Scorsese on Getting Back to His Roots and That Sinatra Biopic
by Ethan Anderton
March 12, 2010
There's no doubt in my mind that Shutter Island is the best movie of 2010 so far. Obviously, that's not all that great of an exclamation since it's only March, and the movie line-up from January until sometime in April is usually littered with all of the junk that isn't good enough for the summer blockbuster time or fall's awards season. But still, it was a nice departure from the rest of the garbage in theaters right now. Recently, ShortList (via SlashFilm) had the chance to sit down with director Martin Scorsese and they talked about his approach to the Frank Sinatra biopic, filmmaking in the 70s, and getting back to gritty street-movies.
Though we still don't have any idea of who will be playing Sinatra in Scorsese's estate-approved biopic (the last rumor we heard pegged Johnny Depp, but I don't think he has the voice, and Sweeney Todd is not proof that he does), Scorsese still knows exactly how he wants to approach the biopic, which is being compared to Todd Haynes' 2007 Bob Dylan biopic I'm Not There, at least in style and structure. Scorsese elaborates:
"I was hoping it would be a combination of [The Aviator and GoodFellas]. Yeah, because in structure I'd like it to be more like GoodFellas. But like The Aviator, it only deals with certain times in his life. We can't go through the greatest hits of Sinatra's life. We tried this already. Just can't do it. So the other way to go is to have three or four different Sinatras. Younger. Older. Middle-aged. Very old. You cut back and forth in time – and you do it through the music. See what I'm saying? So that's what we're trying for. It's very tricky."
Though he seems to still be in his element as a big time director nowadays, Scorsese still has a great level of nostalgia for the filmmaking process, style and dedication of the 70's. He remembers what made it so great:
"We were able to make certain kinds of films with almost no limitation. In that period between the studio system and the real 'New Hollywood', we had almost like a… not a carte blanche… certain 'personal visions', whatever you want to call them, it sounds pretentious. But individual filmmakers – Robert Altman, Brian De Palma, all of us – we were able to make films with almost no limitation. But what's happened now is that it's become a new studio system and that has to do with the blockbuster. Paul Schrader [who wrote Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Last Temptation Of Christ and Bringing Out The Dead] was saying it to me a couple of months ago. We had dinner, he says, 'You know, we took cinema seriously.' We're afraid that for the younger people today, cinema is just something to be seen for an hour or two, a lot of noise and forgotten about. If blockbusters overbalance the marketplace, we're going to lose something culturally. That's very dangerous."
Sadly, it seems like that's becoming more and more true as many films that are made today can be forgotten just as quickly, and it just doesn't seem like there's as much passion from the younger audience. Maybe it's because our attention spans have decreased so dramatically thanks to outlets like YouTube and, hell, even the internet in general. Filmmaking has become such a loose term that has been used to encompass even the shittiest of online videos and there doesn't seem to be the love and respect for filmmakers as there once was. That may seem like a hasty generalization, but its increasingly difficult to find someone who loves and cares about films as much as you and me. So it's no big surprise that Scorsese wants to get back to his roots:
"I'm dying to. And there are two projects that I have in mind that way. [He answers a question saying he can't reveal what they are]. But the desire to do that is there. I did something like it [last] summer. I shot an HBO pilot, 'Boardwalk Empire.' It's about the US in the Twenties, in Atlantic city, which was the formation of what [Las] Vegas became and the formation of organised crime because of Prohibition. I did that, shot it in 30 days. For me, it's like a new lease on life. I'm trying to get myself to a point where I can work faster and cheaper."
Cheaper definitely seems like the best way to get it done if you're not making a movie based on a toy, old TV series, remake or other intellectual property. Luckily Scorsese has kept his style and creative sensibilities, never really selling out to the studio system. However, there's definitely talk of him potentially moving into the 3-D realm (to go along with his proclamation of love for the format) and more if you check out the rest of the interview over at ShortList. In the meamtime, we'll be waiting to hear who will play Old Blue Eyes and if there's any progress on Scorsese's other upcoming film, the adaptation of The Invention of Hugo Cabret.