Martin Scorsese Has Been Using ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ Interviews to Grapple With His Own Mortality

nbspMartin Scorsese's new film Killers of the Flower Moon debuted at the 76th Cannes Film Festival at Palais des...

 Martin Scorsese’s new film Killers of the Flower Moon debuted at the 76th Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals in Cannes, France on May 21, 2023.Courtesy of Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
The 80-year-old director has been getting existential about having enough time to match his ambitions.

The rapturous response at the Cannes Film Festival (plus strong words of support from members of the Osage Nation) have cemented Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon as the most hotly anticipated film release of the year. Scorsese, of course, is one of our most prolific filmmakers,  rarely taking more than a couple years between projects, but at 80 years old, the Academy Award-winner has been using his press appearances to get a little existential.

During the Cannes press conference for the film, Scorsese spoke about his desire to still make bold, daring films at this stage in his career.

“As far as taking risks at this age–what else can I do? What do they want me to do?” Scorsese said to laughs from the press. “‘Let’s go do something comfortable.’ Are you kidding? Comfortable, like sitting ‘comfortable’ on a set in the heat. You might as well be risking [it].”

Scorsese’s statement builds on the comments he made in a May 16 interview with Deadline, where he expressed  a certain wistfulness about his age and the passage of time.  “I wish I could take a break for eight weeks and make a film at the same time,” Scorsese said. “The whole world has opened up to me, but it’s too late. It’s too late.”

Scorsese referred to legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa receiving an honorary Academy Award at the 1990 Oscars. “I am very deeply honored to receive such a wonderful prize, but I have to ask whether I really deserve it. I’m a little worried, because I don’t feel that I understand cinema yet,” the Rashomon director said at the time, through a translator. (Kurosawa did direct three movies between receiving the award and his death in 1998, though they are not considered his most essential work.)

Kurosawa’s words seem to be sticking with Scorsese these days. “I’m old. I read stuff. I see things. I want to tell stories, and there’s no more time. Kurosawa, when he got his Oscar, when George [Lucas] and Steven [Spielberg] gave it to him, he said, ‘I’m only now beginning to see the possibility of what cinema could be, and it’s too late,’” Scorsese recalled. “He was 83. At the time, I said, ‘What does he mean?’ Now I know what he means.”

In the past, Scorsese has been candid about some of his health issues, which included a prolonged hospital stint when he was 35 due to drug issues and asthma. Still, Scorsese has a staggering number of projects in the pipeline as a producer and is working with DiCaprio and Apple to adapt another David Grann book into a film. The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny, and Murder will take the filmmaker and his star back to the 1700s for a maritime thriller. Scorsese will also direct the first two episodes of a Gangs of New York TV show.

Killers of the Flower Moon, based on David Grann’s 2017 nonfiction best-seller of the same name, focuses on wealthy members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma during the 1920s, several of whom were killed as part of an elaborate conspiracy connected to the recent discovery of oil beneath their land. Flower Moon has been a long time in the works, with Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio attached to the project more than five years ago. The $200 million period epic has lived several lives in Hollywood, and now arrives on October 6 as the most prestigious film project in the history of Apple TV+–it’s also seeing a theatrical release courtesy of Paramount Pictures–and stars DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Jesse Plemons, and Lily Gladstone in a role many are expecting will make her an Oscar favorite.

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