Thelma Schoonmaker Says Scorsese’s ‘Raging Bull’ Oscar Loss Was the ‘Worst Night of My Life’

Martin Scorsese’s longtime collaborator, Oscar-winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker, was devastated when the Academy didn’t recognize his work on “Raging Bull.”

The boxing biopic starring Robert De Niro lost Best Picture and Best Director to Robert Redford’s “Ordinary People.” And while Schoonmaker won Best Editing, she still calls the 1981 Oscars ceremony the “worst night” of her life.

More from IndieWire

“When we were standing there, those of us who did win, I was waiting for Marty to come with his Oscar. And he didn’t,” Schoonmaker told Esquire UK. “It was the worst night of my life. It was devastating that he didn’t win.”

She added, “I think he would have liked to win for ‘Raging Bull.’ A movie like that, that is so brilliantly directed. But it was a tough movie. And ‘Ordinary People,’ I understand it’s a very good movie, I’ve never seen it,” Schoonmaker said. “But people were maybe a bit put off by the toughness of ‘Raging Bull.’ But look how it’s lasted. It’s a benchmark movie.”

Throughout her decades-long collaboration with Scorsese, the duo have only shared Oscar wins for “The Departed” in the Best Editing and Best Director categories. “The Departed” marks Scorsese’s sole Academy Award; Schoonmaker has three total for “Raging Bull,” “The Aviator,” and “The Departed.”

“Yeah, we’re not very lucky with the Oscars. I mean, Marty has deserved many,” Schoonmaker said. “I know, and that’s not fair. Because they’re really his as well as mine.”

She continued, “But Marty should have won at least seven, as far as I’m concerned. But we’re very unlucky at the Oscars, because the films are sometimes very unusual. And people are sometimes not used to it, or they resist it, or [resist] voting for it.”

Scorsese recently told The New Yorker that his “The Departed” win was a total surprise in 2006.

“I had made ‘The Departed’ as a sign-off,” the “Killers of the Flower Moon” director said. “I was leaving and just going to make some small films, I don’t know. And it just happened that ‘The Departed’ clicked. […] Winning the award was — don’t forget, it was thirty-seven years before an Oscar for Best Director, let alone Best Picture, which was a total surprise to me. But it’s a different Academy from when I was starting. But, for me, that award was, it was inadvertent.”

Best of IndieWire

Sign up for Indiewire's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.