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Last Updated: Monday, 26 February 2007, 13:10 GMT
Scorsese finally rid of Oscar hex
By Neil Smith
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

After 25 years of trying, Martin Scorsese at last has a best director Oscar. But why did it take the Academy so long to reward him?

Martin Scorsese
Scorsese's film The Departed won four Oscars in all

The smile said it all as Martin Scorsese finally collected the best director Oscar that had been denied him on five previous occasions.

Given his track record at this event, however, his victory for mob thriller The Departed was by no means guaranteed.

Two years ago the veteran film-maker - nominated on that occasion for the Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator - was pipped to the post by Clint Eastwood.

And with Eastwood shortlisted again this year for Letters from Iwo Jima, there was always the chance Scorsese might have been slighted again.

Given the 64-year-old's habit of losing out to actor-turned-directors, such an outcome might once have seemed inevitable.

Back in 1981, when Scorsese landed his first best director nod for Raging Bull, it was Robert Redford who wound up on the podium.

A decade later - the year of Marty's seminal GoodFellas - it was Kevin Costner who took the honours for Dances with Wolves.

'Difficult and angry'

Throw in further disappointments in 1989 and 2003 and Scorsese could have been forgiven for not attending this year's ceremony at all.

That he did, however, was a clear indication that he sensed the tide had finally turned in his favour.

Scorsese (l) with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas
He received his award from Steven Spielberg and George Lucas
And Scorsese's overdue triumph does suggest Hollywood has finally taken this East Coast auteur to its collective heart.

It was not always so. Indeed, the director has frequently cited his outsider status as the reason for his protracted Oscar drought.

"I think a lot of it has to do with the nature of the community," he once opined.

"I've lived in Los Angeles but I'm more of a New Yorker, and the nature of my films is regarded as somewhat violent.

"Because of the movies I make, people get nervous because they think of me as difficult and angry."

Famously prickly, the Scorsese of old showed little willingness to play the Hollywood game.

By his own admission, though, he has lost much of his trademark irascibility - due in part to him becoming a father again in 1999.

'Different chapter'

"I'm in a different chapter of my life," he has said. "As time goes by and I grow older, I find I need to just be quiet and think."

It is a change of temperament that has coincided with a renewed willingness on Hollywood's part to recognise one of its more prolific and consistent craftsmen.

Jack Nicholson (l) with Martin Scorsese
The Departed marked Scorsese's first film with Jack Nicholson (left)
It helped that The Departed - his third film with Leonardo DiCaprio after Gangs of New York and The Aviator - was his most commercial in years.

It also didn't hurt that it saw him back in the violent gangster milieu from which has sprung his most memorable and iconic features.

Not even the most generous of critics would claim his loose reworking of Hong Kong action movie Infernal Affairs was on a par with the likes of GoodFellas or Taxi Driver.

But it was certainly more representative of his style than some of his recent period pieces or his biblical epic The Last Temptation of Christ, for which he received his second best director nomination in 1989.

Did the Academy make a mistake in not recognising Scorsese during his '70s and '80s prime? By most accounts, yes.

It is an error, though, it has sought to redress with an Oscar that is less for The Departed itself than for his entire body of work.

Oscars highlights

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