The regular collaborators, who are currently working on Killers of the Flower Moon, spoke ahead of a Raging Bull screening at the closing night of Tribeca Film Festival in New York.
Scorsese reflected on the 1980 film, which was his first to be released after he received negative reviews for 1977’s New York, New York.
In fact, the director had found himself on a downward spiral in the late 1970s, and it was lead star Robert De Niro who essentially saved him from a “near-death” experience thanks to Raging Bull.
At the festival, Scorsese said that, after completing work on Raging Bull, he “didn’t care what happened to it, or if I made another movie”.
Fortunately, he did – Scorsese followed Raging Bull with The King of Comedy two years later, and has since released films including Goodfellas, The Age of Innocence, The Aviator, The Departed and The Irishman.
In Jay Glennie’s recent book Raging Bull: The Making Of, Scorsese recalled: “It became more impossible for me to function, both physically and mentally, until I finally collapsed.”
The filmmaker was then told by a doctor: “You cannot go anywhere; you may get a brain haemorrhage any second.
Hearing about Scorsese’s state, De Niro visited him and asked him some questions that ultimately prompted the director to clean up his act. These were: “What is it you want to do? Do you want to die, is that it? Don’t you want to live to see your daughter grow up and get married?”
Access unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows with Amazon Prime Video Sign up now for a 30-day free trial
De Niro was convinced Scorsese was the only man who could direct Raging Bull and, keen to get back to work, asked him: “Are you gonna be one of those directors who makes a couple of good movies and then it’s over for them?”
While the actor says he doesn’t remember the conversation playing out in that way, he told Glennie: “The thought was unthinkable to me to move on without Marty. But I had to give him that out and ask him if he wanted to do it.
“I do recall telling him he could really make this picture special and we would have something that would be remembered for all the right reasons. To me, there was nobody else who could do it better – period.”
Scorsese said he was “lucky there happened to be a project ready” for him to jump into.
Killers of the Flower Moon, which De Niro is also starring in, will be released on Apple TV+ in 2022.