Who: "Marty" Scorsese is responsible for some of the most influential American films of the last thirty years, including Taxi Driver and Raging Bull.

Backstory: Scorsese grew up on Elizabeth Street, in what was then Little Italy, and attended Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx before opting for the priesthood-he entered a seminary in 1956. Fortunately for cineastes, he soon changed his mind and enrolled at NYU, where he earned a bachelor's and MFA in film. Scorsese's first feature, the black-and-white coming-of-age drama Who's That Knocking At My Door? starring a fresh-faced Harvey Keitel, was released in 1969. The film caught the attention of B-movie kingpin Roger Corman, who hired Scorsese to direct the 1972 Depression-era crime story Boxcar Bertha. The following year, John Cassavetes encouraged him to follow his gut and produce and direct the gritty, violent, Little Italy-set Mean Streets, a tale of small-time criminals starring Keitel and Robert De Niro. Scorsese followed up two years later with the relentlessly grim Taxi Driver, which bagged the Palme d'Or at Cannes (but was passed over by the Academy for Best Picture in favor of Rocky), making plain that Scorsese was an auteur with a vision to be reckoned with.

Of note: Scorsese has been responsible for some of the most artistically important and/or commercially successful films of his generation, including Raging Bull, The Color of Money, The Last Temptation of Christ, Goodfellas, Casino, Gangs of New York, and The Aviator. He's relied on close partnerships with a small group of collaborators over the years, including Paul Schrader (with whom he wrote Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and The Last Temptation of Christ), Robert De Niro (who's starred in six Scorsese films), Joe Pesci (two films), and Leonardo DiCaprio (three films). The director has also used the same editor-three-time Oscar winner Thelma Schoonmaker-on nearly all his most notable movies.

Although some were concerned he'd lost his touch by the end of the century—1999's Bringing Out the Dead was both a critical and commercial failure—2002's Gangs of New York, though by no means a masterwork, proved to the world he'd hadn't lost his stride (despite a year-long delay in its release and much drama with producer Harvey Weinstein). Scorsese had similarly fine showings with 2004's The Aviator and the 2006 crime drama The Departed, which earned him a Best Director Oscar—his first, after being outrageously snubbed by the Academy many, many times.

Scorsese's latest film, Shutter Island starring Leonardo DiCaprio, was released in early 2010. Most recently he directed the pilot episode of Boardwalk Empire, HBO's new series about Atlantic City during Prohibition.

Vice: Scorsese and Schrader were both raging cocaine addicts during the years they collaborated on Raging Bull. According to Hollywood scribe Peter Biskind, author of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, Schrader had a $12,000-a-month coke habit at the time; for his part, Scorsese had to be hospitalized after some blow reacted with his asthma medicine.

Shill: Scorsese isn't above selling out every once in a while. He earned a seven-figure paycheck for directing and appearing in a series of commercials for American Express.

Personal: Since 1999, Scorsese has been married to Helen Morris, his fifth wife; previous wives include his NYU classmate Laraine Brennan, author-artist Julia Cameron, Italian bombshell Isabella Rossellini, and producer Barbara de Fina. He's had three daughters with three of those wives, Domenica (with Julia Cameron), Catherine (with Laraine Brennan) and Francesca (with Helen Morris). Francesca had bit parts in The Departed and The Aviator.

Habitat: In 2007, Scorsese sold his home of 20 years, a four-story, two-kitchen, five-bedroom, six-bathroom townhouse on East 62nd Street, for $6.7 million. He traded the residence for a six-bedroom, six-bath, 7,000-square-foot renovated 1920s townhouse on East 64th Street, which he bought for $12.5 million. He also has a home in Beverly Hills.

No joke: He's one of about 20 people officially banned from Tibet by the Chinese government. The prohibition was enacted after he released 1997's Kundun.

Vital Stats

Full Name: Martin Marcantonio Luciano Scorsese
Date of Birth: 11/17/1942
Place of Birth: New York, NY
High School: Cardinal Hayes High School
Undergrad: NYU
Graduate: NYU
Residence(s): New York, NY; Beverly Hills, CA
Filed Under: Film

[Photo via Getty]