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KEEPING IT REAL.

Byline: - Bob Strauss

To create the world of Howard Hughes in 1920s, '30s and '40s Los Angeles, Martin Scorsese often had to rely on filmmaking tools that, unlike contemporaries such as Steven Spielberg, he has eschewed in the past: computer generated images and extensive model work.

The New York-based director notes quite accurately that his most acclaimed films _ ``Mean Streets,'' ``Taxi Driver,'' ``Raging Bull,'' ``GoodFellas'' _ were gritty, street-location productions. And even Scorsese's elaborate period pieces ``The Age of Innocence'' and ``Gangs of New York'' were practical productions. The latter, famously, built blocks of 19th-century New York on an Italian studio's backlot.

When it came to the dazzling aeriel shots and restagings of famous movie moments, the master auteur found that working with green screens and post-production visuals took a little adjusting.

``I would say things like, 'Oh, that's going to be a problem' to his on-set effects supervisors, Scorsese recalls. ``And they said, 'Oh no, we'll take care of that. We'll wipe that out. We'll clean that out.' Fine. So I'd get confident and say, 'OK, take that out.' And they'd say, 'That we can't do.'

``It was like Abbott and Costello,'' the chatty New Yorker adds, guffawing. ``It was so frustrating, but gradually I realized what could and couldn't be done. And I began to understand what part of the frame I should be concentrating on.''

Like Hughes, Scorsese bent the latest technology to the service of his desires. That is nowhere more evident than in the crash of the experimental XF-11 spy plane, which Hughes tried to land on a Beverly Hills golf course when one of its engines gave out.

Every trick imaginable went into the sequence, which viscerally evokes Scorsese's own fear of flying. He describes just one element of it, when a wheel from the plane rips through an unsuspecting woman's kitchen.

``We used Rob Legato's radio-controlled models for the exteriors, and the interior shot was half a set where, in fact, the wall was broken,'' Scorsese explains. ``It was quite extraordinary. I was doing a green screen of Leo in a cockpit, and then I was called over to the other stage to watch the wheel go through the ceiling.

``Rob said, 'I want you to understand, this is the first take. Just be aware that for a second take, it will take another eight hours.' That was their way of telling me that we'd better get it right. And boy, it was quite something. One take.''

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Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 12, 2004
Words:422
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