and editor Thelma Schoonmaker, both of whom were to become long-term collaborators. This film was intended to be the first of Scorsese's semi-autobiographical 'J.R. Trilogy', which also would have included his later film, Mean Streets. Even in embryonic form, the "Scorsese style" was already evident: a feel for New York Italian American street-life, rapid editing, an eclectic rock soundtrack, and a troubled male protagonist.


From there he became friends with the influential "movie brats" of the 1970s: Francis Ford Coppola, Brian De Palma, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg. It was Brian De Palma who introduced Scorsese to Robert De Niro. During this period he worked as the assistant director and one of the editors on the documentary Woodstock and met actor-director John Cassavetes, who would also go on to become a close friend and mentor.[23]

Mean Streets

In 1972 Scorsese made the Depression-era exploiter Boxcar Bertha for B-movie producer Roger Corman, who had also helped directors such as Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron, and John Sayles launch their careers. It was Corman who taught Scorsese that entertaining films could be shot with next to no money or time, preparing the young director well for the challenges to come with Mean Streets. Following the film's release, Cassavetes encouraged Scorsese to make the films that he wanted to make, rather than someone else's projects.

Championed by influential movie critic Pauline Kael, Mean Streets was a breakthrough for Scorsese, De Niro, and Keitel. By now the signature Scorsese style was in place: macho posturing, bloody violence, Catholic guilt and redemption, gritty New York locale (though the majority of Mean Streets was actually shot in Los Angeles), rapid-fire editing, and a rock soundtrack. Although the film was innovative, its wired atmosphere, edgy documentary style, and gritty street-level direction owed a debt to directors Cassavetes, Samuel Fuller, and early Jean-Luc Godard.[24] (Indeed the film was completed with much encouragement from Cassavetes, who felt Boxcar Bertha was undeserving of the young director's prodigious talent.)[23]

In 1974, actress Ellen Burstyn chose Scorsese to direct her in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, for which she won an Academy Award for Best Actress. Although well regarded, the film remains an anomaly in the director's early career, as it focuses on a central female character. Returning to Little Italy to explore his ethnic roots, Scorsese next came up with Italianamerican, a documentary featuring his parents, Charles and Catherine Scorsese.

Taxi Driver

The iconic Taxi Driver followed in 1976 – Scorsese's dark, urban nightmare of one lonely man's slow, deliberate descent into insanity.

The film established Scorsese as an accomplished filmmaker operating on a highly skilled level, and also brought attention to cinematographer Michael Chapman, whose style tends towards high contrasts, strong colors and complex camera movements. The groundbreaking performance of Robert De Niro as the troubled and psychotic Travis Bickle was highly regarded. The film co-starred Jodie Foster in a highly controversial role as an underage prostitute, and Harvey Keitel as her pimp, Matthew, called "Sport."

Taxi Driver also marked the start of a series of collaborations between Scorsese and writer Paul Schrader, whose influences included the diary of would-be assassin Arthur Bremer and Pickpocket, a film by the French director Robert Bresson. Writer/director Schrader often returns to Bresson's work in films such as American Gigolo, Light Sleeper, and Scorsese's later Bringing Out the Dead.[25]

Already controversial upon its release, Taxi Driver hit the headlines again five years later, when John Hinckley, Jr. made an assassination attempt on then-President Ronald Reagan. He subsequently blamed his act on his obsession with Jodie Foster's Taxi Driver character (in the film, De Niro's character, Travis Bickle, makes an assassination attempt on a senator).[26]

Taxi Driver won the Palme d'Or at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival,[27] also receiving four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, although all were unsuccessful.

Scorsese was subsequently offered the role of Charles Manson in the movie Helter Skelter and a part in Sam Fuller's war movie The Big Red One, but he turned both down. However he did accept the role of a gangster in exploitation movie Cannonball directed by Paul Bartel. In this period there were also several directorial projects that never got off the ground including Haunted Summer, about Mary Shelley and a film with Marlon Brando about the Indian massacre at Wounded Knee.

New York, New York and The Last Waltz

The critical success of Taxi Driver encouraged Scorsese to move ahead with his first big-budget project: the highly stylized musical New York, New York. This tribute to Scorsese's home town and the classic Hollywood musical was a box-office failure.

New York, New York was the director's third collaboration with Robert De Niro, co-starring with Liza Minnelli (a tribute and allusion to her father, legendary musical director Vincente Minnelli). The film is best remembered today for the title theme song, which was popularized by Frank Sinatra. Although possessing Scorsese's usual visual panache and stylistic bravura, many critics felt its enclosed studio-bound atmosphere left it leaden in comparison to his earlier work.

Despite its weak reception, the film is regarded by some to be among the director's finest achievements. Richard Brody in the New Yorker wrote: "For Scorsese, a lifelong cinephile, the essence of New York could be found in its depiction in classic Hollywood movies. Remarkably, his backward-looking tribute to the golden age of musicals and noirish romantic melodramas turned out to be one of his most freewheeling and personal films." [28]Jean-Luc Godard is another admirer of the film.[29]

The disappointing reception that New York, New York received drove Scorsese into depression. By this stage the director had also developed a serious cocaine addiction. However, he did find the creative drive to make the highly regarded The Last Waltz, documenting the final concert by The Band. It was held at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, and featured one of the most extensive lineups of prominent guest performers at a single concert, including Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Neil Diamond, Ringo Starr, Muddy Waters, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Paul Butterfield, Ronnie Wood and Van Morrison. However, Scorsese's commitments to other projects delayed the release of the film until 1978.

Another Scorsese-directed documentary entitled American Boy also appeared in 1978, focusing on Steven Prince, the cocky gun salesman who appeared in Taxi Driver. A period of wild partying followed, damaging the director's already fragile health.

Scorsese also helped provide footage for the documentary Elvis on Tour.


Raging Bull

On plan Raging Bull

By several accounts (Scorsese's included), Robert De Niro practically saved Scorsese's life when he persuaded Scorsese to kick his cocaine addiction to make his highly regarded film, Raging Bull. Convinced that he would never make another movie, he poured his energies into making this violent biopic of middleweight boxing champion Jake LaMotta, calling it a Kamikaze method of film-making.[30] The film is widely viewed as a masterpiece and was voted the greatest film of the 1980s by Britain's Sight & Sound magazine.[31][32] It received eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Robert De Niro, and Scorsese's first for Best Director. De Niro won, as did Thelma Schoonmaker for editing, but Best Director went to Robert Redford for Ordinary People.

Raging Bull, filmed in high contrast black and white, is where Scorsese's style reached its zenith: Taxi Driver and New York, New York had used elements of expressionism to replicate psychological points of view, but here the style was taken to new extremes, employing extensive slow-motion, complex tracking shots, and extravagant distortion of perspective (for example, the size of boxing rings would change from fight to fight).[33] Thematically too, the concerns carried on from Mean Streets and Taxi Driver: insecure males, violence, guilt, and redemption.

Although the screenplay for Raging Bull was credited to Paul Schrader and Mardik Martin (who earlier co-wrote Mean Streets), the finished script differed extensively from Schrader's original draft. It was re-written several times by various writers including Jay Cocks (who went on to co-script later Scorsese films The Age of Innocence and Gangs of New York). The final draft was largely written by Scorsese and Robert De Niro.[34]

The American Film Institute chose Raging Bull as the #1 American sports film on their list of the top 10 sports films.

The King of Comedy

Scorsese's next project was his fifth collaboration with Robert De Niro, The King of Comedy (1983). A satire on the world of media and celebrity, it was an obvious departure from the more emotionally committed films he had become associated with. Visually, it was far less kinetic than the style Scorsese had developed up until this point, often using a static camera and long takes.[35] The expressionism of his recent work here gave way to moments of almost total surrealism. It still bore many of Scorsese's trademarks, however, such as its focus on a troubled loner who ironically becomes famous through a criminal act (murder and kidnapping, respectively).[36]

The King of Comedy failed at the box office, but has become increasingly well regarded by critics in the years since its release. German director Wim Wenders numbered it among his fifteen favourite films.[37] Also, Scorsese apparently believes that this is the best performance De Niro ever gave for him.

Next Scorsese made a brief cameo appearance in the movie Pavlova: A Woman for All Time, originally intended to be directed by one of his heroes, Michael Powell. This led to a more significant role in Bertrand Tavernier's jazz movie Round Midnight.

In 1983 Scorsese began work on a long-cherished personal project, The Last Temptation of Christ, based on the 1951 (English translation 1960) novel written by Nikos Kazantzakis, who was introduced to the director by actress Barbara Hershey when they were both attending New York University in the late 1960s. The movie was slated to shoot under the Paramount Pictures banner, but shortly before principal photography was to commence, Paramount pulled the plug on the project, citing pressure from religious groups. In this aborted 1983 version, Aidan Quinn was cast as Jesus, and Sting was cast as Pontius Pilate. (In the 1988 version, these roles were played respectively by Willem Dafoe and David Bowie.)

After Hours

After the collapse of this project Scorsese again saw his career at a critical point, as he described in the documentary Filming for Your Life: Making 'After Hours' (2004). He saw that in the increasingly commercial world of 1980s Hollywood, the highly stylized and personal 1970s films he and others had built their careers on would not continue to enjoy the same status. Scorsese decided then on an almost totally new approach to his work. With After Hours (1985) he made an aesthetic shift back to a pared-down, almost "underground" film-making style – his way of staying viable. Filmed on an extremely low budget, on location, and at night in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan, the film is a black comedy about one increasingly misfortunate night for a mild New York word processor (Griffin Dunne) and featured cameos by such disparate actors as Teri Garr and Cheech and Chong. A bit of a stylistic anomaly for Scorsese, After Hours fits in well with popular low-budget "cult" films of the 1980s, e.g. Jonathan Demme's Something Wild and Alex Cox's Repo Man.

The Color of Money

Along with the 1987 Michael Jackson music video "Bad", in 1986 Scorsese made The Color of Money, a sequel to the much admired Robert Rossen film The Hustler (1961) with Paul Newman. Although typically visually assured, The Color of Money was the director's first foray into mainstream commercial film-making. It won actor Paul Newman a belated Oscar and gave Scorsese the clout to finally secure backing for a project that had been a long time goal for him: The Last Temptation of Christ. He also made a brief venture into television, directing an episode of Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories.

The Last Temptation of Christ

After his mid-80s flirtation with commercial Hollywood, Scorsese made a major return to personal film-making with the Paul Schrader-scripted The Last Temptation of Christ in 1988. Based on Nikos Kazantzakis's controversial 1960 book, it retold the life of Christ in human rather than divine terms. Even prior to its release the film caused a massive furore, worldwide protests against its perceived blasphemy effectively turning a low budget independent movie into a media sensation.[38] Most controversy centered on the final passages of the film which depicted Christ marrying and raising a family with Mary Magdalene in a Satan-induced hallucination while on the cross.

Looking past the controversy, The Last Temptation of Christ gained critical acclaim and remains an important work in Scorsese's canon: an explicit attempt to wrestle with the spirituality which had under-pinned his films up until that point. The director went on to receive his second nomination for a Best Director Academy Award (again unsuccessfully, this time losing to Barry Levinson for Rain Man).

Along with directors Woody Allen and Francis Ford Coppola, in 1989 Scorsese provided one of three segments in the portmanteau film New York Stories, called "Life Lessons".



After a decade of mostly mixed results, Gangster epic Goodfellas (1990) was a return to form for Scorsese and his most confident and fully realized film since Raging Bull. De Niro and Joe Pesci in Goodfellas offered a virtuoso display of the director's bravura cinematic technique and re-established, enhanced, and consolidated his reputation. After the film was released Roger Ebert, a friend and supporter of Scorsese, named Goodfellas "the best mob movie ever" and is ranked #1 on Roger's movie list for 1990, along with Gene Siskel and Peter Travers, the film is widely considered one of the director's greatest achievements.[39][40][41]

However, Goodfellas also signified an important shift in tone in the director's work, inaugurating an era in his career which was technically accomplished but some have argued emotionally detached.[42] Despite this, many view Goodfellas as a Scorsese archetype – the apogee of his cinematic technique.

The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, Scorsese earned his third Best Director nomination for Goodfellas but again lost to a first-time director, Kevin Costner (Dances With Wolves). Joe Pesci earned the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Goodfellas. Scorsese and the film won over a numerous of different awards, including five BAFTA Awards, a Silver Lion and more.

After the film, Goodfellas was acknowledged as the second best in the gangster film genre (after The Godfather). The American Film Institute put Goodfellas at #94 on the AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies list and on the 2007 updated version they moved Goodfellas up to #92 on the AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies list (10th Anniversary Edition) and they put Goodfellas at #2 on their list of the top 10 Gangster films.

In 1990, he acted in a cameo role as Vincent van Gogh in the film Dreams by legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa.

Cape Fear

1991 brought Cape Fear, a remake of a cult 1962 movie of the same name, and the director's seventh collaboration with De Niro. Another foray into the mainstream, the film was a stylized thriller taking its cues heavily from Alfred Hitchcock and Charles Laughton's The Night of the Hunter (1955). Cape Fear received a mixed critical reception and was lambasted in many quarters for its scenes depicting misogynistic violence. However, the lurid subject matter did give Scorsese a chance to experiment with a dazzling array of visual tricks and effects. The film garnered two Oscar nominations. Earning eighty million dollars domestically, it would stand as Scorsese's most commercially successful release until The Aviator (2004), and then The Departed (2006). The film also marked the first time Scorsese used wide-screen Panavision with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

The Age of Innocence

The opulent and handsomely mounted The Age of Innocence (1993) was on the surface a huge departure for Scorsese, a period adaptation of Edith Wharton's novel about the constrictive high society of late-19th Century New York. It was highly lauded by critics upon original release, but was a box office bomb. As noted in Scorsese on Scorsese by editor/interviewer Ian Christie, the news that Scorsese wanted to make a film about a 19th Century failed romance raised many eyebrows among the film fraternity all the more when Scorsese made it clear that it was a personal project and not a studio for-hire job.

Scorsese was interested in doing a "romantic piece". His friend, Jay Cocks gave him the Wharton novel in 1980, suggesting that this should be the romantic piece Scorsese should film as Cocks felt it best represented his sensibility. In Scorsese on Scorsese he noted that:

"Although the film deals with New York aristocracy and a period of New York history that has been neglected, and although it deals with code and ritual, and with love that's not unrequited but unconsummated – which pretty much covers all the themes I usually deal with – when I read the book, I didn't say, 'Oh good, all those themes are here.'"

Scorsese, who was strongly drawn to the characters and the story of Wharton's text, wanted his film to be as rich an emotional experience as the book was to him rather than the traditional academic adaptations of literary works. To this aim, Scorsese sought influence from diverse period films which made an emotional impact on him. In Scorsese on Scorsese, he documents influences from films such as Luchino Visconti's Senso and his Il Gattopardo as well as Orson Welles's The Magnificent Ambersons and also Roberto Rossellini's La Prise de pouvoir par Louis XIV. Although The Age of Innocence was ultimately different than these films in terms of narrative, story and thematic concern, the presence of a lost society, of lost values as well as detailed re-creations of social customs and rituals continues the tradition of these films.

Recently, it has started to come back into the public eye, especially in countries such as the UK and France, but still is largely neglected in North America. The film earned five Academy Award nominations (including for Scorsese for Best Adapted Screenplay), winning the Costume Design Oscar. It also made a significant impact on directors such as Chinese auteur Tian Zhuangzhuang,[43] and British filmmaker Terence Davies,[44] both of whom ranked it among their ten favorite films.

This was his first collaboration with the Academy Award winning actor, Daniel Day-Lewis, with whom he would work again in Gangs of New York.


1995's expansive Casino, like The Age of Innocence before it, focused on a tightly wound male whose well-ordered life is disrupted by the arrival of unpredictable forces. The fact that it was a violent gangster film made it more palatable to fans of the director who perhaps were baffled by the apparent departure of the earlier film. Critically, however, Casino received mixed notices. In large part this was due to its huge stylistic similarities to his earlier Goodfellas, and its excessive violence that garnered it a reputation as possibly the most violent American gangster film ever made[citation needed]. Indeed many of the tropes and tricks of the earlier film resurfaced more or less intact, most obviously the casting of both Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, Pesci once again being an unbridled psychopath. Sharon Stone was nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award for her performance.

During the filming Scorsese played a background part as a gambler at one of the tables. It is quite often rumored that a real game of poker was being held at the time between extras and that a pot of $2000 was at stake.

A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies

Scorsese still found time for a four hour documentary in 1995 offering a thorough trek through American cinema. It covered the silent era to 1969, a year after which Scorsese began his feature career, stating "I wouldn't feel right commenting on myself or my contemporaries."


If The Age of Innocence alienated and confused some fans, then Kundun (1997) went several steps further, offering an account of the early life of Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, the People's Liberation Army's entering of Tibet, and the Dalai Lama's subsequent exile to India. Not least a departure in subject matter, Kundun also saw Scorsese employing a fresh narrative and visual approach. Traditional dramatic devices were substituted for a trance-like meditation achieved through an elaborate tableau of colourful visual images.[45]

The film was a source of turmoil for its distributor, Disney, who were planning significant expansion into the Chinese market at the time. Initially defiant in the face of pressure from Chinese officials, Disney has since distanced itself from the project, hurting Kundun's commercial profile.

In the short term, the sheer eclecticism in evidence enhanced the director's reputation. In the long term however, it generally appears Kundun has been sidelined in most critical appraisals of the director, mostly noted as a stylistic and thematic detour. Kundun was the director's second attempt to profile the life of a great religious leader, following The Last Temptation of Christ.

Bringing Out the Dead

Bringing Out the Dead (1999) was a return to familiar territory, with the director and writer Paul Schrader constructing a pitch-black comic take on their own earlier Taxi Driver.[46] Like previous Scorsese-Schrader collaborations, its final scenes of spiritual redemption explicitly recalled the films of Robert Bresson.[47] (It's also worth noting that the film's incident-filled nocturnal setting is reminiscent of After Hours.) It received generally positive reviews,[48] although not the universal critical acclaim of some of his other films. It stars Nicolas Cage, Ving Rhames, John Goodman, Tom Sizemore, and Patricia Arquette.


Gangs of New York

Scorsese at the Gangs of New York screening at the Cannes Film Festival with Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz.

In 1999 Scorsese also produced a documentary on Italian filmmakers entitled Il Mio Viaggio in Italia, also known as My Voyage to Italy. The documentary foreshadowed the director's next project, the epic Gangs of New York (2002), influenced by (amongst many others) major Italian directors such as Luchino Visconti and filmed in its entirety at Rome's famous Cinecittà film studios.

With a production budget said to be in excess of $100 million, Gangs of New York was Scorsese's biggest and arguably most mainstream venture to date. Like The Age of Innocence, it was set in 19th-century New York, although focusing on the other end of the social scale (and like that film, also starring Daniel Day-Lewis). The film also marked the first collaboration between Scorsese and actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who since then has become a fixture in later Scorsese films.

The production was highly troubled with many rumors referring to the director's conflict with Miramax boss Harvey Weinstein.[49] Despite denials of artistic compromise, Gangs of New York revealed itself to be the director's most conventional film: standard film tropes which the director had traditionally avoided, such as characters existing purely for exposition purposes and explanatory flashbacks, here surfaced in abundance.[50][51][52] The original score composed by regular Scorsese collaborator Elmer Bernstein was rejected at a late stage for a score by Howard Shore and mainstream rock artists U2 and Peter Gabriel.[53] The final cut of the movie ran to 168 minutes, while the director's original cut was over 180 minutes in length.[50] The film still received generally positive reviews with the review tallying website Rotten Tomatoes reporting that 75% of the reviews they tallied for the film were positive and summarizing the critics by saying "Though flawed, the sprawling, messy Gangs of New York is redeemed by impressive production design and Day-Lewis's electrifying performance."[54]

Nonetheless, the themes central to the film were consistent with the director's established concerns: New York, violence as culturally endemic, and sub-cultural divisions down ethnic lines.

Originally filmed for a release in the winter of 2001 (to qualify for Academy Award nominations), Scorsese delayed the final production of the film until after the beginning of 2002; the studio consequently delayed the film for nearly a year until its release in the Oscar season of late 2002.[55]

Gangs of New York earned Scorsese his first Golden Globe for Best Director. In February 2003, Gangs of New York received ten Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Daniel Day-Lewis, however it did not win in any category.

Scorsese also had uncredited involvement as executive producer with the 2002 film Deuces Wild,[56] written by Paul Kimatian.

The Blues

The following year Scorsese completed production of The Blues, an expansive seven part documentary tracing the history of blues music from its African roots to the Mississippi Delta and beyond. Seven film-makers including Wim Wenders, Clint Eastwood, Mike Figgis, and Scorsese himself each contributed a 90 minute film (Scorsese's entry was entitled "Feel Like Going Home").

The Aviator

Scorsese's film The Aviator (2004), was a lavish, large-scale biopic of eccentric aviation pioneer and film mogul Howard Hughes and would reunite Scorsese with actor Leonardo DiCaprio. The film received highly positive reviews.[57][58][59][60][61] The film also met with widespread box office success and gained Academy recognition.

The Aviator was nominated for six Golden Globe awards, including Best Picture – Drama, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Actor – Drama for Leonardo DiCaprio. It won three, including Best Picture and Best Actor – Drama. In January 2005, The Aviator became the most-nominated film of the 77th Academy Award nominations, nominated in 11 categories including Best Picture. The film also garnered nominations in nearly all of the other major categories, including a fifth Best Director nomination for Scorsese, Best Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), Best Supporting Actress (Cate Blanchett), and Alan Alda for Best Supporting Actor. Despite having a leading tally, the film ended up with only five Oscars: Best Supporting Actress, Art Direction, Costume Design, Film Editing and Cinematography. Scorsese lost again, this time to director Clint Eastwood for Million Dollar Baby (which also won Best Picture).

No Direction Home

No Direction Home is a documentary film by Martin Scorsese that traces the life of Bob Dylan, and his impact on American popular music and culture of the 20th century. The film does not cover Dylan's entire career; rather, it focuses on his beginnings, his rise to fame in the 1960s, his then-controversial transformation from an acoustic guitar-based musician and performer to an electric guitar-influenced sound and his "retirement" from touring in 1966 following an infamous motorcycle accident. The film was first presented on television in both the United States (as part of the PBS American Masters series) and the United Kingdom (as part of the BBC Two Arena series) on September 26–27, 2005. A DVD version of the film was released that same month. The film won a Peabody award. In addition, Scorsese received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Directing for Nonfiction Programming.

The Departed

Scorsese returned to the crime genre with the Boston-set thriller The Departed, based on the Hong Kong police drama Infernal Affairs. Along with Matt Damon, The Departed was Scorsese's first collaboration with Jack Nicholson and Martin Sheen.

The Departed opened to widespread critical acclaim with some proclaiming it as one of the best efforts Scorsese had brought to the screen since 1990's Goodfellas,[62][63] and still others putting it at the same level as Scorsese's most celebrated classics Taxi Driver and Raging Bull.[64][65] With domestic box office receipts surpassing $129,402,536, The Departed was Scorsese's highest grossing film (not accounting for inflation) until 2010's Shutter Island.

Martin Scorsese's direction of The Departed earned him his second Golden Globe for Best Director, as well as a Critic's Choice Award, his first Director's Guild of America Award, and the Academy Award for Best Director. While being presented with the award, Scorsese said "Could you double-check the envelope?" It was presented to him by his longtime friends and colleagues Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, and George Lucas. The Departed also received the Academy Award for the Best Motion Picture of 2006, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Film Editing by longtime Scorsese editor Thelma Schoonmaker, her third win for a Scorsese film, though many thought Scorsese deserved Academy Awards in his past films as well.

Shine a Light

Shine a Light is a concert film of rock and roll band The Rolling Stones' performances at New York City's Beacon Theater on October 29 and November 1, 2006, intercut with brief news and interview footage from throughout the band's career.

The film was initially scheduled for release on September 21, 2007, but Paramount Classics postponed its general release until April 2008. Its world premiere was at the opening of the 58th Berlinale Film Festival on February 7, 2008.


Shutter Island

On October 22, 2007, Daily Variety reported that Scorsese would reunite with Leonardo DiCaprio on a fourth picture, Shutter Island. Principal photography on the Laeta Kalogridis screenplay, based on the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, began in Massachusetts in March 2008.[66][67]

In December 2007, actors Mark Ruffalo, Max von Sydow, Ben Kingsley, and Michelle Williams joined the cast,[68][69] marking the first time these four actors have worked with Scorsese. The film was released on February 19, 2010.[70] On May 20, 2010, the film was Scorsese's highest grossing film.[71]

Boardwalk Empire

Martin Scorsese in Cannes, 2010

Scorsese directed the series premiere for Boardwalk Empire, an HBO drama series,[72] starring Steve Buscemi and Michael Pitt, and based upon Nelson Johnson's book Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times and Corruption of Atlantic City.[73] Terence Winter, who previously wrote for The Sopranos, created the series. In addition to directing the pilot, Scorsese will also serve as an executive producer on the series.[73]

The series premiered on September 19, 2010 and was renewed for a second season.[73]


Hugo is an upcoming 3D adventure drama film based on Brian Selznick's novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret. The film stars Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Ray Winstone, Emily Mortimer and Jude Law.

This is Scorsese’s first film shot in 3D and it is due to be released in the US on November 23, 2011.[74]

Future films

Scorsese has announced several potential future projects.[75] A three and half hour documentary about Beatle George Harrison is scheduled to air on HBO on October 5 & 6, 2011.[76] A documentary feature on Scorsese by artist Melinda Camber Porter was nearly complete when she lost her life to cancer.

Scorsese's next feature film will be Hugo, an adaptation of Brian Selznick's best-selling children's historical fiction book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the first film he will create in 3D, using 3D cameras as opposed to post production changes. Filming at Shepperton Studios, England from July 18th 2010 onwards, and expected to release late 2011. Following Hugo, Scorsese anticipates filming an adaptation of Shusaku Endo's novel, Silence, a drama about the voyages of two Portuguese Jesuit priests in Japan during the 17th Century. Scorsese had planned Silence as his next project following Shutter Island.[77] Scorsese reported that his long-planned Frank Sinatra biopic is coming up, with Phil Alden Robinson writing the screenplay.[78] Scorsese is attached to direct the upcoming project The Irishman, that will star Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino.[79]

Collaborations with Robert De Niro

Scorsese frequently collaborated with Robert De Niro, making a total of eight films with the actor. After being introduced to him in the early 1970s, Scorsese cast De Niro in his 1973 film Mean Streets. Three years later, De Niro starred in Taxi Driver, this time holding the lead role. De Niro re-joined Scorsese for New York, New York in 1977, but the film was unsuccessful. Nevertheless, their partnership continued into the 1980s, when the pair made Raging Bull, which was highly successful, and The King of Comedy. In the 1990s, De Niro starred in Goodfellas, one of the pair's most praised films, and 1991's Cape Fear, before making Casino in 1995. The two also voiced major parts in the 2004 film Shark Tale. Scorsese and De Niro plan to re-unite for a film referred to as The Irishman based on the book I Heard You Paint Houses,[80] although a date for the project is uncertain.


  • In 2007, Scorsese was listed among Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in The World.
  • In August 2007 Scorsese was named the 2nd greatest director of all time in a poll by Total Film magazine, in front of Steven Spielberg and behind Alfred Hitchcock.
  • In 2007, Scorsese was honored by the National Italian American Foundation (N.I.A.F.) at the nonprofit's thirty-second Anniversary Gala. During the ceremony, Scorsese helped launch N.I.A.F.'s Jack Valenti Institute, which provides support to Italian film students in the U.S., in memory of former Foundation Board Member and past president of the Motion Picture Association of America (M.P.A.A.) Jack Valenti. Scorsese received his award from Mary Margaret Valenti, Jack's widow. Certain pieces of Scorsese's film related material and personal papers are contained in the Wesleyan University Cinema Archives to which scholars and media experts from around the world may have full access.[81]

Director trademarks

  • Begins his films with segments taken from the middle or end of the story. Examples include Raging Bull (1980),[82] Goodfellas (1990),[83] Casino (1995),[84] and The Last Waltz.[85]
  • Frequent use of slow motion, e.g. Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), and Goodfellas (1990) .[86] Also known for using freeze frame, such as the opening credits of The King of Comedy (1983), and throughout Goodfellas (1990).
  • His lead characters are often morally ambiguous, prone to violence, and/or want to be accepted in society or a society (The Departed, Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas) and are not infrequently sociopaths (Cape Fear, Raging Bull, Casino). [87]
  • In most of his films the main character often falls in love and has a wife, and often has a turning point between the main character and the wife. e.g. Raging Bull, Goodfellas, and Casino.
  • His blonde leading ladies are usually seen through the eyes of the protagonist as angelic and ethereal; they wear white in their first scene and are photographed in slow-motion (Cybill Shepherd in Taxi Driver; Cathy Moriarty's white bikini in Raging Bull; Sharon Stone's white minidress in Casino).[88] This may possibly be a nod to director Alfred Hitchcock.[89]
  • Often uses long tracking shots.[90] Example: Goodfellas (1990)
  • Use of MOS sequences set to popular music or voice over, often involving aggressive camera movement and/or rapid editing.[91]
  • The supporting actor will often betray the protagonist (Micheal in Mean Streets, Judas Iscariot in The Last Temptation of Christ, Jimmy Conway in Goodfellas, Nicky Santoro in Casino)
  • Often has a quick cameo in his films (Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, The King of Comedy, After Hours, The Last Temptation of Christ (albeit hidden under a hood), Casino, The Age of Innocence, Gangs of New York). Also, often contributes his voice to a film without showing his face on screen. He provides the opening voice-over narration in Mean Streets and The Color of Money; plays the off-screen dressing room attendant in the final scene of Raging Bull; provides the voice of the unseen ambulance dispatcher in Bringing out the Dead.[92]
  • Frequently uses New York City as the main setting in his films, e.g. Gangs of New York, Taxi Driver, The Age of Innocence, The King of Comedy, After Hours, New York, New York, and Mean Streets.[93]
  • Sometimes highlights characters in a scene with an iris, an homage to 1920s silent film cinema (as scenes at the time sometimes used this transition). This effect can be seen in Casino (it is used on Sharon Stone and Joe Pesci), Life Lessons, and The Departed (on Matt Damon).
  • Some of his films include references/allusions to Westerns, particularly Shane, The Searchers and The Oklahoma Kid.
  • More recently, his films have featured corrupt authority figures, such as policemen in The Departed[94] and politicians in Gangs of New York[95] and The Aviator.[96]
  • Guilt is a prominent theme in many of his films, as is the role of Catholicism in creating and dealing with guilt (Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Bringing Out the Dead, Mean Streets, Who's That Knocking at My Door, Shutter Island).
  • Slow motion flashbulbs and accented camera/flash/shutter sounds.
  • The song Gimme Shelter by the Rolling Stones is heard in several of Scorsese's films, including Goodfellas, Casino, The Departed, and Shine a Light.
  • Some of his films are inspired by a true story. Examples: Raging Bull, Goodfellas, and Casino.

Frequent collaborations

Scorsese often casts the same actors in his films, particularly Robert De Niro, who collaborated with Scorsese for eight films. Included are the three films (Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, and Goodfellas) that made AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies list. Scorsese has often said he thinks De Niro's best work under his direction was Rupert Pupkin in The King of Comedy. Most recently, Scorsese has found a new muse with young actor Leonardo DiCaprio, with whom he has collaborated for four films, with two others confirmed to be in the works.[97] Several critics have compared Scorsese's new partnership with DiCaprio with his previous one with De Niro.[98][99] Other frequent collaborators include Victor Argo (6), Harry Northup (6), Harvey Keitel (5), Murray Moston (5), Joe Pesci (3), Frank Vincent (3) and Verna Bloom (3). Daniel Day-Lewis, who had become very reclusive to the Hollywood scene, Alec Baldwin, John C. Reilly, and Frank Sivero have also appeared in multiple Scorsese films. Before their deaths, Scorsese's parents, Charles Scorsese and Catherine Scorsese, appeared in bit parts, walk-ons or supporting roles, most notably in Goodfellas.

For his crew, Scorsese frequently worked with editor Thelma Schoonmaker,[100] cinematographers Michael Ballhaus[101] and Robert Richardson, screenwriters Paul Schrader and Mardik Martin, costume designer Sandy Powell, production designer Dante Ferretti, and composers Robbie Robertson, Howard Shore[102] and Elmer Bernstein.[103] Schoonmaker, Richardson, Powell, and Ferretti have all won Academy Awards in their respective categories on collaborations with Scorsese. Elaine and Saul Bass, the latter being Hitchcock's frequent title designer, designed the opening credits for Goodfellas, The Age of Innocence, Casino and Cape Fear. He was the executive producer of the film Brides, which was directed by Pantelis Voulgaris and starred Victoria Haralabidou, Damien Lewis, Steven Berkoff and Kosta Sommer.

Actor/Actress Who's That Knocking at My Door (1968) Boxcar Bertha (1972) Mean Streets (1973) Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974) Taxi Driver (1976) New York, New York (1977) Raging Bull (1980) The King of Comedy (1983) After Hours (1985) The Color of Money (1986) The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) Goodfellas (1990) Cape Fear (1991) The Age of Innocence (1993) Casino (1995) Kundun (1997) Bringing Out the Dead (1999) Gangs of New York (2002) The Aviator (2004) The Departed (2006) Shutter Island (2010) Hugo (2011)
Victor Argo NoN NoN NoN NoN NoN
Robert De Niro NoN NoN NoN NoN NoN NoN NoN NoN
Leonardo DiCaprio NoN NoN NoN NoN
Harvey Keitel NoN NoN NoN NoN NoN
Murray Moston NoN NoN NoN NoN NoN
Harry Northup NoN NoN NoN NoN NoN NoN
Joe Pesci NoN NoN NoN
Catherine Scorsese NoN NoN NoN NoN NoN NoN NoN
Charles Scorsese NoN NoN NoN NoN NoN NoN NoN NoN
Frank Sivero NoN NoN NoN
Frank Vincent NoN NoN NoN

Awards and recognitions

Scorsese's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Scorsese received the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1997.

  • In 1998, the American Film Institute placed three Scorsese films on their list of the greatest movies in America: Raging Bull at #24, Taxi Driver at #47 and Goodfellas at #94. For their tenth anniversary edition of the list, Raging Bull was moved to #4, Taxi Driver was moved to #52 and Goodfellas was moved to #92.
  • Scorsese received the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic on January 18, 2001.[citation needed]
  • In 2001, AFI put two Scorsese films on their list of the most "heart-pounding movies" in American cinema: Taxi Driver at #22 and Raging Bull at #51.
  • On June 17, 2008, AFI put two of Scorsese's films on the AFI's 10 Top 10 list: Raging Bull at #1 for the Sports genre and Goodfellas at #2 for the Gangster genre.
  • At a ceremony in Paris, France, on January 5, 2005,[citation needed] Martin Scorsese was awarded the French Legion of Honor in recognition of his contribution to cinema.
  • In 2007, Scorsese won the Academy Award for Best Director for The Departed, which also won Best Picture.
  • On September 11, 2007, the Kennedy Center Honors committee, which recognizes career excellence and cultural influence, named Scorsese as one of the honorees for the year.
  • Scorsese was the recipient of the 2010 Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 67th Golden Globe Awards.
  • On September 18, 2011, at the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards, Scorsese won in the category Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series, for his work on the series premiere of Boardwalk Empire.

Scorsese has earned praise from many film legends including Ingmar Bergman,[104] Frank Capra,[105] Jean-Luc Godard,[106] Werner Herzog,[107] Elia Kazan,[108] Akira Kurosawa,[109] David Lean,[110] Michael Powell,[111] Satyajit Ray,[112] and François Truffaut.[113]


See also

  • List of film collaborations


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