Dear Marty, it is a stunning script


It was in 1975 that Martin Scorsese finally met his idol, Michael Powell, and embarked upon a fifteen year friendship that would see Powell — one half of The Archers and the renowned British filmmaker behind such movies as The Red Shoes, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, and, most controversially, Peeping Tom — repeatedly offering invaluable advice and feedback to the American director.

A perfect example: In 1988, after reading a new script of Scorsese's entitled "Wise Guys," Powell sent his friend the following enthusiastic letter and declared it "one of the best constructed scripts [he had] ever read."

That movie's eventual title was Goodfellas. Powell sadly passed away in February of 1990, just months before the completed film's theatrical release.

Transcript follows.

(Source: Quixotando; Image via Collider.)


November 14, 1988

Dear Marty

Re: the script of Wise Guys

It is one of the best constructed scripts that I have ever read. At the same time it is not academic, it is not a script just on paper. It is very much alive.

The first question I would ask you, is what is the tone of the director? It is a take-it-or-leave-it tone? It is a dispassionate tone? Is it meant to be the wiseguy's thoughts - or meditations - or memories? And, in the final hiding place, is he resigned to his completely anonymous existence, or does he expect that they will catch up with him some day?

I think that the narration is brilliantly handled on the page, and the tone of the narration will be equally important. How have you managed to sustain the action and narration side by side for the whole length of the script? It's a masterpiece. I can only compare it with the script of The African Queen, or Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity.

Yes, it is a little long, and the pause, or the length, seems to come about the 100 minute mark. By the way, the women, when they arrive, are very good, but I would love to see one of the women in the early part of the film as a young girl, or even a little girl. I mean a new character - either his sister, or a ten-year-old girl. Some of the best scripting is in the first twenty pages. How are you going to handle the youngster? There are not many actors who can play from ten years old to thirty years old.

Dear Marty, it is a stunning script, and will make a wonderful film, and a priceless social document.


Michael Powell