• Golden Globe Awards

Martin Scorsese said:

As a tribute to Martin Scorsese on his 80th birthday (November 17, 2022), we explored our extensive archives of exclusive HFPA interviews dating back to 1971 to review what the acclaimed director said in the 1990s about the movies, actors and filmmakers he admired, his contemporaries and his frequent collaborators. The journalists of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association interviewed and photographed Scorsese 15 times from 1976 to 2019, honored him with three Golden Globes as Best Director out of nine nominations, as well as presenting him with the Cecil B. deMille award, that was handed to him by Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio in 2010 after he had presented the same award to Steven Spielberg in 2009.
The screenplay for Taxi Driver was written by Paul Schrader, who wrote three more screenplays for Scorsese’s films, Raging Bull (1980), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Bringing Out the Dead (1999). Scorsese revealed in 1999 how personal that story felt for him: “Paul wrote about himself, his own loneliness, his obsessions at that time, his frustrations as a young man, his questioning of religion and of faith. There’s no doubt that you had all that in Taxi Driver. Brian De Palma gave me the script and when I read it I felt the same way as Travis Bickle. In New York you used to go out with a lot of people, you knew everybody and you had parties all the time, but, especially when I moved to Los Angeles for the first time in 1970, there was an extraordinary loneliness, being uprooted from where I came from and brought to Los Angeles. The only person I saw was Brian De Palma, who took me around and introduced me to other people.”
Scorsese chose to cast Robert De Niro as the leading actor in several of his movies: Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976), New York, New York (1977), Raging Bull (1980), The King of Comedy (1983), Goodfellas (1990). This is how he explained their collaboration in 1990: “Bob and I have worked together over a period of years, but we didn’t plan it, we never sat down and said, ‘Let’s make ten pictures together.’ Basically, we found ourselves attracted to the same subject matter, but more than that, we liked the characters. I grew up mainly on films and not on books, but you often deal with the protagonist and an antagonist – and even the Ancient Greeks said that the antagonist is more interesting. So it seems that what De Niro and I have been doing over the past few years has been to combine the two, make the main character have the elements of the bad and of the good, which is in everybody, and you feel sympathy for those characters. We are mainly breaking down certain aspects of drama in a way that’s experimental. That’s really the basis behind our collaboration.”

It was De Niro who convinced Scorsese to direct Cape Fear (1991), a remake of the 1962 film starring Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum, when Steven Spielberg decided to pass on directing it in order to devote himself to Schindler’s List. “When Bob contacted me again and asked me to simply come downtown to Tribeca, his production center, and to witness a reading of the script with Steven, by that point, I was actually receptive to the idea. The main reason that I changed my mind – and it wasn’t even a matter of too much convincing – is because Bob leaned down and said, ‘I could do something really interesting with this character,’ and Spielberg told me ‘Marty, if you don’t like this particular version of the script, rewrite it.’ Cape Fear has a moral conflict, certain themes and ideas, and a storyline that could be re-told for each generation. A number of films have been remade over the years: certainly, Mutiny on the Bounty was first made in 1935 by Frank Lloyd with Clark Gable, then in 1962 by Lewis Milestone with Marlon Brando and the last time in 1984 by Roger Donaldson as The Bounty with Mel Gibson, which was very interesting and looked at that moral conflict on that boat in that period of time in history in a very different way from the other two versions.”
Scorsese respected the work of his contemporary Francis Coppola in The Godfather movies, and in 1990 he said that he did not worry that Goodfellas, his movie about the Italian-American Mafia in New York, explored a similar theme: “For many years Francis would say, ‘Who’s going to do Godfather III?’ We were always talking about it, but we never planned to have both our movies come out at the same time. Nick Pileggi and I had written the script of Goodfellas in 1986 and it just happened to come out that way. I think both films, rather than one being the right way, and one the wrong way, they’re complements to each other, in that Francis’s Godfather pictures are such eloquent, romantic stories. Maybe The Godfather was so important in the ’70s because of Watergate, the end of the Vietnam War, and the conflict that we all felt in this country. What Francis was showing was that amongst the families they had some respect and a code of behavior, and maybe there was a longing for that. My film is just the opposite, but I was always more interested in what I saw growing up on a day-to-day level. So Goodfellas and Mean Streets are very different from The Godfather I, II and III, but I hope there’s room for both.”
In 1999, Scorsese addressed how his generation of filmmakers that emerged in the 1970s was able to make the sort of independent movies that became more difficult to get financed in the 1980s: “Myself and a few others may be the last of our kind, coming from the ’60s and ’70s with this need to make serious kinds of films. I mean, a comedy could be serious, like Billy Wilder’s films were all serious, even though they’re funny. In the late 1950s, there was this extraordinary group of people in New York, San Francisco and L.A. doing underground films all through the ’60s, there was John Cassavetes shooting Shadows in New York in 1959, then he lived in Los Angeles and he created his own cinema. Now, maybe a new vision will come out of someone like a Wes Anderson or the Coen Brothers or newer young people who feel that desire and that need to make a film. But the big problem that’s happening with the independent cinema is that from 1981, from that point on, the money that the Hollywood studios have been making is so enormous that they take less chances, therefore, there’s less ‘art’ in the mainstream of American film, and the independent young people with vision who have something to say will be relegated to shooting for 20 days straight on a budget of $3 to $5 million.”
A true cinephile, endlessly knowledgeable about cinema history, Scorsese said in 1990 that he admired the directors of classic Hollywood: “I don’t even want to get into Howard Hawks, John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock and those greats, but I love those old guys like Henry King and Michael Curtiz, who are there every week, and suddenly Henry King can do a musical like Carousel, which is quite beautiful, then he goes off and he does a World War II movie like Twelve O’ Clock High or vice versa. It’s very interesting the discipline that these men had, as people working in the business who made three pictures a year.”
In 1990 Scorsese recounted how he had loved the actor John Payne as a child, then discovered James Dean and Marlon Brando: “On the Waterfront by Elia Kazan was the first movie I’d seen with people that literally lived where I live. I mean, it was in New Jersey, but we were just across the water, and I said, ‘Jesus, this is fascinating.’ And this guy with the checkered jacket that could hardly talk, this Brando, was a boxer. Because up to that point I had really liked John Payne a lot as a child, he was very good in his swashbuckling roles or his westerns or his tough roles in film noirs. Then later on suddenly you hit Brando, and then you see James Dean in East of Eden when you’re twelve years old, and, if you have a family, a brother and a sister, those relationships, or whether your parents love you or not, he is talking for you. That’s Dean’s great gift for all the centuries, for all the different generations to come.”
The Italian American director said in 1999 that American cinema in the 1960s wasn’t as interesting as foreign cinema, “when Fellini was a common household name and everybody knew him.” That he loved the French New Wave directors: “There’s no doubt that these guys, François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, Alain Resnais and Jacques Rivette, were so unique and had such a burst of creative energy, that it was so amazing.” And he was working on a documentary on the history of Italian cinema: “It’s my point of view of Italian movies. I mean, as a child I loved American cinema, but at the same time I was seeing these wild things come off the television set, Paisan (1946) and Rome, Open City (1945) by Roberto Rossellini, The Bicycle Thief (1950) by Vittorio De Sica. I was five years old and my grandmother and grandfather were crying in the background, because they had just come from Italy, so it could have been them. What you find is that great cinema movements usually come out of times of trouble. Neo-realism came out of World War II, and the great Japanese cinema came out of the clash of their culture and the western culture taking over and winning in World War II. So you get Akira Kurosawa plus the extra treasures of Kenji Mizoguchi and all those other Japanese directors.”
That is why he said in 1997 that he had been releasing some foreign films in American theaters under his banner ‘Martin Scorsese Presents:’ “ Over the past five or six years I tried to get more of the classic foreign films in America by presenting pictures like The Golden Coach (1952) by Jean Renoir, Belle De Jour (1967) by Luis Buñuel, Purple Noon (1960) by René Clément, Rocco and his Brothers (1960) by Luchino Visconti, Mamma Roma (1962) by Pasolini, Contempt (1963) by Jean-Luc Godard, to throw them into the marketplace. Somehow the American public was told that they don’t like to read subtitles and they don’t want to see black-and-white films. So you have to tell them, ‘These are ways of thinking that are coming from other parts of the world, which we need in this country because otherwise, it atrophies here.’ If you just keep making the same films, you become isolated in your thinking, but the world is getting smaller and we have to deal with the influences from other cultures.”