6 Toughest Cuts: Martin Scorsese’s Editor Reveals What They Left Out of His Classic Films
Martin Scorsese and film editor Thelma Schoonmaker. (Dave M. Benett/Getty Images)
When Martin Scorsese finds a collaborator he likes to work with, he tends to make a habit of it.
Robert De Niro (star of eight Scorsese flicks) and Leonardo DiCaprio (star of five) may be Scorsese's most visible long-time collaborators, but film editor Thelma Schoonmaker is by far the most entrenched.
For over 50 years, Schoonmaker and Scorsese have been making movie magic together — from Scorsese's 1963 student short, "What's a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This?," to his 1967 first feature, "Who's That Knocking at My Door," to his latest Best Picture Nominee, 2013's "The Wolf of Wall Street."
Because of this relationship, Schoonmaker, herself a three-time Oscar winner, has unique insight into Scorsese's masterworks. So we we're elated to speak with Schoonmaker when she phoned in recently to discuss "The Wolf of Wall Street," which drops on Blu-ray this week.
While we were certainly curious about the challenges of editing such a lengthy, anarchic film as "WOWS," we also seized the opportunity to discuss such modern classics as "Raging Bull," "Goodfellas," "Casino," "Gangs of New York," and "The Departed."
In the interview below, Schoonmaker recounts the toughest part about bringing each of these celebrated films to such frenetic life.
Daniel Day Lewis in 'Gangs of New York.' (Everett Collections)
Gangs of New York:
Daniel Day Lewis’s beautiful improvisations when he is chastising the policeman and there's a rabbit’s pelt that’s part of the scene, that was one of the most brilliant things I've ever seen in my life, the way Daniel did that. And again, it was a matter of us deciding how much of it we could keep because it was so powerful. He was mesmerizing in that, and again, there, it was a matter of length again. You know, how much can we get away with and still keep the film moving.
There was a wonderful moment where there was a dead rabbit on the table, and at one point, Daniel actually put the rabbit pelt on his head, but we decided that was a little too much. So we didn’t use that, but it was pretty funny.
Well, that was hard because of Jack Nicholson… the scene with Jack Nicholson questioning whether DiCaprio is a rat or not, was extremely difficult scene to cut because nobody knew what the hell Jack was going to do. They didn’t know he was going to light the paper tablecloth with his cigarette lighter, and DiCaprio had no idea what the hell was going to happen, so the first take on that is really wonderful on DiCaprio’s side, because he’s absolutely trying to stay in the scene with Jack going all over the place deliberately, you know, and unsettling him and he was really reacting to things that he had no idea were going to be happening. Like him burning the tablecloth and things…and pulling a gun on him. And so that was wonderful to watch those dailies, because he had no idea what the hell was going to happen. And he was great about just hanging in there trying to stay in the scene.