Watch Martin Scorsese Recall the Disastrous First Test Screening of ‘Goodfellas’
Quick, without thinking: greatest American film of the ’90s? Martin Scorsese’s decade-spanning gangster epic Goodfellas is probably the answer that pops into most heads, and rightfully so. It was a success under every criterion, amassing a tidy profit that’s only grown through infinite televised syndication and home-video releases, earning Joe Pesci an Academy Award for his turn as the short-fused Tommy DeVito, and leaving a titanic influence on pop culture in the years to follow. It has earned the distinction of “masterpiece” in any conversation on Scorsese’s finest accomplishment. But man, at first, people hated it.
The YouTube channel Cinema Chat uploaded a video clip today of Scorsese speaking at the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles on December 3, 2016. In the clip, a member of the audience asks the director if the initial test screenings of Goodfellas were really as disastrous as showbiz legend claims. As Marty tells it, it was even worse: he recalls clocking 34 walkouts within the first scene, over 100 through the entire film. His recollection of turning to longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker during a violent knifing scene to ask how many more stabs the audience would have to endure, only for the editor to deadpan "seven," is particularly amusing.
Hey, perfect as it may be to some, plenty of viewers bristle at the biblical quantities of F-bombs and glorious, unobscured violence. But of course it was Scorsese who got the last laugh.