What Martin Scorsese’s Leap to TV Means for Film
Scorsese verse is on the rise. After the legendary filmmaker’s early adventures in the world of streaming, directing the pilot episode of HBO’s Vinyl (2016) and the Netflix Original Movie, The Irishman (2019), Martin Scorsese returns to the small screen for a new adaptation of his epic historical film, New York Gangs (2002). This effort revives a similar attempt in 2013, which did not materialize. Nevertheless, the Taxi driver the director tries his luck again twenty years after the release of Gangs with a new series of episodes scripted by television writer and playwright Brett Leonard.
Deadline recently announced that Scorsese will direct the first two episodes and serve as executive producer for the first season, almost exactly mirroring David Fincher’s involvement in Season 1 of the Netflix original series. Card castle (2013). The announcement comes after Scorsese condemned Hollywood’s “repugnant” obsession with making money from theatrical movies on their opening weekends and overseas.
While theatrical cinema was once considered the ultimate vessel for visual storytelling, with each passing year it looks more and more like a sinking ship for writers, many of whom turn to television and streaming services. This next adaptation of New York Gangs could be a turning point where more authors break free from the runtime limitations and box office pressure of theatrical cinema, joining the ranks of Scorsese, David Fincher and Steven Soderbergh, among others.
Theatrical releases of authors have taken a hit in recent years
In recent years, auteur films have repeatedly underperformed at the box office. While Wes Anderson, Jordan Peele, Tarantino and Spielberg have managed to keep their heads above water, many recent auteur films haven’t washed their face; by David O. Russell amsterdam (2022), by Robert Egger The man from the north (2022), by Christopher Nolan Principle (2020), by Steven Soderbergh Lucky Logan (2017), PTA inherent vice (2014) and Licorice Pizza (2022), as well as Scorsese’s latest theatrical release The silence (2016).
Since the next Scorsese film The Moonflower Slayers stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert DeNiro, it will likely fetch a lot more than The silence. And even if Denis Villeneuve Blade Runner 2049 (2017) made a modest profit, it was ultimately a financial disappointment. It might have something to do with recent news that the original blade runner (1982) director Ridley Scott adapts a sequel TV series for Amazon Studios titled Blade Runner 2099set fifty years after the events of Villeneuve’s film.
While many recent films have failed to match the box office successes of comic book films, up-and-coming writers have flocked to television and streaming.
Jean-Marc Vallée continues his theatrical films Dallas Buyers Club (2013) and Savage (2014) with shows like big little lies (2017) and Sharp objects (2018). Alex Garland chained his theatrical films Ex-Machina (2015) and Annihilation (2018) with the miniseries Developers (2020) for FX on Hulu. Derek Cianfrance released The place Beyond the Pines (2012) in theaters before doing the HBO show I know it’s true and the Amazon Prime movie The sound of metal in 2020. Cary Joji Fukunaga Jane Eyre (2011) and no time to die (2021) have been released in theaters. But Fukunaga also directed the first season of real detective (2014) for HBO and its miniseries Maniacal (2018) and cinema beasts of no nation (2015) for Netflix.
Then there are the well-established authors with deep roots in theatrical films who have all but abandoned the multiplex in recent years.
David Fincher has produced two hit shows for Netflix. And man (2020). So far, Steven Soderbergh has made two films for Netflix and four for HBO. Fincher hasn’t had a theatrical release since 2014 with missing girl, and Soderbergh has not since 2013 with Side effects; delivery Lucky Logan and Foolish (2018), which Soderbergh distributed as independently of the studio system as possible.
Gangs of New York is perfectly suited for long storytelling
fans of New York Gangs shouldn’t expect Daniel Day-Lewis to reprise his unforgettable role as “Bill the Butcher” from the film. The three-time Oscar winner quit acting after a final performance in the PTA film in 2017 ghost yarn. Add Leonardo DiCaprio to the list of actors who are unlikely to return. But maybe. Perhaps Scorsese will give viewers a reprise of his cameo as a wealthy landowner.
While Brett Leonard’s scripts for the show are all based on the same source material as the Gangs film, the new series will feature a different cast of characters from Herbert Asbury’s 1927 book New York Gangs. With the film’s sprawling runtime of nearly three hours and Asbury’s source novel of 400 pages, Brett Leonard and Scorsese must have plenty to work with. During the first attempt to adapt Gangs for television in 2013, Scorsese released this statement:
“This era and era of American history and heritage is rich with characters and stories that we could not fully explore in a two-hour film. A television series gives us the time and creative freedom to bring this colorful world to life.
Scorsese’s desire to tell long stories became increasingly evident in the sprawling lengths of his later theatrical endeavors. the wolf of Wall Street (2013) lasts three hours. The silencealmost three hours. The Irishman, three and a half. It’s as if Scorsese has grown too powerful to be contained by the two-hour standard that mere mortal filmmakers must obey. The filmmaker’s interest in long stories is shared by David Fincher, whose work on Card castle, as well as his ongoing work on spirit hunter (2017), represent the biggest auteur leap to television to date.
In 2013, at the height of AMC’s hit TV series breaking BadFincher told HitFix:
“If you work in the film industry, you think you have this two-hour form that requires a kind of ballistic storytelling that doesn’t always allow characterizations to be that complex, or that deep, or that layered, or that you can slowly reveal and be that faceted. And I felt over the last ten years that the best writing that’s ever happened for actors was on television. And so I was looking to do something longer. I never said i was gonna hold my breath until someone offered me 26. And when they did, it was pretty shocking when you try to get a sense of how many different scenarios it will take to complete 26 hours. This can be a particularly daunting experience.
Who will be the next author to make the “daunting” leap to television after Fincher and Scorsese? Quentin Tarantino will make his teaser in 5 episodes Bounty Law show after all? Will PTA make an Amazon Prime limited series set in the 1970s San Fernando Valley? Will Joel Coen make a violent mini-series with his characteristic dry humor for HBO? Does Ethan Coen?
Perhaps Wes Anderson will develop and direct the first two episodes of a stop-motion adventure show for FX on Hulu about an anthropomorphic rodent navigating London’s Dickens sewers. How about a Netflix limited series of The Safdie Brothers, Escape from Rikers Island? Sam Mendes could probably adapt one of his movies, like american beauty (1999), in a fascinating eight-hour mini-series. As long as he doesn’t Revolutionary Road. eight hours of Revolutionary Road would be awful.