As one of the most prolific directors in Hollywood, Martin Scorsese has worked with a bunch of the world’s biggest stars. But there are some that he decides to work with again and again – if they click.
For his latest movie, a Netflix gangster movie with an astronomical $200 million budget, the director will be reuniting with some of his closest collaborators from the past: Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, even Vinyl’s Ray Romano, and of course, the daddy of them all, Robert De Niro. There’s a huge roster of actors that Scorsese keeps in the rafters to occasionally reuse in his movies. Here are Martin Scorsese’s Most Frequent Collaborators, Ranked.
10 Murray Moston
Murray Moston was with Scorsese from the beginning. Mean Streets was his first ever screen credit, according to IMDb. So, since they started together, Scorsese continued to give Moston work. He gave him roles in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Taxi Driver, his controversial musical drama New York, New York, and After Hours.
However, they were mostly bit parts. A lot of the time, his character didn’t even have a name. When that’s the case, it’s difficult, or even impossible, to make any kind of lasting impression on the audience, and that’s why his name is unrecognizable to most moviegoers.
9 J. C. MacKenzie
J. C. MacKenzie would probably be a more recognizable star if HBO had stuck by its decision to give Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger’s drama series Vinyl a second season. The first season stumbled in the ratings and it was far too expensive to justify making more episodes if less than a million people were going to watch them.
It is a shame, though, because MacKenzie gave a strong performance as Skip Fontaine, the head of sales for the show’s fictional record label. He was also engaging in the role of Lucas Solomon in The Wolf of Wall Street – but less so in smaller roles in The Aviator and The Departed, though.
8 Victor Argo
As one might expect from an actor who appeared in six Scorsese films, Victor Argo spent his career typecast as a tough guy. And he never stopped working either. Before his death in 2004, he had appeared in 75 movies and guest-starred in 21 TV shows – those are some impressive numbers. But Scorsese didn’t always cast him as a tough guy, because he saw range in the actor’s talent.
In The Last Temptation of Christ, he cast Argo to play the Apostle Peter. In After Hours, he cast him as a cashier. In Taxi Driver, he cast him as the guy who has his store held up and is subsequently saved by a gun-toting Travis Bickle. Scorsese had an unwavering belief in this guy’s abilities and it resulted in a wonderful cinematic partnership.
7 Verna Bloom
Verna Bloom sadly passed away earlier this year, but she left behind a heck of a filmography. She played the dean’s sexually repressed wife in Animal House and starred alongside Clint Eastwood in the Satanic horror-tinged western High Plains Drifter. She worked with Scorsese on a few movies, the most notable of which was The Last Temptation of Christ, in which she played Mary, Jesus’ mother.
That was a pivotal role in a movie that was very personal to the religiously devout filmmaker and he entrusted it to Bloom for a reason – she was a brilliant talent. Bloom was married to Jay Cocks, a screenwriter who has worked on many Scorsese movies, from Gangs of New York to The Age of Innocence to Silence.
6 Harry Northup
All throughout his career, Harry Northup has been torn between two directors he’s closely collaborated with: Martin Scorsese, who cast Northup in six of his films, and Jonathan Demme, another one of the greats. He has played a wide range of characters across Scorsese’s filmography, particularly in his earlier, darker, weirder films.
In Who’s That Knocking at My Door, Scorsese’s directorial debut, he played the rapist whose crimes form the focus of the story. In Boxcar Bertha, Scorsese’s second film, he played a cop. In Taxi Driver, he played one of Travis Bickle’s fellow cabbies. Northup has a pretty plain face, but he has used that to become the actor with a thousand faces.
5 Frank Vincent
Frank Vincent has played pivotal roles in a few Martin Scorsese films, including Casino and Raging Bull. But his most memorable turn, and the one that made him a screen legend, was in Scorsese’s 1990 crime epic Goodfellas. He played Billy Batts, who turned out to be the guy we saw get stabbed and shot in the trunk of a car in the iconic opening scene of the movie.
He starts breaking Tommy’s balls about how he used to shine shoes and the situation escalates in some of the tensest, most riveting acting ever put on film, until Tommy snaps and ends up killing him. Billy Batts’ murder is the central sequence of the whole movie, because the scene is so powerful.
4 Joe Pesci
Who else could win an Academy Award for playing a tough-as-nails gangster and get bested by an eight-year-old kid in a family-friendly Christmas slapstick comedy in the same year? That is the unique paradox that makes Joe Pesci one of the greatest actors of all time and also one of Hollywood’s faded stars.
He hasn’t been in many new movies lately, because he showed such a peculiar amount of range in such a short space of time that Hollywood didn’t know what to do with him. Luckily, Scorsese likes him and has given him the chance to show off his acting chops in Casino, Raging Bull, and the upcoming The Irishman.
3 Harvey Keitel
It takes a minute to remember that Harvey Keitel is one of Martin Scorsese’s most frequent collaborators, because he plays an entirely different character in each one. A lot of actors have a type that they can play and they get typecast, but not Harvey Keitel. He’s played every type of role in the book: Charlie, the emotionally tormented protagonist in Mean Streets; Sport, the sadistic, smiley pimp in Taxi Driver; Judas Iscariot, the guy who betrayed Jesus in The Last Temptation of Christ – Keitel plays them all completely different from one another.
It’s impossible to tell what he’s like in real life, because he completely changes his personality from role to role, which is also what drew Quentin Tarantino to the guy and made him one of his most frequent collaborators, too.
2 Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio took the torch as Scorsese’s go-to guy when Robert De Niro started getting too old. He was actually recommended to Scorsese by De Niro. After making This Boy’s Life with a young, bright-eyed DiCaprio, De Niro told Scorsese, “There’s this kid, Leo DiCaprio. He’s really good. You’ve gotta work with him sometime.”
Some of the greatest movies of the 21st century have been DiCaprio/Scorsese collaborations: The Aviator, The Wolf of Wall Street, the universally adored psychological thriller Shutter Island. They got off to a rocky start with Gangs of New York, arguably one of Scorsese’s weakest films, but as rocky starts go, it’s pretty darn good.
1 Robert De Niro
In the neck-and-neck race between Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio to determine who is Scorsese’s greatest collaborator, it had to be De Niro. DiCaprio’s movies with Scorsese are phenomenal, as they’re always on the same page and always find some deeper truth to a character while also entertaining us, but De Niro has been there since the start.
He has made some of the greatest movies ever made, no exaggeration, with Martin Scorsese: Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Raging Bull. There’s even a lot of merit to Casino and The King of Comedy – their biggest failing is the expectation set by the De Niro/Scorsese collaboration. These two guys know what’s what.