From his debut in the early 1970s, Martin Scorsese has been recognized as one of the most important and influential film-makers of his generation. New York City, where he was born and raised, is often the backdrop to his films – frequently gritty, violent films that explore the dark side of American society. Faith, temptation, sin and atonement, essentially moral and religious issues are also themes that run through many of his works. In 1976 he received the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for Taxi Driver
and in 2006 he won the Academy Award as Director for The Departed
. Over his long career he has worked with most major actors but is particularly known for his close working relationship with Robert De Niro and more recently, Leonardo DiCaprio. In addition to directing and producing, Scorsese has worked occasionally as an actor – he appeared as Vincent van Gogh in Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams
(1990) – as well as creating, more recently, drama for television. He is passionate about the history of the industry in which he has spent his life, and in 1990 founded The Film Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the restoration and preservation of films. His latest film project, Silence
, based on the novel by the Japanese author Shusaku Endo, has taken 27 years to realize and is due to be released later this year.
Born into an Italian American family, Martin Scorsese grew up in the Little Italy area of New York City. As a child, he suffered from asthma and couldn’t always play outside, so instead, his parents would often take him to the movies, returning home via the church –representing two of the major influences that still run through his work.
He graduated from New York University’s film school in 1966, making his first feature-length film, Who’s That Knocking at My Door
in 1967. He is recognized as one of the most important film directors of his generation. In many of his films, he reveals the dark side of American society while exploring the nature of the human spirit, as well as moral and religious themes such as faith, temptation, sin and atonement. “Violence is very serious and it’s very much a part of human existence and to deny that, it makes it worse. I must be true to that world as best I can.”
In 1976, he received a Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for Taxi Driver
and despite many nominations and awards in other categories, it was only in 2006 that he won the Academy Award as Director for The Departed
. He is known for his close working relationship with Robert De Niro, with whom he has worked from the early 1970s, and more recently with Leonardo DiCaprio.
“De Niro and I had a similarity and very often we didn’t have to speak about anything. We had the same feeling.”
Scorsese tells of when De Niro called him and said, “There’s this young kid named Leo DiCaprio. He’s terrific”. This led to him starting to work with DiCaprio in Gangs of New York
. In The Wolf of Wall Street
, Scorsese said DiCaprio was impressively passionate about his role, “he was so much a part of that role and that film.” About De Niro, he says, “I hope to make one more film together in a similar style.”
In 1990, Scorsese founded the nonprofit organization, The Film Foundation, dedicated to the restoration and preservation of films and cinematic history. He restored Ugetsu
(directed by Kenji Mizoguchi) using 4k digital technology and the resulting film was shown at the Cannes International Film Festival this year. Recently, he has further broadened his activities and has become involved with producing TV dramas.
He has enjoyed a close friendship with the other great American directors – Francis Ford Coppola
, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, and Brian De Palma who was a great influence. Scorsese has taken many roles in films; director, producer and occasionally, actor. He took the role of Vincent van Gogh in Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams
. He has also had close friendships with many Japanese filmmakers and says he learned a lot about Japanese culture by watching Japanese cinema.
His latest work, Silence
, is based on a novel by Shusaku Endo. He first read the book at the end of the 1980s and from that time onwards, worked tirelessly to make it into a film. Scorsese notes, “Japanese actors such as Tadanobu Asano, Shinya Tsukamoto, Issey Ogata, Yoshi Oida and Yosuke Kubozuka are great. Their devotion to their characters was impressive, indeed.” The film is scheduled to be released later this year.