Martin Scorsese is a complex character with a massive appreciation for all art forms be it world music or movies, novels to real life accounts, personal experiences to factors that shape our society. All of these features can be seen in part in almost all of his creative contributions to cinema. Beyond this character however, there are still layers and layers to be peeled off to learn the true Martin Scorsese and his change over the years.
The stories never end when it comes to the legendary director however, here are 15 of the most interesting facts you probably never knew about Mr. Martin Scorsese.
1. Scorsese suffered asthma as a child. As a result, his family used to take him to the movies for his entertainment, which is where his passion for cinema started.
2. The director almost joined the priesthood. “I went into the seminary after grade school, but they threw me out at the end of my first year for roughhousing during prayers. They thought I was a thug,” he once revealed. Catholic themes have greatly influenced his body of work.
3. Master director Brian De Palma introduced Scorsese to Robert De Niro, his favorite collaborator in the years to come.
4. Marty taught both Oliver Stone and Spike Lee at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Scorsese was an instructor for Stone’s Sight and Sound class in which Stone describes, “He was just a wild-haired, fast-talking New Yorker with a passion for film,”.
5. Scorsese was the assistant director and editor on the 1970 documentary ‘Woodstock’, chronicling the legendary 1969 music festival.
6. John Hinckley, Jr., who attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981, blamed Scorsese’s ‘Taxi Driver’ for his crime. He was obsessed with Jodie Foster’s child prostitute character, which led to him stalking the actress. Hinckley thought the shooting would impress the star and get her attention.
7. Taxi Driver won the prestigious Palme d’Or at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival, but the film continued Scorsese’s dry spell at the Academy Awards — despite being nominated in four categories.
8. The box office failure of Scorsese’s ‘New York, New York’, starring Robert De Niro and Liza Minnelli as two performers in a rocky relationship, drove him into a deep depression. This was at a time when the director was struggling with an addiction to cocaine alongside quaaludes and alcohol. When he was at Cannes in 1978, Scorsese couldn’t find any coke, so he took a private jet to Paris in a desperate attempt to score some.
9. Robert De Niro encouraged Scorsese to get sober after the director almost died from internal bleeding due to a drug overuse. That’s when De Niro approached him with the book ‘Raging Bull: My Story’, Jake LaMotta’s memoir. De Niro had tried to pitch a film around the story years earlier.
10. Scorsese played painter Vincent van Gogh in Akira Kurosawa’s magical realist movie, ‘Dreams’.
11. He is extremely superstitious and has a phobia surrounding the number 11. It crippled him with anxiety during the 1970s. He used to avoid anything to do with it, including traveling on the 11th day of November, or staying on the 11th floor of hotels.
12. In Taxi Driver, Scorsese appeared as a distraught passenger in Travis Bickle’s cab, who agonized over killing his cheating wife. Another actor was set to play the part, but called in sick that day.
13. He turned down Steven Spielberg’s offer to direct Schindler’s List. He believed a Jewish filmmaker would be a more appropriate fit.
14. Scorsese has two regrets: not reading more when he was younger and never learning how to cook.
15. And finally, Scorsese considers the brilliant Satyajit Ray to be one of his biggest inspiration towards his directional style. In fact, the protagonist Narasingh (played by Soumitra Chatterjee) in the film ‘Abhijan’ is seen as a prototype for the character of the cynical cab driver Travis Bickle (played by Robert De Niro) in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976).