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Scorsese Returns To Big Apple

Director Martin Scorsese brought a dark view of New York City in his classic movie Taxi Driver.

He revisits those mean streets in his latest film, Bringing Out the Dead. CBS News This Morning reports.


Bringing Out the Dead takes place in the early 1990s. To re-create the proper effect for his film, he chose the old Hell's Kitchen neighborhood in New York as a shooting site, Scorsese says.

"We did have to put [our] own prop garbage on the streets from time to time," he says. "The city is still the city," he says. "The tragedy of the homeless and sickness is still there. These paramedics are the only ones that care."

The film stars Nic Cage as Frank Pierce, a paramedic on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He's been working too hard and not saving enough lives.

"When I read the book, I liked it because the beauty of what the Nicolas Cage character is going through, his spiritual confrontation, so to speak, and because of the humor. Granted, [it's] dark humor. But the film is very funny," Scorsese explains.

Bringing Out the Dead reunites the director of Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and The Last Temptation of Christ with the screenwriter of those films, Paul Schrader.

"I gave it to Paul Schrader, who is the only one I could think of who could deal with this. Paul, as soon as he read it, he said, 'Marty, I want to do it. They are going to say Martin Scorsese, he's back on the mean streets,'" notes Scorsese.

In some ways the film could be compared to Taxi Driver. "The only thing is it's 25 years later. We're mellower; we survived somewhat and it's a different view," he says.

Scorsese, refering to the story of Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, says, "Travis' [is] a character-based, purely personal story by Paul Schrader." (Robert De Niro portrayed Travis in that film.)

"Travis is a man filled with rage and ready to explode, negative, whereas Frank is positive. Frank Pierce is the opposite. He's filled with compassion. He doesn't know if he's making a difference anymore," he adds.

The film chronicles three nights of work.

The first night there's a call for cardiac arrest. Paramedic Frank Pierce revives the man, who ends up being the father of Mary, played by Patricia Arquette (Cage's real-life wife).

The next two nights Frank keeps running into Mary at the overcrowded hospital and comes to see her as a glimmer of hope in his otherwise empty life.

Says Scorsese of Arquette: "I must say I did wait until the very end to read her for the part after seeing other young actresses to make up my mind. Finally when I did read her, I thought she was perfect."

"I thought it was interesting, [with the two] being husband and wife. I think it was a perfect situation because the two characters were not able to communicate with each othr until the very end, basically," says Scorsese.

"And so there was that automatic - there was a wall between them, which was good, which meant they didn't really have to get into areas that might have been confused with their personal life, I think," he adds.

In the end Frank and Mary tentatively reach out to each other in a world that makes them feel barely alive at all.


CBS
Filmmaker Martin Scorsese, left, Patricia Arquette and Nicolas Cage


"It has to do with the warmth of Frank, making us think about our lives, how we delegate in this very complex world we live in, he says.

"Especially in the greatest city of the world, New York, [a] pack-jamed urban center, we tend to delegate things. We delegate caring. When we hear that siren, we don't want to think what it is," he says.

In essence, Scorsese says, his film is about people's lives. And his own life has been drastically changed recently, as his wife is soon to give birth.

"Now in my life, the priorities are - I have them worked out. There is a balance between the home life and the work. It's a matter of applying yourself to the work fully so you can enjoy your time at home," he says.

Scorsese is already planning his next film, Gangs of New York, about the boy gangs of New York at the turn of the century. It will be filmed in Rome and star Leonardo DeCaprio.

To read other stories related to Bringing Out the Dead, see "Bringing Out A New Scorsese."

For film information, visit the Bringing Out the Dead official Web site.

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