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Martin Scorsese Shoots Down Accusation His Films Lack Female Characters

"That’s not even a valid point," Scorsese told a reporter at the Rome Film Festival

Martin Scorsese poses during the photocall for 'The Irishman' at the 14th annual Rome Film Festival, in Rome, Italy, 21 October 2019. The film festival runs from 17 to 27 October.The Irishman - Photocall - Rome Film Festival 2019, Italy - 21 Oct 2019

Martin Scorsese

ETTORE FERRARI/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Martin Scorsese has dominated headlines in recent weeks for his comments slamming Marvel movies as “theme parks” and not cinema, but it was another topic that turned heads during the director’s press conference at the Rome Film Festival. Scorsese’s Netflix gangster epic “The Irishman” screened as the centerpiece selection of this year’s event. During the press conference (via THR/Kinótico), an Italian press member asked Scorsese why his movies are dominated by male characters and show little interest in female stores. Scorsese immediately shot down the criticism.

“No. That’s not even a valid point. That’s not valid,” Scorsese said. “I can’t… That goes back to 1970. That’s a question that I’ve had for so many years. Am I supposed to? If the story doesn’t call for it…It’s a waste of everybody’s time. If the story calls for a female character lead, why not?”

“The Irishman” producer Emma Tillinger Koskoff also refuted the claim, citing Scorsese’s 1974 drama “Alice Doesn’t Live Here.” The movie featured Ellen Burstyn as its lead character (she was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar) and is often cited as one of the defining feminist films of the New Hollywood era.

“Oh, that’s only one film. They don’t count that,” Scorsese said when Koskoff brought up “Alice.” “‘Age of Innocence,’ they don’t count that.” Scorsese’s 1993 adaptation of Edith Wharton’s novel of the same name featured leading roles for Michelle Pfeiffer and Winona Ryder.

Koskoff then brought up “Casino,” which famously starred Sharon Stone in an Oscar-nominated performance. “’Casino.’ Sharon Stone’s great in that. They don’t count that. Forget it. It’s all these men,” Scorsese added, suggesting claims his films lack women are unfounded. Press members in attendance applauded Scorsese’s defense.

“Sure, I’d like to do,” Scorsese said. “But you know what, I’m 76 now. How am I going to have the time? I don’t know what’s going to happen. We don’t know. I don’t have time anymore.”

The conversation around Scorsese’s portrayal of female characters has been reignited following “The Irishman,” which world premiered on opening night of the New York Film Festival. The actresses in the film only have small roles, and some critics have expressed frustration with Anna Paquin’s lack of dialogue. The movie is opening in select theaters November 1 before launching November 27 on Netflix.

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