Actress Verna Bloom on the set of the Universal Studios movie "Animal House" in 1978.
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
January 17, 2019 5:55 AM EST

In 1969, I met Jay Cocks. We became friends. Back then Jay was a movie critic for TIME, and he started inviting me to press screenings. We went to see a picture called Medium Cool, and Jay thought the actress in it was incredible. Her name was Verna Bloom. He asked if I’d go along with him to interview her, so I did. A few years later, I was the best man at their wedding.

It’s overwhelming to go through life with somebody and then realize they aren’t there anymore. I’ve known Verna, who died on Jan. 9 at 80, for 49 years. She was family. We shared so much. Verna was a terrific storyteller with a great sense of humor, and she presided over many wonderful gatherings where I met people who became central in my life, including John Cassavetes and Robert De Niro. We worked together only twice, which was precious to me. In The Last Temptation of Christ, there isn’t a single false note in her performance as Mary. It wasn’t really about “directing.” It was just a matter of working together, with someone I knew, someone I trusted, someone I could depend on. Someone I loved.

Scorsese is an Oscar-winning director

This appears in the January 28, 2019 issue of TIME.

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