The two hit movies that Martin Scorsese turned down

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The two hit movies that Martin Scorsese turned down
The two hit movies that Martin Scorsese turned down


Martin Scorsese rose to prominence in the mid-1970s following his major film debut, Mean Streets, in 1973. The movie marked the beginning of a lucrative career, bolstered by a long-standing working relationship with star actor Robert De Niro. Mean Streets’ successful formula of gritty realism and a stark reflection of inner-city life was brought to a whole new level in 1976 with the release of Scorsese’s magnum opus, Taxi Driver.

By the decade’s close, Scorsese had begun to sculpt an immortal legacy, as had De Niro. In 1980, the acting-directing dream team duo took on Raging Bull, a script De Niro had suggested. Scorsese took the job on hesitantly, as sports dramas weren’t his natural forte. Fortunately, the gamble paid off, and the movie was a critical and commercial success, bagging eight Oscar nominations and two wins as a result. 

In 1982, Scorsese and De Niro’s flame faltered a little after the underwhelming reception of The King of Comedy. Naturally, Scorsese was keen to get his hands on a solid script to repair the damage and return to form in the mid-80s. During this period, Scorsese decided to work “in a studio situation where everything had to be discussed and figured out”, and as a result, he was sent “a lot” of screenplays.

During a 2020 interview with Deadline, Scorsese revealed that he had rejected the screenplays for Peter Weir’s 1985 thriller Witness and the action comedy Beverly Hills Cop, which ultimately starred Eddie Murphy. “I was getting many scripts,” he said. “Witness, Beverly Hills Cop – there were a lot. But I didn’t want to make those. Then you choose your course. It’s a harder course.”

Later in the conversation, Scorsese revealed that, before Willem Dafoe was cast, Robert De Niro offered to play the role of Jesus Christ in his 1988 movie The Last Temptation of Christ. The legendary filmmaker had to let his acting hero down, explaining that De Niro just wasn’t a good fit for the son of God, despite his divine acting talent. “Out of respect for everyone, including Bob, we did have a conversation, but I knew that was not his kind of role,” Scorsese said. “He did tell me, listen, if you have trouble getting it made, I’ll do it for you.”

Watch the trailer for Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ below.


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