Video: Martin Scorsese On the Downtown Origins of ‘Mean Streets’

While Martin Scorsese’s upcoming project, “Wolf on Wall Street,” makes headlines, one of the director’s early classics, “Mean Streets,” is also back in the public eye, as it was finally released on Blu-ray last month.

The 1973 film was set mostly in the Little Italy (the gang’s seedy clubhouse was at 23 Cleveland Place), but it has its East Village moments, too: in one scene, a squeegee man annoys Charlie (Harvey Keitel) and Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro) while they’re stopped at Bowery and Bleecker Street. When the light turns, they glide past 310 Bowery, which was then Bowery Lumber Co. and is now Crime Scene Bar and Lounge.

As it turns out, another scene is tied to the neighborhood, as well. During a 25th anniversary screening at Film Forum in 1998, Scorsese revealed that the pool-hall brawl was based on an actual incident on Sixth Street and Second Avenue.

In this video of that talk – newly edited for The Local to include footage from the film – the director reveals that he and his star, Robert De Niro, first met when they were 16 years old, when Scorsese was growing up a stone’s throw from the East Village.

Screen shot 2012-08-30 at 4.50.55 PMCourtesy Warner Bros. View of Houston Street from St. Patrick’s Old
Cathedral on Mulberry. From “Mean Streets.”

“We didn’t really commingle,” he said of De Niro. “He was hanging out with some people around Grand Street, Broome Street, but that was too much for us. We were down more Prince Street and Houston. It’s a whole different thing.”

“Mean Streets,” said Scorsese, emerged from his time at N.Y.U., when he began walking to the west side of Manhattan for the first time, via Houston Street. “Why did we need to leave the east side?” he asked. “We had everything we needed.”

Watch the video for more.