As the HBO series Boardwalk Empire about rival gangsters, corrupt politicians and federal agents starts its fifth and final season, show creator Terence Winter reminisces on how it began.
In the interview he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross about how he studied gangster films with Martin Scorsese (who directed the pilot episode) in preparation for Boardwalk Empire:
"That entire month of going to Martin Scorsese’s office and watching gangster films with him was the best film course you’ve ever had times a billion. Getting to sit with him watching Rod Steiger’s Al Capone, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, all these classic films, Public Enemy, and to hear his live commentary.
He’s very much about truth and real moments and real performances. He understands the juxtaposition of violence and humor, having an incredibly tense scene and then letting the air out of it, let the audience breathe with a light moment. Some of Martin Scorsese’s films that are very violent, Goodfellas for example, Raging Bull, at times, can be very funny. These guys are so absurd in some ways that you almost can’t help but laugh at them — I think The Sopranos was like that too.”