After filming a Chanel commercial together earlier this year, Timothée Chalamet and Martin Scorsese reunited for a conversation with GQ about life and filmmaking. As it turns out, when Chalamet isn’t preparing to play Bob Dylan and Scorsese filming TikTok content with his daughter, the pair is prone to compare their experiences growing up, decades apart, in New York City.
“Well, the city has, and they always use the cliche of the energy, but it does have the energy. It simply does because everybody’s on top of each other,” says Scorsese, who later spoke about meeting Robert DeNiro on the Lower East Side. In Los Angeles, Chalamet argued, “Your edge rots.” But Scorsese has been able to maintain his street cred with films like Taxi Driver and Mean Streets.
“You see, for me, violence here is always the same,” the director said of imbuing brutality into his films. “I grew up here. I’m always walking in the street a certain way.” Added Chalamet, “Yeah, you’re always checking your shoulder.”
While Scorsese said he recognizes some of the tenements from his childhood on the Lower East Side, Chalamet’s neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen has “changed a lot,” although the old reliable Port Authority Bus Terminal has “kept its edge.” But Manhattan’s SoHo area, where some of the pair’s Chanel fragrance ad was filmed, has transformed. “When I was growing up, that street is where you went to steal hubcaps,” Scorsese said, adding with a laugh, “And also other things. Not that I stole the hubcaps, and I was with guys, you know, kids. Now it’s like being in Provincetown, Connecticut, I guess.”
Conversation later turned to debate around the violence in Scorsese’s films. “I was shunned for Goodfellas. I was shunned in certain Italian restaurants, they wouldn’t let me in,” said the 80-year-old filmmaker. “I guess I’ve had this kind of question about violence going all the way back to Mean Streets. But I grew up in a place, you know, violence was a form of expression. And it was serious. There was a difference between a friendly slap and a slap. And that was up to you to determine.”
After noting an unscripted moment in Goodfellas where Joe Pesci’s character says, “You think I’m funny?” during a heated confrontation, Chalamet shared his own experience of attempting to defuse conflict in a clip that’s now gone viral. “When I was in middle school on 108th and Amsterdam, I saw one of my good friends, Jordan, the week before, he got in basically a tussle, in an argument with a guy, and he said to the guy, ‘Oh, you’re so tough, punch me in the face’ and he leaned in, and the other guy was terrified and backed down,” the 27-year-old actor said. “So, you know, a week later I was getting hassled by some kids. I leaned into the guy and said, ‘You’re so tough, punch me in the face.’” Replied Scorsese, “And you got punched.”
Chalamet confirmed, “I got punched so badly. One of the few times in my life I got really rocked in the face. It’s a good lesson, though.”
Before concluding their convo, Scorsese cheekily revealed his secret weapon in combating neighborhood bullies “Luckily, I had the asthma,” he said, “because they’d leave me alone. They’re some of the toughest guys. They would fool you around and get mad at you, and then say, ‘Oh, that’s all right, the kid’s sick.’ Then they would take you in, ‘Come here.’ And they took care of me.”