Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Actor-Director Tandems - De Niro and Scorsese

Some actors and directors like to work together. They do so because they "click".

Films are an expensive business. It costs production companies to make flops, even if they are highly developed companies with cash to waste. It may also cost careers. This is why when the powers that be saw how good the likes of Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro worked together, they used the two again, and again.

The two first worked together on Mean Streets (1973). The film, which was about a small-time gangster living in Little Italy, is extremely highly rated. In 1997, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress because it was "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". Taxi Driver (1976) followed. While it may not be an easily enjoyable film because it is so bizarre, Scorsese directed it well. He achieved a memorable performance from De Niro too.

In 1977, De Niro starred in Scorsese's New York, New York. This is a musical-drama film. It is a musical tribute to Scorsese's home town of New York City. It showed De Niro in a happier role than his typical gangster roles. He and Liza Minnelli acted as a pair of musicians and as lovers. During filming, then married Scorsese had an affair with Minnelli. He became a heavy cocaine user. Andy Warhol wrote in his diary that Minnelli and Scorsese showed up at the door of a famous fashion designer saying: "Give me every drug you've got".

The move did not make a profit and received mixed reviews but Scorsese kept faith in De Niro.

In 1980, Scorsese made Raging Bull, one of the greatest ever action films. It starried De Niro as a brilliant but masochistic boxer. De Niro won an Oscar for what many consider the greatest role of his career yet. Scorsese was nominated as best director. The American Film Institute named Raging Bull the best ever sports film.

Then, in 1982, they made the poorly received The King of Comedy. The movie is about a comedian played by De Niro, who thinks he can become a major star in Hollywood by stalking his idol, a late night talk show host who is desperate for privacy. As said, the movie did not make much money, but it was critically lauded. 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 two could not feature together on every project they could fathom and for the next few years, they worked on separate films. But, in 1990, they released what some people have deemed the best ever film, Goodfellas. This mob epic captures great cinema in two-and-a-half hours and it my favourite Scorsese - De Niro collaboration.

Clearly back onto a good thing, the two maestros made Cape Fear in 1991. De Niro played a convicted rapist who is released from prison after serving a 14-year-long sentence. He stalks the family of the defense lawyer who represented him but deliberately suppressed evidence that would have acquitted him.

Four years later, Casino was released. Joe Pesci and De Niro showed brilliant chemistry. It was a highly entertaining, very well written and research film.

Maybe De Niro and Scorsese are like a married couple that just works. They have barely made anything near poor when performing together. It is unlikely that two people who meet in film would click as often as these two have.

Do you think these two legends of cinema will work together again or will Scorsese stick with Leonardo Di Caprio?

Alistair Anderson

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