Martin Scorsese confronts his mortality in a new interview about 'The Irishman' and more

Michael Kovac/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

In a new interview with the New York Times, Martin Scorsese seems to be ready to confront death — and not just in his films, like his career-defining behemoth The Irishman. “You just have to let go, especially at this vantage point of age,” Scorsese told the Times.

Scorsese’s process of letting go has been a treat for fans of his latest film, The Irishman. Scorsese has spent much of his career making mafia movies that when Robert De Niro approached him with the source material for the movie, he wasn’t initially sold. It wasn’t until after he delved into the end of Frank Sheeran’s life that Scorsese saw an opportunity to explore how a man contends with his past actions. “It’s all about the final days. It’s the last act,” Scorsese said.

“Is it going to be enriching? Are we going to learn about the invisible, the afterlife? No, we’re not,” Scorsese said. But for him the story, which was based on the book I Heard You Paint Houses, could be about “the process of living and existence, through the work we could do — you could depict it, the actors could live in it.”

And with a cast including some of the 20th century’s greatest actors — Al Pacino, Robert de Niro, and Joe Pesci — Scorsese was able to clearly deliver that tale. In a review of the film, A.O. Scott wrote for The New York Times that “to watch this movie, especially in its long, graceful final movement, is to feel a circle closing.”

But Scorsese’s peace with death extends beyond The Irishman.

“As they say in my movie, ‘It’s what it is,’” he said. “You’ve got to embrace it.”

This must include his openness with his opinions about other movies –– especially those superhero movies. In a somewhat exhaustive press run, he declared that he thinks the Marvel movies are “not cinema,” but rather “theme parks.” And while he’s not wrong, it sparked such a fervor within film and fan circles that even months later, it can spark a Twitter trending topic. Even the more highbrow comic book movie, one that’s got serious Oscar buzz, hasn’t seemed interesting to Scorsese.

“I saw clips of it,” Scorsese said about Todd Phillips’ Joker. “I know it. So it’s like, why do I need to? I get it. It’s fine.”

Casually dismissing a movie that has a rabid fanbase in a widely read national publication? Now that seems like a man who has truly let go of any mortal fears. “Often, death is sudden,” he said. “If you’re given the grace to continue working, then you’d better figure out something that needs telling.”