Sin, forgiveness, the glamour of evil, Barbara Stanwyck, Marlon Brando, terrible preview screenings for “Goodfellas,” Robert De Niro’s silence and, of course, “Killers of the Flower Moon” were all topics of conversation during Montclair Film Festival’s Filmmaker Tribute to Martin Scorsese on October 27 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
The director, who has received 14 Oscar nominations, was in the Garden State for the festival’s annual “An Evening With Stephen Colbert” fundraiser. Colbert, a Montclair resident, has long been a booster of the event, which is currently in its 12th year.
More from Variety
During their conversation, Scorsese told Colbert that Robert De Niro not only convinced him to make “Raging Bull,” which earned the director an Academy Award nomination, but also urged him to work with Leonardo DiCaprio in 1993 after the release of “This Boy’s Life.” The helmer also addressed De Niro’s notoriously tight-lipped demeanor.
“He just doesn’t say anything,” Scorsese quipped.
“The first time I ever had him on (“The Late Show With Stephen Colbert”) he sat down, and I just didn’t ask him a question for a minute,” Colbert added. “A minute of silence on a late show is an eternity, and it was one of my favorite interviews.”
Among the actors Scorsese wishes he had worked with? Spencer Tracy, Barbra Streisand, Stanwyck and Marlon Brando.
Stanwyck had “range,” the director said before adding that he and Brando talked about doing a film together that ultimately didn’t pan out.
“Did you hang? Did he talk,” Colbert asked.
“Oh yeah, he talked” Scorsese said. “He knew everything. He was a genius.”
“Was he a genius or a really good actor?” Colbert joked.
Scorsese‘s star-studded crime epic “Killers of the Flower Moon,” which collected $23 million from 3,628 North American theaters last weekend, is a three-and-a-half-hour film adapted from David Grann’s 2017 novel starring De Niro and DiCaprio. The movie takes place amid the “Reign of Terror,” a period that refers to the mysterious murders that took place after major oil deposits were discovered on the Osage nation’s land in the early 1920s.
When Colbert asked the director about making his first Western, Scorsese hesitated.
“It’s a Western,” Colbert told the helmer. “It takes place in the West; there are guys with cowboy hats. It’s a Western, Marty. It’s your Western.”
Scorsese said that the film is “about complicity. It’s about complicity in our lives, in ourselves.”
As for the throughline that connects his films, the director said, “they are a little more on the darker side with humor.”
That combo got Scorsese in trouble during preview screenings of “GoodFellas” in 1990.
“It was a nightmare,” he remebered. “People were furious. They stormed out of the theater. It turned out to be the mob humor and the extent of the violence.”
He added, “The glamour of evil. That’s what they got mad at. I said, “But that’s what it looks like to young people growing up, and at the end, you see in the last half hour of [‘Goodfellas’] that they pay for it. But the point is that sometimes evil is glamorous, and it is something that can be enjoyable [to watch].”
When it comes to sin, Scorsese explained that “sin is easy. Forgiveness is hard.”
At the conclusion of the 80-minute conversation Scorsese revealed that he is working on getting a few projects off the ground, including an adaptation of Marilynne Robinson’s “Home” and one film with DiCaprio – an adaptation of New Yorker journalist David Grann’s nonfiction book “The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny, and Murder” for Apple.
The 12th edition of the Montclair Film Festival concludes on Oct. 29.
Best of Variety