DETAILS: At the SAG Awards earlier this year, the ladies of Bridesmaids came up with a unique drinking game—they took a shot every time someone said "Martin Scorsese." Later, when they presented at the Oscars, the joke came up again when someone in the audience shouted "Scorsese!" What do you think of the tribute?
Martin Scorsese: I jumped, first of all, when I heard my name being shouted about. I'd just gone through almost four months of promoting Hugo and being all over the world and answering questions and talking to people on red carpets. You hear your name being shouted and you jump! Spielberg was sitting across the aisle. I said, 'Steve did you have anything to do with this?' He said, 'No, I didn't!'
DETAILS: Have people mentioned the Martin Scorsese Drinking Game to you since?
Martin Scorsese: Yes, of course. It's become a thing! All right. Drink. Enjoy yourself! (huge laugh)
DETAILS: When the Academy went to 10 Best Picture nominees, did it somehow cheapen the awards?
Martin Scorsese: I kind of feel it diffuses it, in a way. I'm confused by it. But maybe it's just me. I'm an older generation. I don't know.
DETAILS: Is there one performance this year that was overlooked?
Martin Scorsese: There are many, I think. This year was interesting for me. I think of DiCaprio in J. Edgar—he was really remarkable. I'm watching the film and the film is so meditative. And so interior. And it was being drawn into this man's world, and seeing everything through the paranoid eyes. There's something in his performance—you really want to see what these people are going to do. And I don't like them! (bigger laugh) I thought it was amazing. I can't believe that it was overlooked by the academy.
DETAILS: You're working with Hennessy. Why did you decide to appear in their advertisement?
Martin Scorsese: The Michael J. Fox Foundation—Hennessy is donating $250,000. The Foundation means a lot to me.
DETAILS: Have you always been a Cognac drinker?
Martin Scorsese: No, I had to develop into it. I grew up in the Lower East Side, an Italian American—more Sicilian, actually. We were living in tenements. It was the mid 20th century, more than half a century ago. It was a very different time. Working class people—we didn't drink wine. If we drank wine, it was made by my grandfather in the basement. It was taken care of. The police didn't bother you.
DETAILS: You've made some of the most iconic films about New York. Mean Streets. Taxi Driver. I'm not sure it's the same New York anymore. How do you feel about the city these days?
Martin Scorsese: Fran Lebowitz pointed out—people always think of New York when they were younger. 'It's a great time!' As you get older it's, 'What happened?' But the young generation is still saying the same thing—this is the greatest time. Years from now they'll say 2014 was the best time ever. But we're saying, 'It's all gone.'
DETAILS: I don't know that young people are saying this is such a great time, though I know what you mean. What are some positive recent developments?
Martin Scorsese: What's happened is interesting. I'll never forget the first time there was an idea of saving the environment and establishing a respect for the American culture—it was when they were taking down the Metropolitan Opera House and Jackie Kennedy and all the people in New York were rebelling against it. It didn't work. They took it down anyway. I became aware, they're taking down these beautiful buildings that represent who we are as a culture. What I'm very pleased to see is a reconstruction and restoration and a renovation.
DETAILS: How so?
Martin Scorsese: This [neighborhood] was a factory. You didn't come here. It was the meatpacking [district]! You want meat, eventually they'll deliver it—and characterless buildings replacing these buildings—there's been an embracing of the architecture. People much younger than me, they appreciate the architecture, and the architecture has appreciated.
DETAILS: What do you miss about the old New York?
Martin Scorsese: I'll tell you, I miss the old Italian restaurants on Mulberry Street. We never really went to many, but . . .
DETAILS: Because there wasn't enough money to eat at restaurants?
Martin Scorsese: No. If your mother cooks Italian food, why should you go to a restaurant? But in the 1970s, it was different and I was making films and we'd go down to Palucci's and Villa Roma and places like that that are gone. There's more tourist-type places now. That's disturbing.