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Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes in The Aviator

Many are regarding Martin Scorsese’s latest movie, The Irishman, his masterpiece. That's even after he helmed the iconic Taxi Driver and The Wolf of Wall Street, won the Academy Award for Best Director for The Departed, penned his love letter to early film with Hugo, and delivered The Wolf of Wall Street. He always seems to be in the prime of his career, doesn’t he? Yet, there’s a world where Scorsese almost quit over 15 years ago on The Aviator, his second collaboration with Leonardo DiCaprio.

The 77-year-old filmmaker recently opened up about his personal struggles as a director over the years. Back in 1995, when he was finishing up Casino, he worried he’d already pushed his talents as far as he could. For years he tried to avoid making any more mob films and often found himself exhausted by the end of putting together his well-renowned projects. In his words:

The last two weeks of editing and mixing The Aviator. I had left the business from the stress. I said if this is the way you have to make films then I’m not going to do it anymore.

In an interview with The New York Times, Martin Scorsese talked about the frequent times he’d come at odds with studios over his projects. He’d often have to fight for his artistic decisions and lengthy runtimes, describing the process as follows:

It’s like being in a bunker and you’re firing out in all directions… You begin to realize you’re not speaking the same language anymore, so you can’t make pictures anymore.

It’s crazy to imagine Martin Scorsese even thinking of quitting after making the 2004 drama about Howard Hughes. Sure he’d already had a career some could only dream of, which included making The King of Comedy (which recently inspired Todd Phillips’ Joker), Goodfellas and Gangs of New York. He’d become a highly-regarded talent, but he’d subsequently become frustrated with the studio system. He found them to be mortal enemies to his creative process.

Thankfully, he never quit. Martin Scorsese turned to independent sources to finance his projects and he has continued to be an impressive auteur. The Irishman was a particularly tough movie for him to make, taking over a decade to come to fruiton since Robert De Niro first approached him with the book it’s based on.

The movie was rejected by studio after studio until Netflix stepped in to finance the $160 million project, complete with the use of de-aging technology and a 209 minute runtime. The movie has been a critical success for the streaming platform, surmounting five Golden Globe nominations for the studio a 96% critics score and 86% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Martin Scorsese reportedely has another project lined up with Leonardo DiCaprio, yet he recently said The Irishman may be his last movie. The filmmaker recently made headlines for his criticism for Marvel movies, calling them “theme park rides” rather than film (His daughter pulled a hilarious Christmas prank on him on the subject).

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