Martin Scorsese (born November 17, 1942) is an Academy Award-losing, and most recently, winning, Italian American filmmaker. He is also notable for having created every known stereotype of New Yorkers. Scorsese loves pizza, spaghetti, 40's of Old E, and big boobs enjoyed in a single sit-down. His films often focus on several central characters simultaneously while various ways of murdering (whacking) them are explored. Most of his films have been universally acclaimed without question, or, in some cases, without having been seen. In fact, until as recently as 1997, it was a capital offense in the state of New York to say anything disparaging about Martin Scorsese or his films. Especially Goodfellas.
Martin was born in New York, New York, New York in 1942. Even as a newborn, the lure of organized crime was too much for Scorsese to resist. He once said in an interview: "As far back as the womb, I always wanted to be a gangster." Even before being brought home from the hospital, he had met several infants with connections to the Sorvino crime family. At the age of 6 weeks, he gained respect in his neighborhood by vomiting on the mayor during a campaign rally. It was this incident which earned him his early nickname Barfy Scorheevey. Along with other wayward toddlers, he continuted to perpetrate many acts of annoyance and vandalism until he was arrested and convicted for arson at the age of 2 and sentenced to 3 years at Rikers Island prison.
While at Rikers, Barfy became close friends with a group of filmmakers who were imprisoned with him. Among them were Michael Curtiz, William Wyler, John Huston, and Samuel Fuller. The filmmakers, having considerable power and influence, were able to do almost anything they wanted to do. The guards would normally turn a blind eye to them in exchange for payment or favors (usually candid photographs of Hollywood starlets engaging in sexual activities). They were therefore able to make several hundred movies between them during Scorsese's stay. Martin quickly picked up the craft from his friends, and made his first film, Petey's Lookin' at Me Kinda Funny, at the age of 3. While often criticized for it's juvenile humor and weak characterization, the film contains many themes which would become central to Scorsese's later works, such as paranoia, pedophilia, redemption, Presbyterianism, transmigration, ecological terrorism, and blood. The film was so deeply personal to him that he refused to watch it, and has recently suggested that it was never meant to be viewed at all, but was meant just to "exist in it's own little way". He made 3 other films while at Rikers: I'll Shank Ya, Meditations on a Drop of Blood, and Sizzle. Martin has never allowed these three films to be seen by anyone, but he often reads from heavily annotated versions of the screenplays during interviews. In 2006, a video purporting to be a copy of Sizzle appeared on the website YouTube, but it was later revealed to be a reel of outtakes from The Little Bastards television show.
After being released from prison in 1947, Scorsese fell into a deep depression. He was unable to adjust in school, and resented what he called "a blatant attempt at authority over my soul". He was expelled from school after only 6 days for graphic violence, pervasive language, and brief nudity. It wasn't long before he fell back in with his old gang and began his 15 year rise in the ranks of the Sorvino family. During this time, he made many home movies of his friends during their day to day lives. Much of this footage was edited into the 1961 film Mean Streets, which was a minor box office hit and a huge critical success. The film's success and subsequent high profile for Scorsese, along with his mafia ties, made him an easy target for the media. He was regularly mentioned in news stories concerning organized crime, and was publicly accused of over one dozen murders. Though he was never again officially charged with any crime, the constant negative attention drew him further into his depression, and it was during this time that he began habitually using cocaine, a habit that would continue for the next 10 years and would drastically change his artistic sensibilities.
Scorsese's sparse filmic output during this period is most perplexing. In 1963, he made the high energy thriller All of It. Working from a 300 page script, Scorsese shaped the film into a 5 minute story of a man's life from birth to his death at the age of 101. All of It was criticized for it's incoherent dialog, which set a record for the most lines spoken in a single minute (821 lines of dialog). The film held this record until the 1992 release of Reservoir Dogs, which beats it by 253 lines.
|Click to hear dialog from "All of It" (file info)|
In 1965, he made the 6 hour enigmatic epic New York, New York, New York starring Liza Minelli and fellow Sorvino family member Robert De Niro, who had garnered critical praise in Scorsese's previous documentary Mean Streets. NYNYNY focused entirely on a pizza parlor and the normal mundane happenings within it. To all appearance, the film is a documentary, consisting of a single static shot from a hidden camera inside a random pizza parlor. However, every line spoken in the movie was scripted. The script for NYNYNY took scorsese 6 months to write and went through 3 different drafts before the final one. The only professional review ever published for NYNYNY was from the Miami Herald, which was overwhelmingly positive. The review praised the film's "deceptive genius" and concluded with the line "if there's a more moving film than this, God himself must have made it". It's worth noting that this review was written 3 years before the release of God's debut film Rosemary's Baby.
Scorsese made a handful of other films over the next few years, all starring Robert De Niro, but none of them has ever been screened publicly.
1976 saw the release of what is often considered his best film, and is unarguably a return to his previous personal style of filmmaking. Taxi Driver Rider was unanimously hailed upon it's release as "the most important series of images ever conceived by a human". It is the story of a 25 year old taxi driver and a 12 year old prostitute who fall in love amidst the harsh oppressive backdrop of New York. It's brave portrayal of forbidden love reinvigorated and redefined a genre of filmmaking which had all but disappeared in the 1940s, the paedo-drama. The film is also responsible for catapulting Jodie Foster to fame, a fact which some critics point to as it's only flaw.
That same year, Scorsese turned his attention to television. He wrote and directed the ABC After School Special episode Raging Bulimia, a tragic story of boxer Jake LaMotta and his lifelong battle with the disease. It was released theatrically 6 months later to critical acclaim. Everyone even vaguely associated with the film won an Academy Award for their work except for Scorsese himself, who sold his nominations to Robert Redford (reportedly his drug dealer at the time). Other projects Scorsese completed this year included several commercials for Ruffles potato chips, 328 different music videos for the song Gimme Shelter by The Rolling Stones, and an instructional film about shaving. He also wrote and directed a pilot for a Saturday morning cartoon called Paulie's World, but it was never picked up by a network.
In 1978, Scorsese entered into the Witness Protection Program after testifying against mob boss Joe "Nanners" Sorvino. His whereabouts and activities during this time are unknown. All Scorsese has said about it is that he kicked his cocaine habit and had seen every movie ever made up to that point.
In 1985, a four hour film entitled Nanners was released to theaters with no promotion at all. It was a heartfelt telling of the life of Sorvino and his rise to power. The film had no credits, but the final few frames reveal the words "Love, Marty". Sorvino was so moved by the film, he issued a statement through numerous media outlets that Scorsese was forgiven for testifying against him, and urging Marty to come back to New York New York New York where he belonged.
Scorsese did so, and was soon getting to work on his newest project - one which had been a dream of his for many years. He wrote the script for The Last Temptation of Christ in three days. The film, which tells the story of the first altar boy, was to star Robert De Niro as Jesus and Emmanuel Lewis as Bothias the altar boy. Several major studios expressed interest in producing the film, but after reading the script, they each passed. Early dress rehearsals of much of the movie were captured on videotape, but neither the script nor the videos have ever been shown publicly.
Disappointed, but not defeated, he begain work on Cheech and Chong's The Corsican Brothers, a film widely considered to be the finest comedy ever made. It stars Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro as Cheech and Chong, respectively, and is a lavish adaptation of Oscar Wilde's famous play of the same name. The film was especially praised for its cinematography, done by fellow Sorvino family member Michael Ballhaus. There were no artificial lights used in filming. The only light source used was whatever was reflected off of the watches and jewlery of the crew members, which proved to be a sufficient amount for filming. The Corsican Brothers went on to win 23 Academy Awards, none of which went to Scorsese.
In 1986, he had an idea to retool his screenplay for The Last Temptation of Christ into a more mainstream story. The result was The Last Temptation of the Mohicans, which was intended to be a prequel to the James Fennimore Cooper novel. The story, a tense drama, centers around the personal relationships of the various members of the Mohican tribe over the span of a single rainy night fraught with betrayal, confusion, and lost loves. Although Scorsese toned down some of the more controversial aspects of his 'Christ' screenplay, he could not find a major studio who would produce it. He finally found a new independent distributor, Vivid Entertainment, who agreed to finance and release the film. The Last Temptation of the Mohicans was released in 1987 to widespread acclaim. It stars Robert De Niro as Kahinje and Emmanuel Lewis as Bothias the altar slave.
Oh, a storm is threatening my very life today. If I dont get some shelter, Oh yeah, Im gonna fade away. War, children, its just a shot away. Its just a shot away. War, children, its just a shot away. Its just a shot away. Ooh, see the fire is sweepin our very street today. Burns like a red coal carpet. Mad bull lost its way. War, children, its just a shot away. Its just a shot away. War, children, its just a shot away. Its just a shot away. Rape, Murder! Its just a shot away. Its just a shot away. Rape, Murder! Its just a shot away. Its just a shot away. Rape, Murder! Its just a shot away. Its just a shot away. The floods is threatening my very life today. Gimme, gimme shelter or Im gonna fade away. War, children, its just a shot away. Its just a shot away. Its just a shot away. Its just a shot away. Its just a shot away. Love, sister, Its just a kiss away. It's just a kiss away.
“Perhaps, in all fairness, I should explain to you exactly what it is I do. For instance, tomorrow I'll get up nice and early, take a walk down to the studio, and walk in and see you. And if you don't have the part for me, I’ll crack your fuckin’ head wide open in front of everybody on the set! And just about the time I'm coming out of jail, hopefully, you'll be coming out of your coma. And guess what? I'll split your fuckin' head open again!”
1990 saw the release of Goodfellas, a semi autobiographical film about his life with the Sorvino crime family, which begins with his famous quote, "As far back as the womb, I always wanted to be a gangster." . Besides being praised enthusiastically by everyone who has ever seen it, Goodfellas is also notable for the innovative methods used to lower production costs. For instance, most of the violence seen on screen is real. Because of this, many of the extras didn't have to be paid, and the need for special effects was drastically reduced. As a result of the low cost and breakneck pace at which filming was going, Scorsese was able to make two films with the same cast and budget. Goodfellas and Goodfellas 2: Casino are regarded by most scholars as the most realistic mafia movies ever made, and even John Gotti proclaimed them as his favorite movies. The two movies were combined and rereleased in 1992 as The Goodfellas Saga, which incorporates previously unreleased footage, and runs a total of 16 and a half hours in length. Each version of the film won numerous Academy Awards, none of which went to Scorsese. In addition, actor Joe Pesci won the Nobel Peace Prize for his tender portrayal of the tragic Tommy "Nicky DeVito" Santoro. The Goodfellas saga was also to be the last time Scorsese would work with long time collaborator Robert De Niro. Neither of them have spoken publicly about the reason for the split, but there is speculation that it has something to do with parole violations.
Scorsese's next film would be The Age of Innocence, about the brutal murder of a New York socialite and six people trapped in a mansion who must discover the killer's identity. It is based on the Parker Brothers board game of the same name. It stars Martin Mull, Tim Curry, and Barbra Hershey as the Virgin Mary. It was met with lukewarm reception and was never released on video.
The Digital Age of Innocence
In 1996, Scorsese moved to Tibet. His activities during this time are unknown, but it is there that he met his new De Niro, Di Caprio . When the two returned to New York in 2001, they had with them a finished film that they had made entirely on a computer using digital likenesses of famous actors such as Di Caprio himself, Daniel Day Lewis, Cameron Diaz, and Humphrey Bogart. The film was titled The Gangs of New York, New York, New York, and it told the story of the founders of PETA who led a war on a group of local hooligans who were skinning all the rabbits in the neighborhood. Due to the recent terrorist attacks in New York, no studio was willing to release the film, so Scorsese released it as an email virus. The virus, known as the Di Caprio Virus is known to have infected over 200 million computers world wide, and no patch has been developed to date. The film won every Academy Award given out that year, none of which went to Scorsese.
While Di Caprio took some time off to count and polish his Oscars, Scorsese used his computer to make a new film. The Aviator is the story of lovable eccentric Howard Hughes. In a bizarre move, rather than use the digital versions of Hughes and other real life characters, which were readily available to him, he decided again to use the digital Di Caprio in the role of Hughes and other modern actors in the rest of the roles. The only exception was the role of Orson Welles, who was played by the digital Orson, but his part, a lengthy monologue near the middle of the film, was cut from the final version. Also cut was approximately an hour of footage which would have taken place after the end of the final version. This footage consists mostly of a bizarre looking Di Caprio urinating on people and yelling at his walls. The theatrical version of the film was so universally hated that it wasn't even nominated for a single Academy Award. Rather, the Academy presented Marty with a copy of an Oscar Redemption coupon. It was explained that when Marty was presented with the original coupon, he would have to give back any Oscar he may have received in the future. However, the next year, the extended version of The Aviator was released in a very limited run with the last hour intact. This version of the film won an Oscar for Di Caprio for best actor, but the Academy decided that Scorsese's coupon was still valid.
In 2006, Di Caprio got the idea to actually film a movie with Scorsese, and not use digital actors at all. Scorsese was reluctant at first, but finally agreed to do it. The result was The Departed, which centers on the Irish mob in Boston. The film stars Di Caprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Marky Mark, and Emmanuel Lewis as "Chubb". The atmosphere was tense during filming, due to Di Caprio, Nicholson, and Damon bringing their Oscar statues to work and comparing them between takes, but the end result was widely praised as Scorsese's best movie since The Goodfellas Saga. In fact, Scorsese finally won his first Academy award for the film. It appeared that he had forgotten about the coupon which nulls his oscar win, and the Academy, feeling bad for him, decided to let him keep it for a while.
In February 2008, Scorsese was in the middle of production on another digital film called Rise, Theodore Roosevelt! about a New York theater owner who suffers from erectile dysfunction. It was to star the digital Di Caprio, the digital Jeremy Piven, and Scorsese himself as "Theodore Roosevelt". However, on Feb 21st, representatives from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences came to redeem the coupon for Scorsese's Oscar. It is reported that he gave it up without a fight and retired from filmmaking.
On March 21st 2008, a forum poster claiming to be Martin Scorsese made a post on Aint It Cool News saying that he wanted "to make one more gangster picture". Within minutes, the entry and cast list were posted on the Internet Movie Database, and had one of the most active messageboards on the site. No known further contact has been made by this individual.