Nearly 2,000 attendees at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival felt a little closer to "movie heaven" Thursday night when director Martin Scorsese and actor Leonardo DiCaprio were interviewed and presented the Cinema Vanguard Award at the Arlington Theatre.
The intimate Q&A with the iconic director and the top-of-his-field actor provided a window into the dynamic and magical relationship of the filmmaking duo.
Scorsese and DiCaprio were recognized for their extraordinary film collaboration, which has produced five exemplary films, including Gangs of New York, The Aviator, Shutter Island, The Departed and The Wolf of Wall Street. Their latest hit film, The Wolf of Wall Street, depicts a notorious stock swindler who squandered profits from a boiler-room "pump and dump" scheme on cocaine, prostitutes and lavish excess.
“Scorsese and DiCaprio’s partnership has become a legendary cinematic pas de deux," SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling said, recalling other great collaborations like John Ford and John Wayne, Federico Fellini and Marcello Mastroianni, and John Huston and Humphrey Bogart.
During the tribute and Q&A, Scorsese said that Robert De Niro recommended "this kid that was pretty good," which was DiCaprio. Scorsese cast DiCaprio in the role of Amsterdam in Gangs of New York — and their decades-old relationship and collaboration began.
“When I was starting out as an actor, I gave myself a film education," DiCaprio said. "I watched three to four films a day. The ones that stood out were Marty’s films. I wanted to be in one of his films. I did extensive research for Gangs of New York prior to getting the part.”
At first glance, Scorsese and DiCaprio seem unlikely soulmates. Scorsese described his youth in the Little Italy section of New York City. DiCaprio was raised by a single mother in rough neighborhoods around Hollywood. But the interview made clear the men’s shared appreciation of America, as well as its dynamic complexities and contradictions.
The Cinema Vanguard Award was created in recognition of artists who have forged his or her own path, taking artistic risks and making a significant and unique contribution to film. Past recipients include Amy Adams, Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, Nicole Kidman, Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Stanley Tucci, Christoph Waltz, Kristin Scott Thomas and Ryan Gosling.
Scorsese is an Academy Award-winning director and one of the most prominent and influential filmmakers working today. He directed the critically acclaimed, award-winning films Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Last Temptation of Christ, Goodfellas, Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed and the 2010 box office hit Shutter Island.
Scorsese also has directed numerous documentaries, including No Direction Home: Bob Dylan, Elia Kazan: A Letter to Elia (both films garnering Peabody Awards), A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese through American Movies, Il Mio Viaggio in Italia, Public Speaking starring writer Fran Lebowitz and the documentary for HBO, George Harrison: Living in the Material World. Most recently he directed Academy Award- and Golden Globe-nominated film Hugo, a 3D adaptation of Brian Selznick’s children’s book, for which he won the Golden Globe for Best Director.
Scorsese currently serves as executive producer on HBO’s hit series Boardwalk Empire, for which he directed the pilot episode. He is the founder and chairman of The Film Foundation and the World Cinema Project, nonprofit organizations dedicated to the preservation, restoration and protection of film.
DiCaprio is a multi-award-winning actor and a three-time Academy Award nominee for his roles in Edward Zwick’s Blood Diamond, Scorsese’s The Aviator and Lasse Hallström’s What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. He recently starred in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, Christopher Nolan’s Inception and Scorsese’s Shutter Island, and earned Golden Globe nominations for his recent roles in Django Unchained and J. Edgar.
His credits include starring roles in James Cameron’s Titanic, Woody Allen’s Celebrity, Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can, Sam Mendes’ Revolutionary Road, Luhrmann’s William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet and Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies, as well as The Quick and the Dead, The Basketball Diaries, Total Eclipse, Marvin’s Room, The Man in the Iron Mask and The Beach.
The award presentation and evening tribute was sponsored by Carpinteria-based company Lynda.com.
The Santa Barbara International Film Festival is dedicated to discovering and showcasing the best in independent and international cinema. Now in its 29th year, SBIFF offers 11 days of 200 films, tributes and symposiums that range from American indie films to world cinema. It runs through Sunday. For more information, click here or call 805.963.0023.
— Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.