AS: Scorsese said he met you on the set of the Fellini movie City of Women.
DF: Yes, in Rome. I also did six movies with Fellini. Scorsese came to see Fellini when we did City of Women and then one day he called me to design The Last Temptation but I was busy with Terry Gilliam on Baron Munchausen. I had to say, I can’t, but then when he called me again with The Age of Innocence I said, Okay, I’m coming! because it pained me to say no to Martin Scorsese! Because he is my hero. I’ve done eight movies with him so far. I know him very well, he knows me very well. What can I say, I’m very lucky!
AS: How would you describe the difference between working with Fellini and working with Scorsese?
DF: It’s different because with Fellini it’s always Fellini’s movie. It’s always him. You can see it in many ways but it’s always Fellini. When he was young, when he was a kid, when he was a teenager, when he was thirty years old. You see all the movies and Marcello Mastriani is always him. When I worked with him it was like I was a prisoner! He would call me at six o’clock every morning and then until nine or ten o’clock in the evening. Also, Fellini was a liar. A big liar. I started to learn to be a liar too! When he asked, Dante, what did you dream last night? At first I’d say, Nothing. Then after two or three times it’s like, Oh my God, now I have to say something! I started to invent my dreams. He knew I was a liar too but he wanted to hear and understand my fantasy world. Finally he said, Dante, you are more of a liar than me!
AS: Would Fellini draw a lot of pictures himself?
DF: Yes, he always made little sketches. He liked to design the women’s costumes and some of the sets. But he always gave me freedom. I would do exactly what he liked so we had a very good relationship. I started with City of Women and I did all the movies until the last one, The Voice of the Moon with Roberto Benigni.
AS: Scorsese said he tried to help him release the last one in the United States.
DF: I remember discussing this with Fellini. Scorsese tried to help Federico but it wasn’t easy.
AS: Is Scorsese also a visual director like Fellini?
DF: With Marty it’s fantastic. After I read the script we spend many hours together discussing the look. He shows me many movies, sometimes just to see a couple of scenes. I say, Okay, I understand, and then he gives me freedom. I do the sketches and the models and they give me all the freedom to do what I think is right for him. I did eight movies with him and every time Marty came to the set and said, Oh, great, fantastic, this is what I want. Or sometimes he said, Is it possible to have a little bit more of this, or that? But it’s really fantastic to work with him because I feel free to do what is better for the movie, what is better for him.