NEW YORK (Reuters) - Time slipping away seems to be on Martin Scorsese’s mind.
After the critical success of his recent “Hugo,” the luminary director says he would make every future film in 3D, but approaching age 70, he is more concerned with movies that perfect his take on American life than with technology.
Scorsese spoke to Reuters at a new advertising campaign for Hennessy Cognac, one of several brands he promotes, about how he forged a career spanning more than 45 years, which actor from whom he learned the most and how striving to be in the league of the greatest film directors keeps him making more movies.
Q: Lately you have a bit of reputation for being one of the most approachable people in Hollywood?
A: “Well, I am a New Yorker. I am a Manhattanite, I should say. But, I guess over the years, one has to realize that at times, I talked about being giant and egotistical, that’s what I do at work and I have to think that way at times. I get psychologically and emotionally set that way and over the years, I am 69, I may have gone too far over the line. I found it wasn’t really productive for anybody. So then you pull back.”
Q: Why are you still driven to do what you do?
A: “I am not satisfied with the work. I just don’t know.”
Q: Some people might find that incredible coming from you?
A: “I know if I was inspired by 2280 films or whatever in the past, I will never be able to equal that feeling of a transcendence, sometimes, of seeing certain films, that I had, maybe 20 or 30 times watching these pictures, of the same film. So I may never be in that league with my own films, for myself. So maybe that is why I am trying.”
Q: So it’s important to be in that league of directors?
A: ”Yes. I would like to be one of them. But I realize that I am who I am and pretty much, I am at the end of the spectrum so to speak, I am at the end of the trail. So I am trying to make it, as much as possible, to make the stories count, the ones I have left. It’s an interesting challenge because of the marketplace, the change in the industry, the change in technology and I would like to get there. I don’t know where, quite honestly. It’s the idea of, I don’t know if we really ever settle for anything. If settling is bad, we have to finish it, or not. And that may sound strange, but sometimes it is best to say, ‘we are not finishing it. It doesn’t want to be finished.’
“They ask me, ‘do you see your films after?’ And I say ‘no.’ No. A lot of them, some of them are very funny, but very often the emotional experience of making the picture just comes back to me too much.”
Q: Speaking of the technological changes, would you do another 3D animated film after the critical success of “Hugo”?
A: “Yes. In a second. Except for - well put it this way they are doing it and it has been done - the camera or the rig getting more flexible, smaller. And then I would do everything in 3D.”
Q: What about another movie for kids?
A. ”I don’t know if I have time ... the time isn’t left, but if something like that comes up, I wouldn’t mind trying again, there is no doubt.
“But I am trying to complete other things in my life now about certain statements, about life, American life, particularly the life I know.”
Q: You have made some epic films about American life. What is on your mind at this moment?
A: “I always thought it was just life. But it is American. I am as much enamored with Italian cinema and British cinema and French and Russian and Japanese. Over the years, I have learned no, my culture, background and foundation is here. And it is the Roman Catholic of the mid-century, 20th century, in New York, which is very strong. And so it is really just trying to find out where you really belong and when you tell a story, where it is coming from. If it is really coming from who you are, that means you have to know yourself, which is pretty difficult, and that is what the journeys are.”
Q: What about your next film, “The Wolf of Wall Street” with DiCaprio again? What will it say about our financial system?
A: “It’s a reversal in values I think. Everything seems to be twisted and turned around. I thought that this country, in terms of what we were founded on, is the idea of a common good. And I don’t see that when you unleash this kind of behavior. People are people, people are human and when you have the ability to do it, you go with it. And when it is unchecked, of course it is going to happen and it is not the first time ... But the problem is the reversal of values, I think, and not feeling the compassion for others and the people you have hurt.”
Q: It’s often noted that you work with the same actors - Keitel, Day-Lewis, De Niro, DiCaprio. Which of those did you learn the most from, or who learned the most from you?
A: ”With De Niro and I, we struck out. He was really an actor, in a way, he was a working actor when I was introduced to him. And so in the ‘70s the pictures we made, up until the scenes we did in “Goodfellas” too, because he was only on that shoot maybe 15 days, maybe 12 days. But I think I learned the most from him.
”My mother would look at Bob and Harvey Keitel and was like, ‘These are my son’s friends,’ she didn’t think of them as major actors. ‘These are my other sons.’ And so I learned a lot during that period from how one could shape an actor or shape a performance, I should say. And I just applied it over the years to as many people as possible, with very good results, of course with Ellen Burstyn and Kristofferson, Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Newman, Tom Cruise, it goes on like that. And all the actresses, I think there have been 12 to 14 Oscar nominations for the actresses in my movies, and two of them have won, including Cate Blanchett.
“And then finding someone like Leo DiCaprio, who really liked my movies before we met, and being able to discover with him, it’s another generation, you see. I guess we go so far, but he’s got what’s inside (pats his chest), and we agree with that. A heart.”
Q: You’ve spent nearly 50 years making movies, and Hollywood is tough. How have you not become cynical? Any regrets?
A: ”No I don’t think they are regrets. I think you just have to be realistic as to what the elements of the situation are at this given time. In the ‘70s it was one way, by the early ‘80s it became something else, and then it was disappointing, greatly. Somehow by the late ‘80s I seemed to fall back into a situation where I was able to make more pictures, but during the ‘80s it was great struggling. And the industry had changed completely.
”I was very lucky for example, from ‘Gangs of New York’ on, to be involved with Leo DiCaprio, as I was with De Niro in the 70s, because with De Niro, with his stature as an actor, we were able to do some very difficult, thematic subject matter. And the same thing with Leo.
“But you do have to be aware, and you just have to utilize what is there. If this is gone, don’t complain about it. Move on. If something’s gone, move on and take advantage of what is there. That could be a 70mm epic or that could be the Internet.”
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Jill Serjeant