INTERVIEW: ‘Shutter Island’ director Martin Scorsese

Posted by · 11:54 am · December 29th, 2010

Martin Scorsese’s “Shutter Island” did just fine with audiences this year, bringing in nearly $300 million worldwide and ultimately proving to be the biggest box office hit of his career to date.  However, the film didn’t quite ring the bell of a number of critics who struggled to comprehend its specifically rendered formalism and opted instead to (perhaps hastily) dismiss it as a misstep in an otherwise artistically successful autumn career.

A few weeks ago I hopped on the phone with the revered filmmaker, largely for the purposes of a two-part profile of actor Leonardo DiCaprio.  Calling from London, where he’s currently taking the 3D dive with “Hugo Cabret,” Scorsese graciously spoke for a half hour at the end of a 16-hour day of shooting.

Much of the conversation surrounded his work with DiCaprio, but also naturally drifted into the general territory of filming the Dennis Lehane adaptation and, of course, how his famed love of cinema impacted his vision of it as a film.  So I thought it deserved a separate space.  Have a listen to our chat after the jump (and beware of SPOILERS of the film throughout).

PLEASE NOTE: The audio of the actual coversation is rough for the first 30 seconds or so before snapping into clarity.  Apologies for that.


[Photo: Paramount Pictures]

→ 27 Comments Tags: , , | Filed in: Interviews

27 responses so far

  • 1 12-29-2010 at 12:10 pm

    SC said...

    If you photograph Scorsese from the right angle, he looks like Woody Allen’s Italian twin.

  • 2 12-29-2010 at 12:33 pm

    Maxim said...

    I thought that “The Departed” was somewhat more attended, higher grossing and, ultimately, more proftiable than “Shutter Island”.

  • 3 12-29-2010 at 12:40 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    $289.8 million worldwide vs. $294.8 worldwide. Close.

  • 4 12-29-2010 at 12:40 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    Ah, yes, us foolish and hasty detractors. We just aren’t smart enough to understand Shutter Island’s brilliance. It couldn’t be because we genuinely thought it was a mess; a tawdrily executed and overbaked bit of hokum with one of the most offensive and gratuitous climaxes of the year. No, no, no, there was some *other* ulterior reason behind it.

    Time of course will show that the wise Kris Tapley had it right all along…just like how we all eventually saw the light with The Lovely Bones.

  • 5 12-29-2010 at 12:47 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    You took it too far, Robert. “Foolish” was neither written nor alluded to. The statement was as benign as it could have possibly been, and specifically so.

    I’m sorry you’re so immature.

  • 6 12-29-2010 at 1:00 pm

    JJ1 said...

    Yeah, Robert. You’re making it sound like you’re getting attacked or misinformed about not enjoying Shutter Island. I highly doubt that was the intent.

  • 7 12-29-2010 at 1:17 pm

    Loyal said...

    I’m actually looking forward to revisiting Shutter Island, a film I absolutely hated.

    I’m happy to admit that Cape Fear is in my top 3 of Scorsese’s best films. He’s a genre master.

  • 8 12-29-2010 at 1:26 pm

    Knative said...

    You got to talk to Martin Scorsese. That is pretty fucking sweet.

  • 9 12-29-2010 at 1:27 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...


    No truer statement.

  • 10 12-29-2010 at 1:44 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    Kris, if that’s true, then I apologize. But it does make me wonder what exactly you meant by “struggled to comprehend its specifically rendered formalism,” except as a haughty dismissal of those who disagree with you on the film (especially since you have, at least once recently, called a critic “shallow” for describing it as overrated)?

  • 11 12-29-2010 at 3:33 pm

    Evan said...

    Seriously, long interviews with Leo and Scorsese? I’m insanely jealous.

    Glad to hear the two hope to continue working together.

  • 12 12-29-2010 at 4:24 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...


    1) That statement is being read, by you, as aggressive/offensive. It is not. It is a simple statement of fact. Read the reviews. Scorsese’s choices were consistently called into question, and so it’s fair to say that critics “struggled to comprehend” his approach.

    2) I never once called a critic shallow purely for describing it as overrated. You are putting words into my mouth (nothing new there) and again, you prefer to read something offensive into an otherwise much more general statement. First and foremost, that reaction was in response to a number of films on that list, not just “Shutter Island.” But to speak specifically of that film in particular, it wasn’t simply a response to calling the film overrated, but moreover, the flimsy reasoning used to back up the notion, of which there was plenty to be found throughout said article.

  • 13 12-29-2010 at 4:30 pm

    austin111 said...

    Kris was being rather gentle with his statement about “struggled to comprehend its specificially rendered formalism”. I’d rather refer to it as hack criticism of a specific sort, particularly on the part of A.O. Scott and David Edelstein who seemed ready to accuse anyone who actually liked the film of carrying Scorsese’s water. Offensive, considering the fact that Scott can’t seem to help but carry Eastwood’s water. If you didn’t like or get the film, fine, but some criticisms are far sillier than the film to which they’re aimed.

  • 14 12-29-2010 at 5:25 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    I’m not sure how you find it THAT offensive that someone interprets “struggled to comprehend” as “just not smart enough to understand,” but again, if you were offended, I apologize.

  • 15 12-29-2010 at 5:47 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    You’re right. I shouldn’t be annoyed or offended by you putting words into my mouth, Robert. And that’s before we even get to your pointless Lovely Bones comment. It was an aggressive swipe, you know it, and now you’re backpeddling while attempting to justify. The worst.

    Now, if you’re done derailing the thread…

  • 16 12-29-2010 at 5:57 pm

    Hans said...

    Off-topic: Toy Story 3 score not submitted by Newman, thus ineligible for Best Original Score.

  • 17 12-29-2010 at 6:57 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Second year in a row Newman has done that. Interesting. Not that it was going to slide in, though.

  • 18 12-29-2010 at 7:22 pm

    Samuel said...

    As an aside…to “struggle to comprehend” something doesn’t necessarily mean that thing is a) any good once one does comprehend it and b) even able to be comprehended. Ergo, making such a statement doesn’t actually place a value judgement on anything.

  • 19 12-29-2010 at 7:34 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...



  • 20 12-29-2010 at 8:35 pm

    austin111 said...

    Samuel ‘s point is well taken about the remark. It’s hardly a comment that requires any rebuttal and certainly not a shotgun response.

  • 21 12-30-2010 at 5:39 am

    Dreyer. said...

    All the credit in world for actually asking interesting questions to both Scorsese and Dicaprio. Great work.

  • 22 12-30-2010 at 5:47 am

    the other mike said...

    wow, not that you werent before, but you definitely in the big leagues big time now Kris. nice interview.

  • 23 12-30-2010 at 8:08 am

    Paul Hurt said...

    Yeah, really nice to see you doing well now Kris.

  • 24 12-30-2010 at 8:21 am

    Maxim said...

    “As an aside…to “struggle to comprehend” something doesn’t necessarily mean that thing is a) any good once one does comprehend it and b) even able to be comprehended. Ergo, making such a statement doesn’t actually place a value judgement on anything.”

    Well, since you are going to go into semantics:

    Sorry but claiming that someone is struggling to comhprehend something (regardless of it’s value and whether it can be comhprehended) IS making a judment call on that person. Denying this is just plain silly. You are literally judging that person as struggling.

    Also, the key words among those that you wrote were “doesn’t necessarily”.

  • 25 12-30-2010 at 8:24 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    No, it’s not, Maxim. For instance:

    “I struggle to comprehend why this is such a difficult concept for you to grasp.”

    Though you miss the point anyway. It’s not a judgment of that person’s perspective/opinion. THAT is the point.

    The quicker this is dropped the better. It’s pointless.

  • 26 12-30-2010 at 12:48 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    I know you told me in our email correspondence that this wasn’t necessary, Kris, but I feel I should clear the air on this issue publicly:

    I first want to start with an unqualified apology to you for how this argument blew up. I had NO idea my original statement would be so offensive to you, and my subsequent apologies were not sarcastic or an attempt to “backpedal.” I was genuinely retracting what I initially said and was trying to better understand your position. Obviously, I need to explain myself more clearly in the future.

    Also, my “shallow reach” comment was not an attempt to put words in your mouth. I never intended that all. Based on our discussion on that thread, I honestly interpreted what you wrote as specific umbrage at what he wrote about Shutter Island. If I was mistaken on that issue, then again, I apologize (also, my Lovely Bones comment was intended as a joke).

    I didn’t know that these comments were out of line, and with the exception of my first one (which I retracted), my queries were in *good faith*. I hope I’ve cleared these issues up, and there isn’t any more bad blood between us on this unfortunate argument. If there is, please let me know how I can change that.