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Marrakech Q&A: Martin Scorsese The Desire To Make Films, Suggests He Only Has A Few Left & Hopes ‘Silence’ Is Next

by Jessica Kiang
December 9, 2013 1:08 PM
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The Wolf Of Wall Street, DiCaprio, Scorsese

The bad language in "Raging Bull" has nothing on "Wolf of Wall Street"
"Raging Bull," when that opened, it got some good reviews, but there was a wonderful article in the esteemed great American newspaper the New York Times and it was quite funny because the language in "Raging Bull" is quite terrible. The language, the attitude, the cursing. The article was, “What Happened To Language?” and they quoted some of the worst lines. So we destroyed the language. The main pull quote was from the scene where De Niro threatens to kill his neighbor's dog. The language is very tough in that film, but not as bad as "Wolf Of Wall Street," my new film. Much worse, muuuch worse. I mean, they’re making money.

"I have the desire to make many films, but as of now I’m 71 and there’s only a couple more left if I get to make them. I miss the time when I had the desire to experiment."

Working with DiCaprio has inspired Scorsese to keep going
With Leonardo DiCaprio it’s different, I’m 30 years older than him. De Niro introduced me to Leo, by saying to me, “I’m working with this young boy and you should work with him one day,” and I found that Leo liked the movies we made in the past and he has the same sensibilities, similar interests. He has great courage and a fearlessness in the work. He’s not afraid to go to certain emotional places [or tackle] psychological issues. 

And it’s a tricky thing with Leo because he became a major box office star with "Titanic." When I did "Gangs of New York" and "The Aviator," people kept asking me, “is he an actor?” I said yes. I saw "What’s Eating Gilbert’s Grape," the film he did with De Niro, "This Boy’s Life" before "Titanic." So there’s a stigma there which people still refer to. But we found that he regenerated my enthusiasm for making films. Mainly because as you get older it gets physically difficult and also the business especially — the financial issues. You’re responsible for a lot of money, if you get it. It’s all pressure, but can you do it? His enthusiasm and excitement really kept me going, for another five pictures now.

Scorsese seems to feel he may not have a huge number of films left to make and feels his time for experimentation is passed.
Desire? Yes, I have the desire to make many films, but as of now I’m 71 and there’s only a couple more left if I get to make them. I miss the time when I had the desire to experiment and try different kinds of films, I miss that time, but that’s done, it’s over. There is obligation as you get older, you have family. I’ve been very lucky in the last 10 years or so, to have found projects that combine the desire, the subject matter—from "The Aviator" to now—with, as best I can, fulfilling the obligation to my family and the financiers.

The Color Of Money

Sometimes, though the obligation has outweighed the desire, and Scorsese has felt "trapped" by the making of a film.
It’s a complex question, so to clarify more, there's a number of projects I’ve made over the years, that I’ve been persuaded by the actor, two of them for Robert De Niro, Paul Newman, and DiCaprio. So I have to find if I can take my time and put my energy and passion into what they like or are drawn to, and luckily in many cases it has worked out. And for me ultimately, I have to have the final say, the final cut.

Now there is one other thing, over the past few years now I’ve been trapped in a couple of films. Where because I agreed at first, I found that the circumstances—whether they were financial, executive situations at studios or physical difficulties—I tried to get out, but I couldn’t, and I had to make the movie. And then it was a matter of making something really special. I really have to find a way to stay really in there and stay interested and find something special. That happened a couple of times in the last 10 years.

Care to speculate on which projects he was referring to there? In any case, "The Wolf of Wall Street" arrives on Christmas Day, and you can be sure we'll be talking a lot more about the film world's very own Santa Claus, Martin Scorsese, in the days and weeks to come. --with Rodrigo Perez

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  • ART | January 21, 2014 1:15 PMReply

    "There is obligation as you get older, you have family." Is he saying that he doesn't have the "desire to experiment" because he needs to put money on his family's table? Still at 71? After the success of HBO's Boardwalk Empire and a string of 100+million movies under his belt? That's depressing.

  • Irf | December 11, 2013 12:02 PMReply

    There is a real problem with the unreal veneration Martin Scorsese receives. The man has made some of the most brilliant movies in American cinema, but he's also made a lot of mediocre entries. Not everything Scorsese touches turns to gold.

    The Scorsese film output of the 21st century has been his most unexciting period. The Gangs of New York was his last brutal examination of social conditions, though, it marked the beginning of him making movies that mainly appeal to Academy board members. His films have gotten expensive and bloated, lacking the rawness of themes and techniques he was able to tap into even up until Bringing Out the Dead.

    Scorsese is an old guy now, and his work seems more stately than powerful. The Aviator was pretty bland (plus it was a Michel Mann leftover) and The Departed was a bloated, Americanised version of classic Hong Kong cop thrillers.

    Scorsese's next two features are straight up Academy Awards-baiting pictures. Silence and The Irishman seem like films he's making to make the Baby Boomer generation happy. Scorsese cannot be experimental because he can't do those kinds of pictures as an old man. Your politics and drive simply congeals.

  • Smyth E. Alan | December 16, 2013 3:29 PM

    A lot of Scorsese's 'veneration' nowadays also comes from his position as an Elder Statesman of Cinema. With his knowledge, and his work with the Film Foundation to restore/re-release films, he has been an invaluable ambassador for the art.

    And I disagree with some of the comments here: yes, since 'Goodfellas' he's largely directed with a detached hand but that run has also produced some damn fine films. Not too many directors age with this quality of a run at the end of their canon.

  • Helluva | December 14, 2013 8:47 PM

    I agree. Besides "Age of Innocence," my favorite Scorcese films are ones he's made with Paul Schrader's input: "Raging Bull" "Taxi Driver" "Bringing Out The Dead" and "Last Temptation" I loved "Goodfellas" went it came out, but it doesn't hold up for me as well now. Martin & Leo just don't strike me as a particularly good match as collaborators.

  • TRAVIS BICKLE | December 14, 2013 5:35 PM

    i agree
    he is the meryl streep of directors

  • Jørgen P | December 9, 2013 3:26 PMReply

    DeNiro = Raging Bull (he's mentioned it in interviews) & New York, New York or King of Comedy (both are noted for creating rifts between Scorsese & DeNiro)
    Newman = Color of Money
    DiCaprio = Wolf of Wall Street (Leo is producing it and earlier in the process had a different director)

  • JOE PESCI | December 14, 2013 5:37 PM

    DiCaprio = the aviator
    scorsese is afraid to fly so leo tore the front (title) page off the script

  • CB | December 9, 2013 4:42 PM

    Ridley Scott was approached for The Wolf of Wall Street.

  • RRA | December 9, 2013 2:53 PMReply

    He said he did CAPE FEAR to repay Universal for backing LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST. Could that be one?

  • HOWARD HUGHES | December 14, 2013 5:38 PM

    scorsese was handed cape fear by spielberg

    he knew it would be a hit so then
    marty could have more power in hollywood

  • Roark | December 9, 2013 2:52 PMReply

    I would imagine he's talking about Gangs of New York and Hugo, where he faced huge budgetary pressure from the studios/financiers (he had a falling out with Graham King over Hugo's massive budget overruns) and, especially in GONY's case, famously butted heads with Harvey Weinstein over running time, among other things. The Aviator, The Departed and Shutter Island all, from the outside, seemed like relatively painless productions.

  • HENRY HiLL | December 14, 2013 5:41 PM

    Scorsese wanted deniro in The Departed
    but he was too busy working on the good shepherd

    imagine that ?

    deniro and liotta instead of nicholson and wahlberg :)

  • Ugh | December 10, 2013 3:37 PM

    Most likely he's referring to THE DEPARTED & SHUTTER ISLAND.
    GANGS was his passion project & he fought to make that happen for years. It's his baby.
    THE AVIATOR he's also spoken about highly because he got to recreate early Hollywood.
    HUGO was his light hearted fun ode to cinema.

    THE DEPARTED though was a job for hire. There's very little passion in the project & it's the closest Scorsese has ever come to being a 9-to-5 filmmaker. He's never really talked about The Departed in that fair of light. It was fun but nothing more.

    SHUTTER ISLAND - He's pretty open in Schickel's book "Scorsese On Scorsese" that SI surrounded such bleak, unpleasant & depressing subject matter that he was absolutely depressed for most of the production.

  • James | December 9, 2013 3:11 PM

    I can't imagine he's referring to GONY. He talks of movies he "agreed at first" but later "tried to get out" of. GONY was his passion project for something like two decades. I wouldn't think he ever tried to get out of it, no matter how difficult it was. Also, by trying to get out, I think he means trying to leave before having to make the film, not finding things tense once they got into production. I'm more inclined to agree with Pcchongor below.

  • CB | December 9, 2013 2:45 PMReply

    The King of Comedy, Casino and The Irishman?

  • STAFF SERGEANT DIGNAM | December 14, 2013 5:45 PM

    he did the aviator for dicaprio
    he did raging bull for deniro
    he did color of money for newman
    he refused to do the fighter for wahlberg

  • PcChongor | December 9, 2013 2:02 PMReply

    "The Departed" and "Shutter Island."

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