De Palma reminisces on the Hollywood 'genius' era

Brian De Palma

On a sunny afternoon this past week at the Toronto Film Festival, Brian De Palma finishes holding court at a reporters round table. As he moves to the other side of the room, he pauses to admire one of the mural images from the iconic 1960 film 'La Dolce Vita' that adorns the walls.

The director mumbles something about the era and sits down for an interview. Soon he expounds on the period as being a magical time, with peers like Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and George Lucas.

"We were in the era where everyone saw the directors as the geniuses, so we got a lot of opportunities to make any crazy movie that happened to occur to us," the 72-year-old De Palma recalled.

That period of American filmmaking -- the 1960s and `70s -- created many notable relationships, like when De Palma introduced Robert De Niro to Martin Scorsese.

"I used Bob De Niro ... in three films before anybody knew who he was," said De Palma, referring to 'The Wedding Party', 'Greetings' and 'Hi, Mom'.

"I had read myself that I, very possibly, I introduced Bobby to Marty. I've heard that said; I don't quite remember the instance," De Palma said.

A few years later, Scorsese cast De Niro in 'Mean Streets' as Johnny Boy. The film put both their names on the map. After that, Scorsese directed De Niro in the role that catapulted him to fame -- as Travis Bickle in 'Taxi Driver'.

Ironically, that script was originally given to De Palma, who passed on it.

"I read it. I didn't see how it could be done, or why anyone would come see it because it was so crazy and I gave it to Marty," De Palma said with little remorse.

The director was in Toronto for the premiere of his latest thriller, 'Passion', as well as to find a distributor for the movie, which is based on the French noir film, 'Crime D'Amour'.

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