With The Wolf of Wall Street landing on DVD, Blu-Ray and digital download, Movie Fanatic had the chance to sit down with a longtime Martin Scorsese collaborator, his Oscar-winning editor, Thelma Schoonmaker.
Schoonmaker first worked with Martin Scorsese on 1970’s Street Scenes documentary.
She has won three Oscars working with Scorsese -- for The Departed, The Aviator and Raging Bull -- and has been nominated a total of seven times! No one knows the master filmmaker’s cinematic ways better than Schoonmaker.
She’s been there with Scorsese through his creation of The King of Comedy, The Last Temptation of Christ, Goodfellas, Cape Fear, The Age of Innocence, Casino, Kundun, Gangs of New York, Shutter Island, Hugo and now The Wolf of Wall Street. “He excites you and that’s why he’s such a great teacher because he doesn’t talk down to you,” Schoonmaker told us exclusively.
“He’s got such passion and you feel such excitement when you’re working with him that you’re working together towards a tremendous goal and there’s nothing better than that.”
We talk what sets Scorsese apart from every other filmmaker in history, the unique power that The Wolf of Wall Street has and what separates it from the rest of their film work and lastly, the “accident” that was how the two creative geniuses even met.
Movie Fanatic: We all know how gifted Martin Scorsese is as a storyteller, how is he as a collaborator?
Thelma Schoonmaker: The actors would tell you this too, he has such a strong vision that you feel that you can relax that there’s someone at the helm of the ship -- he is a wonderful collaborator. He has an idea about the camera work that is different for each film. When he’s shooting, he’s thinking like an editor all the time. Even though he has that strong vision, he’s open to suggestions and you hear that over and over again. And you see it, particularly, in The Wolf of Wall Street with the improvisation. Yet, at the same time, he has such high standards, that he is able to blend those two things together in the most unique of ways. It’s not easy to do.
Movie Fanatic: The Wolf of Wall Street is the most unique of Martin Scorsese films. What struck you the most putting together this film?
Thelma Schoonmaker: It was the improv. We hadn’t done that in a long time and it was so much fun. I was laughing my head off at the dailies when they’d come in, and then when I was editing with Marty we’d be laughing so hard. That was different. Also, the structure was different on this one. He had very unique ideas on how to begin the movie -- for example, each shot is carefully thought out. But, then we come to that brilliant Matthew McConaughey improvisation at the lunch where he’s teaching Leo what Wall Street is about (seen in this The Wolf of Wall Street trailer). That’s a five minute scene [laughs]! We didn’t expect that to be so heavily improvised and so funny. Suddenly you come to this big chunk of a scene and you don’t want to let go of it because it’s so good. It made for a rather strange start and stop structure to the movie. For people who go with the movie, they tell me it just goes like a shot. You never knew what was coming next. It was so fertile.
Movie Fanatic: Leo has been growing as an actor over the years and each successive film he’s made with Marty, the five, he grows and grows. But this, in our The Wolf of Wall Street review, I called it a hurricane. What did you notice putting the film together that was so special about Leo’s performance?
Thelma Schoonmaker: He busted through with this one. Marty loves the fact that Leo is fearless and will experiment. They admire each other so much. He was ready to cut loose, you can feel it. It was Leo’s project. He’s the one who brought it to Marty. He’s been trying to get it made for seven years, so he’d been thinking about it. Those amazing speeches he gives [laughs], you’re right… it’s a hurricane! It’s a tour de force performance.
Movie Fanatic: As we close, let’s go back to the beginning. How did you first hook up with Marty?
Thelma Schoonmaker: It was all a big accident. I wanted to be a diplomat because I was born and grew up abroad. When I came back to the States to go to college, I really missed the rest of the world. I went to the State Department and passed all the exams. But, in the stress interview at the end, they said to me that I was way too liberal. They told me I’d be unhappy there. I saw an ad for an editor who wanted to train an editor as an assistant and I’d always loved movies. I went, and he trained me and he was just butchering films for late night TV and I just couldn’t stand it. So, I went to NYU for just one course, all I could afford. And there was Martin Scorsese. Someone had cut his negative wrong and I was the only one who knew how to fix it. It was all a big accident! Thank God! I love working with him every day. He has a passion and it’s infectious. And there’s no better way to live than with passion.
Don't miss Schoonmaker and Scorsese's most brilliant of works -- watch The Wolf of Wall Street online.