Martin Scorsese says Roger Ebert Understood Him Better As A Director Than He Understood Himself
Steve James documentary Life Itself, dedicated to the life and work of late film critic Roger Ebert, has been generating reams of positive press as it makes its way to theaters on July 11 (it will open in limited release on July 4). But no quote attributed to Ebertís influence struck me quite as deeply as the one that legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese sharedÖ even though it never made it into the finished documentary.
The Raging Bull and Goodfellas maestro spoke with Steve James about Roger Ebertís reaction to The Departed. The anecdote is captured and shared by The New York Times, which reveals that Scorsese believed the iconic critic figured out a crucial component to the filmmakerís psyche before it even became clear to Scorsese. Roger Ebert, as the story goes, said The Departed carried extra weight because of Scorseseís staunch Catholic upbringing, and how some men eventually confess to their wrongdoings, but admit to the parish priest that they had no real choice.
"This movie is like an examination of conscience," Ebert wrote of the film at the time of release, "when you stay up all night trying to figure out a way to tell the priest: I know I done wrong, but, oh, Father, what else was I gonna do?"
Upon reading that, Martin Scorsese amazingly confessed to Steve James:
"When I saw he said that, I said, ĎWell, thatís what itís all about.í I mean, he may say, ĎWell, itís not enough.í I think it is, in terms of being a human being and saying, ĎI know it was wrong. But I had no choice, I couldnít do otherwise.í And it took me years to understand that thatís who I am. And Roger knew that."
When it comes to compliments, Iím not sure they come much higher than that.
Martin Scorsese joins a long list of filmmakers, though, who admit to having a deep emotional connection with Roger Ebert over the course of the film criticís staggering career. He appears alongside the likes of Werner Herzog, Errol Morris and Ramin Bahnrani in the trailer for Jamesí doc:
But from everything that we have been hearing about Life Itself (and as the title suggests), the movie isnít only about film. Itís also about celebrating life, about recognizing oneís passions, and about being recognized by our peers. The film rolls out in select markets over the coming years. Celebrate the life and work of Roger Ebert alongside some of the greats: Martin Scorsese, among them.
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