Page last updated at 08:48 GMT, Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Scorsese eyes posterity not glory

By Neil Smith
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Director Martin Scorsese explains why it is more important that his films stand the test of time than win awards as he launches his new thriller, Shutter Island.

Leonardo DiCaprio (r) with Mark Ruffalo in Shutter Island
DiCaprio (r) plays a Marshal probing a disappearance at a lunatic asylum

Three years ago veteran film-maker Martin Scorsese was named best director at the Academy Awards for crime drama The Departed.

For many, it seemed an overdue accolade for the man responsible for such celebrated movies as Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and GoodFellas.

But while the 67-year-old was happy to be acclaimed by his peers, prizes don't mean much to him in the greater scheme of things.

"It's nice when the films are recognised," he said during a recent visit to London to promote his new psychological thriller Shutter Island.

"But when you're in the thick of battle, you just try to get through it and make something that allows you to say years from now: 'Yes, I directed that film.'

"All I can do is try to do the best work I can," he continued. "I can't think in terms of awards."

Which is maybe for the best, given the way his new film was shunted out of awards contention by US movie studio Paramount.

This psychological drama had been due to open towards the end of the last year, thus making it eligible for this month's Oscars.


At the last minute, though, the decision was made to push back its release date to February in the US and March in the UK.

It has been reported Paramount wanted to use its awards season advertising budget to promote two other movies, Up in the Air and The Lovely Bones.

Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio
Shutter Island is the fourth film that Scorsese (l) has made with DiCaprio

Given the latter's failure to impress the Academy's membership, however, many in Hollywood are now questioning the wisdom of that strategy.

If Scorsese or leading man Leonardo DiCaprio feel slighted, though, they did not show it during a visit to Europe to present Shutter Island out of competition at the Venice Film Festival.

The film's recent success at the US box office, meanwhile, goes some way towards vindicating its release date shift.

Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, Shutter Island marks DiCaprio's fourth collaboration with Scorsese after Gangs of New York, The Aviator and The Departed.

That close relationship proved essential for the actor when it came to probing the film's intense subject material.

Set in 1954, it sees DiCaprio play a US Marshal investigating a patient's disappearance from an off-shore hospital for the criminally insane.

Once there, though, his character Teddy Daniels makes some startling discoveries which make him question his own hold on reality.

"I'm glad I got to do this character and this film with Marty," says DiCaprio. "It's great to have a guide or a mentor when you're making yourself vulnerable.


"You need somebody there who will drive you as an actor who you can trust in a situation like that.

"We kept pushing Teddy to darker and darker places during the course of the film, and I think it was surprising for both of us at times.

Sir Ben Kingsley and Michelle Williams
Sir Ben Kingsley and Michelle Williams co-star in the psychological thriller

"There were quite a lot of emotional extremes, and it's hard for those things not to rub off on you."

Sir Ben Kingsley, who appears in the film as one of the titular asylum's head doctors, was no less delighted to be working with such a cinema institution.

"It was an absolute thrill when he called me at my house," the 66-year-old told the BBC News website. "I couldn't believe my good fortune."

An unexpected bonus of making the film, though, was the chance to share the passion of one of the movie world's most dedicated cineastes.

"Marty is a very contagious individual," says the actor. "You share his enthusiasm and benefit from his energy.

"His work is astonishing and comes from a profound love of cinema and an understanding of what it can do.

"He has saved so much of our cinema heritage for us and campaigned for all kinds of work to be re-recognised and re-appreciated."

Shutter Island is out in the UK on 12 March.

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