Martin Scorsese has rejected a suggestion that his films lack significant female characters.
Speaking today during a press conference at the Rome Film Fest, the director shut down a question from an Italian journalist about a lack of front-and-center roles for women in films including The Irishman, which screens at the festival this week.
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“That’s not even a valid point,” Scorsese responded. “It’s a question I’ve had for so many years. It is a waste of everybody’s time.”
The director’s regular producer Emma Tillinger Koskoff, also on stage in Rome, threw out examples of Scorsese films with significant roles including Alice Doesn’t Love Here Anymore, The Age Of Innocence, and Casino.
“They don’t count [those movies],” Scorsese said of naysayers, adding that his films have prominent female roles “if a story calls for a female lead”.
The Irishman follows Robert De Niro’s hitman Frank Sheeran and has leading turns from Al Pacino and Joe Pesci. Some critics have pointed out the minimal amount of lines given to Anna Paquin, who plays De Niro’s daughter, though her performance has been praised, and the actress herself has called working on the film “special”.
In the wide ranging conference, Scorsese also discussed how Netflix came to The Irishman.
“In Hollywood we couldn’t get the money to make the picture, nobody would give it to us. Netflix came in and said they’d support us including the [de-ageing] experiment with [post-house] Industrial Light & Magic,” the director recalled.
Netflix stepped in to fund the project in February 2017 after the production budget began to escalate – it has since been pegged at north of $150m.
Scorsese praised the streamer for giving him “complete creative freedom [and] an extra six months in post-production to complete the film”.
The director also backed Netflix over its theatrical policy.
“In order to see film in a theater, the film has to be made. Whether you see it in theatres, stream, TV, kids on the iPad – in order to see these things they have to be made,” he said.
Scorsese pointed out that while over the years he had managed to fund his films off the back of the star power of his actors, such as De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio, that “can’t be done anymore”.
“If I was 30 years younger I wouldn’t be able to make films in Hollywood. In the last ten years my films have been independently financed under difficult circumstances. In this case [The Irishman], we had charted [the story] since the 1970s and nobody would give us the money. Netflix stood up and financed it completely. The trade off is it gets streamed [but] it’s still shown in theaters. I thought that was a good deal under the circumstances.”
Scorsese pointed out that the film is getting a four-week theatrical run from November 1 before it goes on Netflix in selected venues, and that was longer than some of his previous movies, such as The King Of Comedy, had managed to stay in theaters. Koskoff also added that the film will continue to play cinemas when it begins streaming from November 27.
Scorsese also doubled-down on recent comments in which he equated superhero movies, such as those made by Marvel and DC, to theme parks.
“Right now, theaters seem to be mainly supporting the ‘amusement park’ comic book films, they’re taking over the theaters. They can have those films and it’s fine, but that shouldn’t become what our young people believe is cinema,” the director said to applause from the Rome crowd.