Scorsese, De Niro and DiCaprio and the $70m casino advertisement
Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio – between them they’ve picked up three Oscars, 21 Academy Award nominations, eight Golden Globes and a quartet of BAFTAs.
The connections between then three men run very deep. De Niro starred opposite DiCaprio in the then-15-year-old’s first feature film, This Boy’s Life while Leonardo was directed by the Raging Bull star in the espionage thriller The Good Shepherd. Meanwhile, Scorsese has directed Bobby and Leo on seven and five occasions respectively.
But what about their first movie together – wouldn’t that be something? Indeed it might, had it not already been made. And while it might have cost a cool $70 million, The Audition runs just 15 minutes long.
Fair enough, it does feature a cameo from some bloke called Brad Pitt, but you can’t help feeling that a picture – even a very short one – featuring these talents should be rather more substantial. For, as those who follow our newsfeed will know, The Audition is but a very expensive advert for Studio City, Melco Crown’s new Hollywood-themed Macau casino.
With the actors and director receiving a reported $13 million each for just two days work, it’s safe to say The Audition wasn’t made for pressing artistic reasons. However, when the trio returned to the city state to promote both the film’s premiere and the casino’s opening, this was the impression they hoped to create.
As DiCaprio told Vanity Fair, “The great honour for me is that these two men are really like my two fathers in the world of cinema. My first film was with Bob De Niro… and I’ve had the fortune of working with Marty quite a few times.”
DiCaprio – who last collaborated with Scorsese on The Wolf Of Wall Street – was also keen to sing the praises of the director’s skills in front of the camera. “The truth is, he kind of stole the show. At the end of the day, he’s the best out of anyone in this short. He’s pretty amazing as an actor.”
But what is The Audition about? Why, De Niro and DiCaprio auditioning for the same role in a Martin Scorsese picture, of course. And – wouldn’t you just know it? – the guys just loved the idea.
“The premise of this competition was very humorous for both [me and De Niro],” a particularly chatty Leonardo told VF’s Julie Miller. “Because we’ve both done a lot of films with Mr Scorsese, [you had to wonder] what would it be like if we both showed up at this casino competing for the same role but we didn’t know it yet. But for me, the great joy was finally getting to be on set with both of these guys.”
So, yes, the $13 million was clearly an afterthought.
With Studio City officially opening for business on 27th October, it’s a bit too early to say whether or not the $70 million production – some put the final figure closer to $80 million – represents good value for money. What can be said for certain about The Audition, however, is that it is but a more attention-grabbing example of a practice that has existed for many years.
Said phenonmenon involves major movie stars heading to the Far East to, in most cases, advertise products you couldn’t possibly imagine them endorsing in their homeland. Tommy Lee Jones flogging coffee; Nic Cage shilling for a manufacturer of pinball machines; Arnold Schwarzenegger talking up energy drinks (below) – each and every one of these sorry events has taken place on Japanese television.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. For while they were excellent as father and son in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, you simply haven’t lived until you seen Harrison Ford and Sean Connery encourage the Land of the Rising Sun to embrace beer and yoghurt respectively.
But why do it? Well, the pay, for one thing. And in those dark, candle-lit days before the internet came along, the A-listers no doubt felt confident that there was no chance of their selling-out ever making it to the English-speaking world.
Bob, Leo and Marty’s behaviour is nothing new, then – it’s just somewhat more in the public eye. Which, when you’re getting $13m for your time, probably seems like a sacrifice worth making. And with filmmaker Brett Ratner (Red Dragon, the Rush Hour series) suggesting that The Audition could yet provide the basis for a bona fide feature, the trio could be the only people to leave Studio City who’ll disprove the theory that the house always wins.