The big picture
is a 16-minute short film that cleverly combines art and advertising, with Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt among the cast to promote the opening of the Studio City casino in Macau.
- The film humorously depicts the rivalry between DiCaprio and De Niro as they vie for a role in Scorsese’s next film.
- The film humanizes these celebrities and provides innocent fun while commenting on the quirks of their celebrity status. Luckily, any on-screen issues were put aside, as they have since collaborated on
Flower Moon Killers
Before creating unique cinema commercials for the 2024 Super Bowl, Martin Scorsese proved in 2015 that his artistic prowess extends into the realm of snarky sales pitches. Rarely have art and advertising merged so seamlessly as in this strange short film, which also has the distinction of being one of the most expensive ever made. Starring none other than Scorsese himself, Robert de Niro, Leonardo DiCaprioand (the icing on the cake) Brad Pitt, The hearing came with a huge budget of $70 million (for context, that’s about as much as the estimated budget for Saving Private Ryan).
The crew turns out to be just as stacked as the faces on camera, with the wolf of Wall Street scribe Terence Winters write the script, Peak hour director Brett Ratner production and Oscar nominees Rodrigo Prieto And Kevin Trent on cinematography and editing tasks respectively. But how exactly did this little-seen 16-minute short bring together such an impressive ensemble of talent, and more importantly, who in their right mind was crazy enough to finance all of this?
Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio are set to compete for the lead role in Martin Scorsese’s next film.
- Release date
- October 3, 2015
- 16 minutes
What is Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Audition’ about?
As noted above, this gargantuan short film is far from being an artistic passion project or proof-of-concept model for a feature film like so many short films tend to be. The film was rather a bit of sneaky publicity from Melco Crown Entertainment to raise awareness for the opening of Studio City, a casino in Macau. All this in an attempt to exploit a legal loophole regarding the forced ban on casino advertising in mainland China. This ban does not apply to films, however, which led to the commissioning of this gem, which instead preceded feature films in Hong Kong and China. While no one necessarily likes the prospect of waiting an extra 16 minutes before the film begins, one can assume that the immensity of the talent on screen would have left some viewers perplexed as to whether they were in the wrong theater, but also quite happy with the prospect of two stars facing off on the big screen.
It is important to note before viewing The hearing that every recognizable face in the film plays himself in a delightfully humorous way. Not since The Ocean Twelve Was there such an impressive collection of handsome men hanging around, in The hearing, these actors/characters clash in a way that cleverly grabs attention and pokes fun at their celebrity status. Released in Manila at the City of Dreams Resort (owned by… you guessed it, Melco Crown Entertainment), the film is introduced by the arrival of two cars, one driving DiCaprio and the other driving De Niro. Both unknowingly read the same script, which they quickly hide from, only to discover that they both lied to each other about where they would be. The reason? They are both competing (or “vying”, as director Scorsese eloquently puts it) for the same role in Scorsese’s next film and, in a humorous way, attempt to compete against each other by proving their knowledge of the game ( DiCaprio clearly has no idea how to play blackjack) while throwing lively insults.
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It’s a hilarious premise and while one can imagine a feature-length storyline with several escalating acts of sabotage and big hits, the film’s punchline instead opts for another celebrity appearance like Brad Pitt, who arrives after Scorsese had a revelation when he saw one of his billboards. The short and sweet project only took about two days for the stars to be filmedbut with casino money to support them, everyone walked away from The hearing with $13 million paychecks. That’s the kind of money that only advertising can buy, although this particular ad, fortunately, had its share of narrative bite.
“The Audition” incorporates advertising into its plot
Aside from the entertainment value of seeing some of the world’s most recognizable faces behave pettishly over who will be in their favorite director’s next film, if there is any artistic merit to that The hearing poster is in the way it manages to advertise several stations and their equipment without breaking their character. There’s no Wayne’s World a product placement montage that breaks up the narrative to highlight the stations’ features; However, watching the movie will probably give anyone a good idea of what fun can be had at these resorts. Even their trips from Manila to Macau to Japan are justified by the fact that they are key locations in Scorsese’s next fiction feature. The three practically take us on a tour through the resorts, as they bicker in the casinos and dining rooms, showing off the lavish luxury that awaits any guest with the wallet for it – although it’s worth noting that the Studio City casino seen is actually a 3D rendering, as the casino itself had not yet completed construction.
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The feeling of meta-advertising peaks at the very end of The hearing, when De Niro and DiCaprio try to redeem themselves after seeing their mentor Scorsese sit at a table with Brad Pitt, scripts in hand. There, they have a little chat about what to do together, planning to have dinner, sit down at the table, and go to the spa all in one. DiCaprio mentions a special treatment involving wrapping the client’s entire face and body in seaweed, to which De Niro’s only response is, “How do you breathe?” The dysfunctional dynamic between them is maintained as it is repeatedly proven that the two titans are incapable of communicating with each other, emphasizing the effectiveness of Scorsese’s blend of advertising and narrative cinema. It draws attention to the product without worshiping it, commenting on the ridiculousness of certain aspects and mocking them where necessary, allowing the film to exist separately from what it is actually advertising.
De Niro and DiCaprio have no problem making fun of themselves in ‘The Audition’
Fans love to imagine scenarios between celebrities and their rivalries (just look at the noise caused by the Spider-Men group chat), with DiCaprio and De Niro being particularly interesting because of their relationships with Scorsese (at the time, De Niro had directed eight films with Scorsese, while DiCaprio had directed five). When tensions rise between them, the two refrain from holding back as De Niro comments on his dislike of DiCaprio’s iconic off-camera grizzly beard, stating that he was making masterpieces with Scorsese even before we think of DiCaprio. DiCaprio responds by telling him that De Niro is too old and makes fun of him for being hard of hearing, after which Scorsese responds “too far away”. Even In the end, as Pitt delivers a horrible audition of Scorsese’s script, the director’s stunned look is priceless and highlights how enjoyable it can be to watch your favorite celebrities collide with each other.
Not a single member of this cast or crew acts knowing that they’re just collecting a big check at a casino, which is part of what makes the movie so fun and innocent. It humanizes these cinema legends by showing its audience the great sense of humor of these actors., while unabashedly commenting on the quirks of their celebrity status (in classic Brad Pitt fashion, he introduced eating a cup of noodles). Of course, there’s no malice between anyone on board, with DiCaprio actually crediting De Niro with launching his career (a reference to This boy’s life, one of the rare DiCaprio/De Niro collaborations that allowed De Niro to link DiCaprio with Scorsese to begin with). Luckily, Scorsese, DiCaprio, and De Niro were able to put all the beef behind them with the highly rated 2023 film. Flower Moon Killersleading to this legendary reunion that fans have been waiting for.
The hearing is not currently streaming, but is available to watch on YouTube.
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