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A closer look at Scorsese's collaborations with Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio

Most directors are lucky to find one kindred actor during their careers, someone so tuned in and trusting that everything the filmmaker wants from a performance winds up on the screen.

Martin Scorsese is luckier than most; he has two.

Since the early 1970s, no combination of actor and director created more indelible movies than Scorsese and Robert De Niro.

Mean Streets. Taxi Driver. Raging Bull. Goodfellas. And that's less than half of their nine collaborations, so far.

Since the turn of the 21st century, no pairing of actor and director consistently fascinates moviegoers like Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Gangs of New York. The Aviator. The Departed, and now Shutter Island. That's all they've squeezed into less than a decade, but give them time.

"Sometimes, you relate to an actor in ways you can't explain," Scorsese recently told USA Today. "I felt it with Robert, I feel it now (with DiCaprio). You develop a rhythm that's hard to find in this business. But if you do find it, you don't let it go."

Three nice Italian-American boys, who love their mamas like good boys do, but love making movies nearly as much.

While it's too early to know if DiCaprio's work with Scorsese will become as iconic as De Niro's, comparing their earliest collaborations reveals fun similarities.

Steve Persall, Times film critic

Mean Streets (1973) and Gangs of New York (2002): De Niro's jittery punk Johnny Boy could be a black sheep descendant of DiCaprio's Amsterdam Vallon. Both are corrupted by the city's decayed morals, a century apart. Vallon violently rebels against the neighborhood despot (Daniel Day-Lewis) while Johnny Boy takes out his aggression on the world.

Taxi Driver (1976) and The Aviator (2004): Travis Bickle and Howard Hughes are men separated by social class and linked by psychosis. De Niro's Bickle is a tightly wound ball of hate, desperate to change the city around him, even if that means murder. DiCaprio's Hughes is too classy to kill anything except his grasp on the real world.

New York, New York (1977) and The Departed (2006): Okay, there aren't any parallels between De Niro's cocky saxophone player Jimmy Doyle and DiCaprio's undercover cop Billy Costigan. One's a helpless romantic and the other is a hopeful crusader against the mob. But it's a crime that Scorsese's original 4 ½-hour cut of New York, New York was slashed nearly in half for a release that flopped.

Raging Bull (1980) and Shutter Island (2010): Can't say much, to avoid spoiling Shutter Island's surprises. Suffice to know that DiCaprio's Teddy Daniels has as much internal tension as De Niro's boxer Jake LaMotta, whose violence outside the ring could have put him in a prison for the criminally insane. An Oscar gives De Niro the edge in early Scorsese pairings, with more likely to come.

A closer look at Scorsese's collaborations with Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio 02/16/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 11:32pm]
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