17/11/1942 (78 years old) Queens, New York, United States
Although this iconic filmmaker is routinely hailed as one of the most influential directors of his generation, his jam-packed trophy case (which includes two Golden Globes, a Palm d'Or from Cannes and two New York Film Critics Circle Awards) was missing an Oscar until 2007. While it was an honor way too long in coming, Scorsese never really needed a little gold man to validate his superlative talents, not only as a director but also as a writer, producer and sometime actor. A native New Yorker, Scorsese was a sickly child, and while his peers were carousing in the streets, he was developing a passion for cinema, whether it was slick Hollywood classics or arty foreign films. He began making shorts while earning his master's in filmmaking at New York University. In 1967, he won kudos for his extremely bloody short The Big Shave, and also filmed his first feature-length (if no-budget) flick, Who's That Knocking at My Door?, starring Harvey Keitel. Five years later, after various cinema-related gigs (including a stint editing the documentary Woodstock), Scorsese landed his first proper directing job, helming the B-movie Boxcar Bertha for schlock producer Roger Corman. But it was his next film, Mean Streets, which he also produced and cowrote, that defined his signature, kinetic style. The violent tale of thugs trying to survive in Little Italy, the film starred Keitel and Robert De Niro, who would become Scorsese's muse. Their next collaboration, Taxi Driver, expanded on Scorsese's haunting vision of a world gone mad, in which a homicidal loner could be embraced as a hero. Although Taxi Driver earned Oscar nods for best film and for actors De Niro and Jodie Foster (as a 12-year-old hooker), Scorsese didn't even score a nomination. His next movie, the tuner New York, New York, both a tribute to his hometown and the golden age of Hollywood musicals, went bust, although it did introduce him to Liza Minnelli, with whom he allegedly had an affair. (He went on to direct her in the 1977 Broadway musical The Act, although theater veteran Gower Champion was brought in to "advise" him and ultimately relieved him of duty.) Since the '70s were a decade of excess, Scorsese, like many of his peers, suffered from a drug problem, but his friend De Niro helped get him back on track when they went to work on 1980's Raging Bull. The story of a boxer who's even more violent when he's out of the ring, the film earned De Niro his second Oscar and Scorsese his first Oscar nod. After the flop King of Comedy (a satire of celebrity that was later given its due) and the quirky indie comedy After Hours, Scorsese proved he could indeed play the Hollywood game by helming his first true mainstream picture: The Color of Money, a sequel to The Hustler that starred Paul Newman and Tom Cruise. In 1988, he stirred up controversy by filming Nikos Kazantzakis' novel The Last Temptation of Christ, which contained scenes depicting Jesus leading a secular life. But considering Scorsese was a guilt-ridden Catholic boy who had considered a career in the priesthood, the outcry seemed unwarranted. In reality, the film was a loving tribute to faith. Two years later, he followed up with the gangster epic Goodfellas, which marked an important shift in the tone of his work. Subsequent films (Cape Fear, Casino, Gangs of New York, The Aviator) were critically acclaimed, but it wasn't until 2007 that Scorsese was finally recognized with an Oscar for his Boston-set crime drama The Departed.