They were 16 when they first met and are now 80. Six decades and more later, Martin Scorsese says Robert De Niro, actor, long-time collaborator and friend, is probably the only one alive who knows where he comes from.
The filmmaker, considered amongst Hollywood’s greatest ever, was born in Queens, New York, not far from where De Niro grew up.
“He comes from the same area that I did and somehow through ‘Mean Streets’ and ‘Taxi Driver’, we found that we were drawn to the same subject matter, same psychological, emotional conflicts in people, in character and in ourselves,” Scorsese said from New York in a Zoom group interview, also attended by PTI.
“He really is the only one left alive, who knows where I come from and who I am… The key words are trust, fearless and less vanity,” the filmmaker said.
At some point in their younger days, Scorsese and De Niro lost touch, only to be reintroduced to each other by filmmaker Brian De Palma. Their friendship and professional collaboration has endured for 64 years and 10 feature films, including their latest project “Killers of the Flower Moon” and gems such as “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull”.
Scorsese has always fought the system to make the kind of cinema he wants and De Niro, according to him, who won an Oscar for “The Godfather Part II” (1974), helped him stay original.
“He (De Niro) was very powerful at the time after he won his Academy Award for ‘The Godfather Part II’… “
“At that point in time too… we always had the danger of the studio taking the film away from you. There’s no such thing as a final cut for me at that point. And inevitably, the actors would comply with the studio. This guy wouldn’t do that. He would stay with you. So I had that as a power play, too. He was sort of protective of me and the film,” Scorsese said.
De Niro and Scorsese first collaborated on “Mean Streets” in 1973. They have since worked in “Taxi Driver”, “New York, New York”, “Raging Bull”, “The King of Comedy”, “Goodfellas”, “Cape Fear”, “Casino”, “The Irishman” and now “Killers of the Flower Moon”.
Interestingly, it was De Niro, who introduced Leonardo DiCaprio to Scorsese, marking the start of another enduring partnership.
With DiCaprio, Scorsese has made “Gangs of New York”, “The Aviator”, “The Departed”, “Shutter Island” and “The Wolf of Wall Street”.
Scorsese remembers vividly how Bob, as he calls De Niro, introduced DiCaprio to him many years ago.
“He said, ‘This is a good kid, you should work with him at some point’. And he rarely does that. Turns out Leo likes the movies we made. I’ve worked with Leo on ‘Gangs of New York’. We pushed it further on ‘The Aviator’,” the filmmaker said.
It was during “The Aviator” that Scorsese realised DiCaprio had a similar “fearlessness”, about trying anything and pushing his collaborators to “different limits”.
“It’s like a gift because there’s a 30 years difference in our lives… We were able to push that… With this film, Martin Scorsese On Robert we tried to take it to its limit. He would try anything, do anything, explore, explore and explore,” he said.
According to Scorsese, both De Niro and DiCaprio may have the same attitude and sensibility towards cinema but their working style is completely different.
“With Bob, it’s a little quieter, meaning sometimes less talk. It’s all action. With Leo, we talk a great deal about many different aspects and it’s part of kind of working through rehearsals. But I’ve been very fortunate with the two of them over the years,” the filmmaker said.
“Killers of the Flower Moon”, releasing in India on October 27, brings Scorsese, DiCaprio and De Niro together for the first time in a feature project. The two actors played fictionalized versions of themselves in Scorsese’s short film “The Audition”.
In “Killers of the Flower Moon”, Scorsese’s adaptation of journalist David Granny’s best-selling true story saga with screenwriter Eric Roth, DiCaprio stars as Ernest Burkhart, a former soldier convinced by his uncle William Hale, played by De Niro, to marry Mollie Kyle, a rich heiress from the Osage community.
The 1920s set crime saga is told through the improbable romance between Burkhart and Kyle (Lily Gladstone). Martin Scorsese On Robert The Osage Nation became some of the richest people in the world overnight after oil was discovered underneath their land, but sudden wealth brought misfortune with it as they started getting murdered for family head rights. Burkhart and Hale conspired and murdered almost all of Kyle’s family members to acquire her ancestral wealth.
Many members of the Osage community were murdered during this period.
An Apple Original Films presentation collaboration with Paramount Pictures, “Killers of the Flower Moon” will release on Apple TV+ after its global theatrical run. The film releases in India on October 27.