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Directors Cut Winner: Martin Scorsese

  • Story Highlights
  • Martin Scorsese topped the Screening Room's "Directors Cut" poll
  • His lauded films include "Mean Streets," "Taxi Driver," "Goodfellas"
  • Scorsese finally won the Best Director Oscar for 2006's "The Departed"
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(CNN) -- You voted: he won. Revered by the masses of moviegoers worldwide, it came as no surprise that Martin Scorsese ("Taxi Driver," "Raging Bull," "The Departed") topped the Screening Room's "Directors Cut" poll.

Martin Scorsese: You voted him best director in our Screening Room poll

Walking away with 15 percent of your votes, Scorsese's hard-hitting documentary style, quickfire editing, fondness for NYC backdrops and rapport with De Niro make him your top director.

Born on November 17, 1942, as a child Scorsese struggled with his health. The movies -- along with the church -- became a haven for him. "When I was a kid I had terrible asthma -- I didn't go out at all," he told CNN at a masterclass at the 2007 Marrakech Film Festival. "I was out on the streets, yes, but I was not athletic in any way and so the movie theatre was a refuge."

His love for the silver screen led him to devote his free time to watching movies wherever he could -- at the cinema and on TV at home.

"I don't think I was ever happier than when I was alone in our 2, 3-room tenement apartment on Elizabeth Street," he recalls. "My mother and father were at work, my brother was at work. I would come home from school in the afternoon and on television would be 'La Belle et La Bete' by Cocteau, 'The Southerner' by Renoir, Von Sternberg... I would be doing little drawings of them like my own movies. And I never stopped doing that."

Even so, Scorsese almost didn't make it into the movies. Born into the devoutly religious Catholic community of Little Italy on New York's Lower East Side and a devout Catholic, he studied for the priesthood, almost joining the seminary before his passion for filmmaking took his talents elsewhere.

"The ritual of the Catholic Church is important to me. I found it fascinating; I found it moving; I still find it fascinating," he said.

He entered NYU in 1960 as an undergraduate, where he was taught to make films about what he knew -- his own life. He was also very influenced by the cinema verité movement and the fly-on-the-wall documentary style that was just beginning to emerge at the time. This influence would show up again and again in his student films, and later in "Raging Bull," "Taxi Driver" and "Mean Streets."

Despite coming from a poor background and not having access to 8mm cameras like many of his university peers, Scorsese dove into film with a passion and was soon a star pupil. Head and shoulders above his classmates, he won every award and scholarship going.

When Martin (known to his friends as Marty) Scorsese arrived in Los Angeles in 1971 he was an unknown. He hung out with other young actors and directors, among them Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, all hustling for their big break.

Scorsese had made films before, notably a no-budget effort, "Who's that knocking at my door?" with a young Harvey Keitel. But it was with "Mean Streets" that Scorsese got his big break.

"Taxi Driver" followed three years later, while 1980's "Raging Bull" probably saw De Niro's finest performance under Scorsese.

Iconic and violent, 1990's "Goodfellas" featured top-drawer performances from Scorsese favorites, De Niro, Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci, while "Casino" (1995) drew heavily on its predecessor, with a good measure of extra violence and an Oscar-nominated performance from Sharon Stone.

More recently, "The Aviator" paired Scorsese with Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett and John C Reilly. But it was 2006's "The Departed," a remake of Korean film "Infernal Affairs" starring DiCaprio alongside Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg, that broke the Oscar drought for Scorsese, at last winning him his gold statuette.

When CNN asked him at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival what makes a great director, Scorsese said that it is something he finds hard to pin down. "It's very hard to make these value judgments," he said. "I think one key element in good and great is to have something to say, a voice."

But he added that skill in telling a visual story plays a large part. "There are directors, filmmakers who simply (and it's not simple at all) know how to put things in the frame," he explained. "They know how to keep a story going, fast and in such a way that and make it entertaining. It may not say much but there's a technical skill that's overwhelmingly difficult to master."

That's a skill Scorsese has by the bucketload -- and one he revels in. "The designing of the shots is something that I enjoy a lot," he told CNN at Marrakech. "It's the biggest challenge ... When I design and edit a sequence, when I know a shot is going to go from shot A to B to C and then I'll intercut shot C with B and D -- I get very excited about that," he revealed.

But his favorite part of filming remains the editing process.

"Editing takes me back to being alone and drawing pictures," he explained. But his love for the edit suite caused friction early on in his career.

"I had to live in Los Angeles between 1970 and 1981 in order to get to make film and be introduced to the people who allowed me to make films," he revealed, "But I found that I had difficulty sometimes with the way some excellent editors resented the director in the editing room."

Scorsese is famous for his partnerships with leading actors, most notably Robert De Niro and, more recently, Leonardo DiCaprio. Shunned by the Academy for years, Scorsese finally snapped up his elusive Best Director Oscar for "The Departed" in 2006. Following his 2005 rockumentary on Bob Dylan, he has just completed "Shine A Light," a documentary following the career of the Rolling Stones. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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