Why Martin Scorsese Had To Edit Neil Young's Nose During The Last Waltz

"The Last Waltz," Martin Scorsese's 1978 documentary, captured the iconic "final" performance (it turned out not to be all that final, in the spectrum of things) from The Band. With its up-close and personal look at all the crevices of the group's collective personality, the dazzling and illustrious setting, and the impressive roster of musical giants that adorned the stage throughout the night, it's often considered the greatest rockumentary of all time. 

Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, and Emmylou Harris (among others) all paid homage to the Canadian-American southern rock band whose legacy and influence was a monument even in their early years. Amid the colossal line-up of legendary stars, Neil Young stood out as one of the most highly honored guests in attendance that night. However, he inadvertently presented Scorsese with a pesky complication that required some rudimentary special effects on the filmmaker's part in order to cover up a glaringly obscene little detail located on the folk musician's nose, according to CBR.

Neil Young had cocaine in his nose

"He performed with a good-size rock of cocaine stuck in his nostril," Band drummer/vocalist Levon Helm recalled once. "Neil's manager saw this and said no way is Neil gonna be in a film like this." Apparently, when it was time to step up to the mic, ol' Neil had indulged in some powdery fun beforehand. Perhaps out of haste to get to the stage, or maybe just as a result of mere negligence, he failed to adequately clean himself up before stepping in front of the cameras and the audience, and his dirty little secret was written all over his nose (via CBR).

Whereas these days, most special effects artists could probably remove a white speck from somebody's nose while blindfolded (how many times have you heard someone say, "Can't we fix it in post?"), but movie technology wasn't really at that stage yet. According to CBC Music, it took more than a little bit of elbow grease to erase the unsavory little detail in post-production. 

Can you see the unedited version?

"As soon as Neil Young took the stage, I could tell no one at Winterland was feeling better than he was," Robbie Robertson shared. He also revealed that he had to put forth a good amount of money in order to splotch out the cocaine smear on Young's nose in post-production (per CBC Music). According to IMDb, Martin Scorsese agreed to do "The Last Waltz" for free, so the burden of correcting any type of unforeseen error like Neil's cocaine booger fell on Robertson and his fellow Band members. 

As to whether or not you can catch a glimpse of Neil Young's notorious alabaster nose child, you'll be happy to learn that you actually can. Robertson also told CBC Music that the 40th anniversary edition of "The Last Waltz" does in fact feature the unedited performance of Young's "Helpless" where the bulging mass of cocaine hanging from his nostril is clearly visible.