2017-04-26 / Front Page

Screen Legend Ellen Burstyn Visits MMI For Scorsese Retrospective

By David Russell

Academy Award winner Ellen Burstyn was at the Museum of the Moving Image last Friday as part of the Martin Scorsese retrospective at the museum. She spoke after a screening of the 1974 film "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" for which Burstyn won an oscar.

She had finished working on "The Exorcist" and was looking for a new role but there were usually only three kinds of roles for women. "The loyal wife who stayed home while the husband slayed the dragon and when he came home she made him a nice cup of cocoa, or she was a victim being raped and murdered and harassed in whatever way possible, or she was a hooker with a heart of gold," Burstyn said.

She was intrigued by the "Alice" script and after making some changes,  wanted a young, new director to work on this realistic story of a waitress/hopeful singer. She asked Francis Ford Coppola about any new directors and he recommended she watch "Mean Streets" by a young Scorsese.

"Well it's got the reality I would like but I want this film told from a woman's point of view and I can't tell from Mean Streets if he knows anything about women," Burstyn said.

She even told Scorsese about her concern. His reply: "No, but I'd like to learn."

This was Scorsese before "Taxi Driver", "Raging Bull" and "Goodfellas". It was only his second big movie but that may have helped with "Alice". 

"I think they're still creative enough to be in the "I don't know" position, which is the only position you can learn anything in," Burstyn said. 

Scorsese actually accepted Burstyn's oscar for her at the 1975 Academy Awards while she starting on Broadway in "Same Time, Next Year". 

The Martin Scorsese retrospective runs through April 23. 


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