Welcome To The Francesca Scorsese Show
She’s helped her director dad go viral with her hilarious TikToks. But the budding actor and filmmaker has her own stories to tell.
If you’re trying to hit on Francesca Scorsese, here’s a piece of advice: don’t throw on one of her father’s films. Just ask her high school crush, who tried it during a Halloween group hang and brought her affections to a screeching halt. “He put on The Wolf of Wall Street, went ‘ah,’ and put his arm around me. I was like, ‘I literally want to die,’” Scorsese tells me, still cringing at the move all these years later. “My dad was editing the film while I was doing homework on the staircase and all I could hear was sex scenes. I was 10 and mortified. So I was like, ‘This is not sexy or cute.’”
Scorsese — the actor, filmmaker, and youngest daughter of director GOAT Martin — has endured more than her share of well-intentioned but misguided film bros throughout her 24 years on the planet: the male classmates at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts who wouldn’t speak to her but stared at her knowingly from afar; the dudes in her DMs asking if she can pass along their screenplay to her father; or the random guys at bars who have ribbed her for wanting to be a director, inadvertently asking, “Oh, you’re trying to be the next Scorsese?”
Not that she minds the comparison. As we work our way through finger sandwiches and scones at a West Village tea parlor, she lights up while talking about her dad just as often as her phone lights up with texts from him. Scorsese — who has the kind of well-mannered precociousness of a woman who spent much of her childhood at the grown-ups table — and her 81-year-old dad are “totally the same person,” she says, and banter like besties. (She has two older half-sisters from Martin’s previous marriages.) He’s always on standby to help recall movie-history minutia, like midway through tea, when she can’t think of which movie has that “big pearl diving sequence.” “You have the poster!” he texts back, letting her know it’s Wake of the Red Witch.
Their bond is on display in their regularly viral TikToks, which have helped them both connect with new audiences. She brings out a softer, sillier side of the director behind hypermasculine, ultraviolent classics like Raging Bull and Goodfellas, quizzing him about modern slang and teaching him about Letterboxd. His game participation, meanwhile, has highlighted her as a clever creator in her own right, one whose success on the app goes beyond just a knowledge of what’s trending. In her slice-of-life videos and riffs on popular memes, she demonstrates an eye for little details and moments you can’t always teach.
“I find it interesting that you can make almost short films,” she says of the platform’s filmmaking possibilities. “It doesn’t have any ‘story’ behind it, but it’s still visual art.” (If there is a TikTok phenomenon worth a Zola-style adaptation, she thinks it’s Susi’s store-bought-pesto stitches: “They say the most outrageous stories!” she says. “There are so many ideas you can come up with and turn it into a film.”)
“Everyone was always like, ‘You guys need a reality TV show.’”
Many in the industry have come to appreciate Scorsese’s instincts. Call Me By Your Name director Luca Guadagnino, who cast her in his 2020 HBO series We Are Who We Are, says “you can see that Francesca has the power of being the center toward which most of the tension gravitates” and that he “can’t wait to do more and more” with her.
Meanwhile, marketing departments are trying to tap into her digital savvy. “I was at an event with my dad and a guy came up to me like, ‘Hi, I’m the head of marketing at Apple. Do you know how well your video is doing? We have to talk to you,’” she says. Soon after, Scorsese found herself on a call with her dad’s PR team, where they strategized about how to use her videos to promote his latest, Killers of the Flower Moon, amid the publicity limitations of the SAG strike. Ultimately, 46% of those who saw the film on opening night were under 35, and Scorsese’s videos probably didn’t hurt. “I love that [TikTok is] bringing younger audiences to my dad’s work,” she says. “They’re making him more relevant to an 11- or 12-year-old on the street.”
Scorsese has been trying to make people laugh her whole life, and her dad has often been right there with her. “My friends would always join us for dinner at my house and they would sit there and essentially it kind of became a comedy show. [My dad and I] would have these crazy conversations that almost turned into skits,” says Scorsese, whose childhood friends still make up her inner circle; she lives with her best friend from growing up, Kikka, just a few blocks away from her parents’ apartment. “Everyone was always like, ‘You guys need a reality TV show,’” she says. “We’d always just love to make my mom laugh.”
Her mother, Helen Morris, is a former book editor who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1990, which profoundly shaped Scorsese’s childhood. “Growing up with an ill parent, I didn’t really go to the park with her,” says Scorsese, growing more serious but not somber — the conversational steadiness of someone who has clearly spent a lot of time thinking about all of this. So she became a cinema buff at an early age. Every Sunday, Martin would have a projectionist come to his office and screen films for the two of them over pizza. (Watching a movie in 70 mil — it does hit different!) It was in those sessions that she found catharsis: coming to understand her mom through the heroines on screen.
“All of the stronger female characters that I admired, I always kind of related to my mother. So I would see them and imagine her having this amazing life,” Scorsese says, pointing to films like 1938’s Bringing Up Baby, which starred Katharine Hepburn as a flighty heiress. Morris “lived in a mansion in Lenox in Massachusetts [growing up] and basically dated royalty, so I always imagined this crazy luxurious lifestyle for her.”
“I love that [TikTok is] bringing younger audiences to my dad’s work. They’re making him more relevant to an 11- or 12-year-old on the street.”
By high school, Scorsese knew she wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps. She attended prestigious summer programs at places like the Atlantic Theater Company Acting School and New York Film Academy before being admitted to Tisch, her dad’s alma mater. It was there that she worked on her directorial debut, the short film Fish Out of Water, which follows a daughter reconnecting with her mother after discovering her health was failing. “It's how I cope with things, it's how I dream,” Scorsese says of filmmaking. (Morris made a rare public appearance with Scorsese and Martin when Fish screened at the Tribeca Film Festival.)
As she embarked on her post-collegiate career, Scorsese was wary of how her last name might shape her opportunities. “Of course I get the upper hand with a lot of things — I'm very fortunate,” she acknowledges as we split a slice of Victoria sponge cake. “But the one thing I can do is try to keep myself humble, grounded, and spoil the f*ck out of my friends.”
When she auditioned for We Are Who We Are, she was only asked for her first name. “I had a call with Luca and he was like, ‘I want you to be part of the project,’” she recalls. “I was like, ‘You want me to PA? I can do anything!’ He was like, ‘No, I want you as Britney.’” At first, she was elated. Then she worried Guadagnino might’ve gotten wind of her family tree. “A week later, I got a message from him being like, ‘I had no idea that you were related until I was putting down the first and last names of the actors that I’d cast.’ When that happened, it was one of the first times I was proud of myself.”
“All of the stronger female characters that I admired, I always related to my mother. I would see them and imagine her having this amazing life.”
Guadagnino says choosing her was no-brainer. The character of Britney was originally written as an archetypal vixen, but Scorsese gave her new dimension from the jump. “I saw this tape from this young woman who looked like no one else, who looked human and real and sassy and funny and contradictory and seductive, but also almost unsure of being seductive and yet being very powerful,” he says. “All these shades that I could see in that tape were so invigorating and so full of surprise for me, and made me laugh and made me have fun and made me wish to see more of this wonderful young actor that I didn't know before me.”
When the show finally premiered, Scorsese found herself the subject of a very different kind of discourse: people talking about her body and the bikini her character wears. “I was so vulnerable in it and really nervous to show my body. I was really f*cking scared and a lot of people were calling me a cow,” she says. Similar comments popped up after viewers saw glimpses of her alongside Timothée Chalamet in her father’s highly anticipated Bleu de Chanel commercial. “Being next to Timothée, [people were] just saying horrible things.” That kind of garbage is one of the reasons she’s no longer on Twitter. She goes a little quiet, as if lost in thought, before her usual effervescence pops back through. “Some people were like, ‘It’s nice actually that we get to see a girl more on the plus size side get some representation!’”
That fragrance commercial is one of several collaborations between Scorsese and her dad on the way: They’re co-writing a book for A24 about her film upbringing as well as dreaming up a top-secret long-form project, to say nothing of future TikToks. Some Hollywood starlets in her shoes might try to distance themselves from their family lineages, but now that she’s had some career wins on her own, Scorsese would love to do more with her father. If you have the opportunity to work with one of film's greatest directors and score some quality time with dad, why not make the most of it? “I just try to be the best nepo baby that I can be,” she says.
Top image credit: Nanushka jacket, 7 For All Mankind jeans, Dr. Martens boots
Photographs by Justin J Wee
Styling by Marion B. Kelly II
Hair: Nicole Blais
Makeup: Eric Vosburg
Talent Bookings: Special Projects
Photo Director: Alex Pollack
Editor in Chief: Lauren McCarthy
SVP Fashion: Tiffany Reid
SVP Creative: Karen Hibbert