Even though Martin Scorsese’s films end up getting major distribution with large studios, the filmmaker works primarily independently. He is no longer beholden to the traditional Hollywood studio system where executives have a say in the creative aspects of a film. And in a new GQ interview, the iconic filmmaker opened up about the experiences which led him to leave the studio system and do things on his own.
The first few decades of Martin Scorsese’s career is dominated by big studio films. However, things changed as the ‘90s made way for the ‘00s and studios began to really only value box office. This started a run of terrible experiences with studios that would lead to Scorsese wanting to leave the studio system for good, and almost leave filmmaking totally.
“They told me one time, I think it was about ‘Casino,’ where they said, ‘We made $60 million’ – this is a paraphrase quote – ‘We made $60 million on that film or something like that in profit. We’re interested in making $360,’” said Scorsese
After this, he started to become really disillusioned with studio filmmaking. And it all came to a head during the production of “Gangs of New York,” which is an experience which led the filmmaker to almost pack it up and decide to leave filmmaking altogether. Apparently, there were many disagreements with producer Harvey Weinstein over the length of the film and the budget.
“I realized that I couldn’t work if I had to make films that way ever again,” said Scorsese. “If that was the only way that I was able to be allowed to make films, then I’d have to stop. Because the results weren’t satisfying. It was at times extremely difficult, and I wouldn’t survive it. I’d be dead. And so I decided it was over, really.”
Of course, we know that feeling didn’t last long. He would go on to make “The Aviator,” which though produced by Warner Bros. was distributed by Weinstein’s Miramax. As you might expect, given his previous run-ins with the studio, he had another rough time with them again. Scorsese said everything was going well until the last couple weeks of editing when the studio came in and did things the filmmaker “felt were extremely mean.”
“I just said, ‘I’m no longer making films,’” he said.
Then, that feeling changed when he got the chance to make “The Departed,” where he butt heads with the studio again. And after “Shutter Island,” he decided once and for all to be done with Hollywood studios and work independently. Scorsese only made “Shutter Island” because he felt “encouraged” after his ‘Departed’ Oscar win.
“It turned out I should have gone on probably to do ‘Silence,’” said Scorsese, referencing his first foray into independent filmmaking after “Shutter Island.”
Now, it’s clear Scorsese is in a place in his career where he only makes films that he is passionate about. And, for now at least, financiers are open to giving him big budgets to make it happen.
Scorsese’s latest film, “Killers of the Flower Moon,” arrives in theaters on October 20.