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Film

The broadway musical briefly directed by Martin Scorsese

@Russellisation

Having brought crime stories, historical epics and even children’s tales to cinematic life, director Martin Scorsese is one of the greatest and most dynamic filmmakers ever to grace the medium. Famous for films including Goodfellas, Raging Bull and The Wolf of Wall Street starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt and Al Pacino, Scorsese has made a name for himself as one of the most culturally pertinent filmmakers. 

Having made over 25 feature films throughout his 54-year career, Scorsese has also frequently dabbled in documentary filmmaking, particularly music-related ones, working alongside the likes of George Harrison, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones. His most significant foray into the music sphere was in 1978s The Last Waltz, a film about the Canadian-American rock group The Band, known as one of the greatest music documentaries of all time. 

One year prior to the release of the iconic film, however, and Martin Scorsese took part in an even more visceral music-related production, directing the broadway musical The Act starring Liza Minnelli before he was shortly fired.

The story of how Martin Scorsese ended up on the theatrical stage goes back a little to the release of the 1977 musical New York, New York also starring Liza Minnelli, as well as Robert De Niro. Of the many behind-the-scenes antics that occurred during the film’s production, the director ended up having an affair with Minnelli, despite them both having long-time partners. To make matters worse, at the same time Minnelli was having a second secret affair with the dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Watch Joni Mitchell, The Band and Neil Young sing ‘Helpless’ at The Last Waltz

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During the final stage of production for New York, New York, Scorsese was hired to make a Broadway musical called The Act following a fading film star attempting to make a comeback as a singer in Las Vegas, again starring Liza Minnelli. It is believed that the actor specifically requested for the director to be hired for the project after their fling on the set of New York, New York, in spite of Scorsese’s total lack of theatrical experience. 

The production, quite predictably, experienced a multitude of setbacks, with the New York Times reporting at the time that two actors and an assistant choreographer were hospitalised, as well as $172,000 being spent on costumes and scenery. These issues, among others, saw Martin Scorsese fired from the production with the higher-powers becoming increasingly frustrated that the filmmaker was spending too much time finishing New York, New York and editing his documentary, The Last Waltz rather than spending time on the musical. 

With the presence of his lover Liza Minnelli also on set, the decision was made to replace the great Martin Scorsese with director Gower Champion. Later regretting his affair, Martin Scorsese would quickly see success with the release of the award-winning The Last Waltz, a film that would spark the director’s dominance in the industry through into the 1980s.

Take a look at the trailer for the influential music documentary below.

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