Inaugural Legend Of Cinema Award recipient Martin Scorsese spoke about the importance of the big screen and championing independent cinema, touched on his love of film history and the experience of filming Killers Of The Flower Moon in an on-stage conversation with Leonardo DiCaprio at CinemaCon on Thursday.
“You learn how to make a film by making it,” Scorsese told a packed Octavius Ballroom after collecting the award, which will become an annual event renamed in his honour. “You also learn by watching them, so you keep watching them and certain pictures go deeper and deeper and you begin to learn them.”
He added, “When I say ‘watching’ I do mean projected on to a big screen with an audience.” That got one of many rounds of applause at the honourary luncheon and retrospective.
The Oscar-winning filmmaker called on exhibitors to espouse independent filmmakers: “I would love you to find a way to help smaller independent films find their way back into the multiplexes… To be able to have younger people opt to go to a theatre to see them.”
He noted that one or two of a generation of independent filmmakers might create the next blockbuster. “You’ll be investing in the future of the movie business.”
Scorsese, whose credits include Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, The Age Of Innocence, The Departed, Silence, and The Irishman, recalled his lifelong passion for cinema which started as a youngster visiting the cinema in his native New York.
“Movies introduced me to everything: dance, theatre, music, all kinds. I came from a family, working class, that couldn’t afford theatre… I learned about the outside world from movies.”
Scorsese touched on his love of French New Wave and Italian Neorealism, saying: “The French taught us how to retell a story… [Italian cinema is] based in very strong humanism.”
Asked by DiCaprio, who stars in the upcoming Killers Of The Flower Moon, about how he approached the complex story about the 1920s series of murders on the oil-rich land of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma, Scorsese recalled how the production shot on location and worked with the Osage people, some of whose ancestors were massacred in the so-called ‘Reign of Terror’.
“My interest as a human being was in how some of these guys could have done what they did and at the same time accepted it themselves and said ‘We love them’ and rationalise it as civilisation – one comes in the other goes out,” he said in reference to DiCaprio’s character Ernest Burkhart, who sets out to exploit the rich land and falls in love with one of the Osage women, played by Lily Gladstone.
“I look back as every film I made as another universe. I liked [Killers Of The Flower Moon]. “It was tough,” said he. He stayed in an “oversized” house in Oklahoma “on the prairies”. Scorsese got a laugh when he added: “I’m a New Yorker and there are prairies out there, wild horses, coyotes, you know… we immersed ourselves in it and tried to do right by them as much as possible.”
Earlier in the day Scorsese showed first footage from Paramount Pictures and Apple Original Films’ Killers Of The Flower Moon.
The three-and-a-half hour 1920s-set crime epic also stars Robert De Niro and Jesse Plemons.
Paramount will release Killers Of The Flower Moon in theatres exclusively for 45 days. The film will be released exclusively by Paramount for 45 days.