Arts & Culture

A Shoot with Martin Scorsese

In June 2023, Bruce Gilden shot a series of portraits for Martin Scorsese, on assignment for GQ. Here, Gilden shares the story behind the shoot.

Martin Scorsese. New York City, June 2023.

All images © Bruce Gilden / Magnum Photos for GQ magazine

In June, Bruce Gilden met up with acclaimed director, and fellow New Yorker, Martin Scorsese on assignment for GQ magazine. Here, he shares the story behind the scenes of the shoot. 

“Photographing Martin Scorsese was more than a job. I look at him as a man, not just as the film director, I have the upmost respect, for him, even more so after meeting him,” Gilden explains. “‘Marty’ is a great guy. He’s real. It’s someone I wish I could’ve met 20 years ago, because I could see him and me being friends.

“I photographed him in a small room of a boutique hotel where he did a screening. There was no space to photograph there. Given the parameters, I wanted to do the best I could: the room was filled with frames and mirrors and I had to move the chairs and the bed to get that red wall behind him. Fortunately, I figured it out, and we had a great time during the 20 minutes we spent together.

“We were laughing and telling stories to one another the entire time! Even if we have different backgrounds and upbringings — he is Italian and I’m Jewish, we both grew up in New York a few years apart and we share the same memories of those days in the City.

“When I asked him to walk across the photo, I said ‘It’s funny because now I’m directing you!’ We cracked up because here is this famous film director and here I am directing him, but it felt no different than what I do in my photos. With Martin, we’re both getting older, and when you age, you change a bit but you don’t change your essence. The things that are the most important remain and my pictures are all about capturing this. We both know that we always want the best — him the best film and me the best picture — but we didn’t talk about our work at all, we were just enjoying each other’s company.

“The most hilarious moment happened when we went outside of the hotel between 5th and 6th Avenue. I knew Marty didn’t really want to be on the street since people can recognize him, but he let me take him out. So, we’re outside, and in the corner of my eye, I notice an old guy walking with a tall woman to his side. Almost immediately I recognize my physical therapist from many years ago so I get closer, and I shout a loud ‘Dr. Hamner!’ He says ‘Bruce!’, and in the next breath I say: ‘I thought you were dead!’ 

When I came back to the group and explained the story — a real New York story — Marty couldn’t believe it. He was in stitches, and he said he would use the quote in one of his movies!”

The in-depth story in GQ magazine is published online and in print for their November 2023 issue. Scorsese’s epic Killers of the Flower Moon — which premiered at the 76th Cannes Film Festival earlier this year — opens in theatres this October. In the interview with GQ, 81-year-old Scorsese opens up about the new film and provides a retrospective look at his life and career to date, as well as his current challenges and lifestyle. 

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