Back to IndieWire

Martin Scorsese Admits HBO Canceling ‘Vinyl’ Was Tragic, Says Series Might Have Worked If He Directed All Episodes

The director says the fate of the music drama might have been different if he directed every episode.




Martin Scorsese and HBO had great success on the Atlantic City gangster series “Boardwalk Empire,” on which the filmmaker served as executive producer, in addition to helming the pilot, but lighting couldn’t strike twice with “Vinyl.” Scorsese had a similar role on the rock n’ roll music drama, which launched in February 2016, but less-than-enthusiastic buzz and poor ratings resulted in HBO canceling the series, even though it had already renewed the project for a second season.

Speaking at the Rome Film Festival, Scorsese admitted it was heartbreaking to watch “Vinyl” get dumped by HBO. The director admitted that the show would have had a better chance at succeeding if he was more hands-on and directed all 10 episodes of the first season. After Scorsese filmed the pilot, directors like Mark Romanek, S. J. Clarkson, Nicole Kassell, and Carl Franklin, among others, filled in as directors of subsequent episodes.

“It was ultimately tragic for me because we tried for one year,” Scorsese said. “I did the pilot. We tried for one year with HBO, but we couldn’t get the creative elements together. It was something that I realized, in order to make it right. … I think I would have had to direct every episode and be there for the three to four years.”

“Vinyl” was a costly failure for HBO. Scorsese’s pilot was feature-length at 120 minutes, and the budget for the entire 10-episode run was estimated at $100 million. The show starred Bobby Cannavale as the president of a fledgling record company in 1970s New York City and Olivia Wilde as his wife. Despite Scorsese’s pedigree, “Vinyl” attracted less than 800,000 viewers for its premiere.

“If you do it, you do it right, like Sorrentino does,” Scorsese said about television, referring to Paolo Sorrentino directing all episodes of “The Young Pope.” “You do everything. You do it all. If you don’t [want to make that commitment], you shouldn’t be making the series.”

Scorsese said a similar problem happened with Netflix’s costly “The Get Down,” which also got canceled after its first season (the run was split into two parts, released at separate times). Baz Luhrmann set the tone of the show by directing the first episode, but he gave up directing duties on subsequent episodes.

Scorsese is currently in post-production on his Netflix gangster movie “The Irishman,” starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. The film is expected to debut sometime in 2019. The director recently announced he’ll be reuniting with Leonardo DiCaprio for “Killers of the Flower Moon,” a historical murder mystery drama that will start production in 2019.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Television and tagged ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox