Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro
Film director Martin Scorsese and actor Robert De Niro have frequently collaborated throughout their careers, making a grand total of eight films together since 1973. Most of the pair's films were of the crime genre; many of which have since been considered among the greatest films of all time.
In 1967, Scorsese made his first feature-length film, the black and white I Call First, which was later retitled Who's That Knocking at My Door, with fellow student, actor Harvey Keitel. The film was intended to be the first of Scorsese's semi-autobiographical 'J.R. Trilogy', which also would have included his later film, Mean Streets. Scorsese had impressed many with the film and made friends with Francis Ford Coppola, Brian De Palma, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Robert Zemeckis, known as the influential "movie brats" of the 1970s. It was De Palma who introduced Scorsese to the young actor Robert De Niro.
De Niro had known De Palma for several years previously, and his first film role in collaboration with De Palma materialized in 1963 at the age of 20, when he appeared in The Wedding Party. However, the film was not released until 1969. The two reunited for the 1968 film Greetings, which was De Niro's official film debut.
In 1973, De Niro had been praised for his role in Bang the Drum Slowly while Scorsese had been working as an editor on the movie Woodstock. The same year, Scorsese and De Niro collaborated for the first time on the gangster film Mean Streets. Scorsese had been taught that entertaining films can be shot with little money by Roger Corman, who had helped prepare Scorsese for the difficulties of making Mean Streets.
The film, about a small-time gangster living in Little Italy, was a success and in 1997 was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
Hugely popular, the film caused controversy but still had a huge cultural impact. The line "You talkin' to me?", spoken by De Niro's character Travis, has become one of the most famous lines in film history.
Martin Scorsese makes a credited cameo in this film, as a passenger of Bickle's who plans to kill his wife.
New York, New York
In 1977, De Niro starred in Scorsese's New York, New York, a musical-drama film. It was a musical tribute, featuring new songs by John Kander and Fred Ebb as well as standards, to Scorsese's home town of New York City, and starred De Niro and Liza Minnelli as a pair of musicians and lovers. During filming, the married Scorsese became romantically involved with Minnelli and began heavily using cocaine and other hard narcotics. At the time Andy Warhol wrote in his diary that Minnelli and Scorsese showed up at the door of a famous fashion designer demanding: "Give me every drug you've got".
Made after Taxi Driver, the film was a box-office failure. Its budget was $14 million, a large figure at the time, but it grossed only $13 million at the box-office and its disappointing reception and his breakup with Minnelli drove Scorsese into depression and further into drug abuse.
In 1980, Scorsese made Raging Bull, a film starring De Niro as an emotionally self-destructive boxer, the film following his journey through life, as the violence and temper that leads him to the top in the ring destroys his life outside it. De Niro won an Oscar for his role and Scorsese was nominated as best director, as well as the film collected six other Oscar nominations.
The King of Comedy
In 1982 Scorsese and De Niro made their first film to feature several comedic elements, while still being connected with the crime genre. The film follows aspiring comic Rupert Pupkin (De Niro), who wants to achieve success in showbiz, by resorting to stalking his idol, a late night talk show host who craves his own privacy. The film won a BAFTA for Best Original Screenplay, and was nominated for four other BAFTAs, including Best Direction for Scorsese and Best Actor for De Niro.
The film was generally praised by critics but did not perform well in the United States. Scorsese suggested the film "...maybe wasn't so well received because it gave off an aurora of something that people didn't want to look at or know."
De Niro and Scorsese did not pair up again for eight years, when in 1990 they made Goodfellas, which also starred Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci. The film followed Henry Hill (Liotta) and his friends work their way up through the mob hierarchy. Goodfellas was incredibly successful and won five BAFTAs. It was beaten in most categories at the Oscars by Dances With Wolves, but achieved universal acclaim with critics and is considered one of the greatest films of all time.
1991's Cape Fear sees De Niro star as a convicted rapist, released from prison after serving a 14 year sentence, who stalks the family of the defense lawyer who represented him but deliberately suppressed evidence that would have acquitted him. It is a remake of the 1962 film of the same name. The film received generally favorable reviews and was nominated for two Oscars and two BAFTAs. Steven Spielberg was an executive producer.
1995 saw De Niro and Scorsese re-unite with Pesci after 1990's Goodfellas for Casino. The film revolved around greed, deception, money, power, and murder that occur between two mobster best friends and a trophy wife over a gambling empire. The film received favorable reviews, Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune saying "You can't praise highly enough the contributions of the ensemble – De Niro and Pesci especially – but it's Scorsese's triumph." Sharon Stone received an Oscar nomination for her role but neither De Niro nor Scorsese were nominated.
It is expected that the pair will re-unite for a film called The Irishman, which may include Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, based on a book called I Heard You Paint Houses. At the 2010 Berlin Film Festival, the two hinted at a possible sequel to Taxi Driver. They also might work together in a film about the life of Frank Sinatra, in which De Niro will play Dean Martin and Al Pacino, Frank Sinatra. They worked together while filming The Family.
- Friedman Lawrence S. The Films of Martin Scorsese 1997, p.133.