Martin Scorsese nearly quit filmmaking after ‘The Aviator’

Gregory Wakeman
Director Martin Scorsese poses backstage after receiving a special tribute during AFI Fest 2019 in Los Angeles, California, U.S., November 15, 2019. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Martin Scorsese was so drained by working with Hollywood studios Miramax and Warner Bros on 2004’s The Aviator that he nearly quit filmmaking all together. 

The legendary director of Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Colour Of Money, Goodfellas, and Casino recently made this admission to the New York Times, explaining that he found himself butting heads with studio executives over its 170 minute long running time so often that he was left exhausted. 

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“The last two weeks of editing and mixing The Aviator… I had left the business from the stress. I said if this is the way you have to make films then I’m not going to do it anymore.”

Luckily for moviegoers Scorsese didn’t actually go through with this decision. Especially because he followed up The Aviator with 2006’s The Departed, which finally landed him his very first Best Director Oscar gong. 

Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes in The Aviator

The New York Times piece even went as far as to say that Scorsese believed “he and the studio system had become mortal enemies.”

“It’s like being in a bunker and you’re firing out in all directions. You begin to realise you’re not speaking the same language anymore, so you can’t make pictures anymore.”

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However, Scorsese admits that he did learn a vital lesson from this experience, because since The Aviator he has eschewed the studio system and instead looked for independent financiers to fund the likes of The Wolf Of Wall Street and Silence.

Netflix might have helped to change Scorsese’s mind, as they recently gave him the huge budget and creative freedom required to make The Irishman, which is widely regarded as the front-runner at the 2020 Academy Awards.