EXCLUSIVE: Martin Scorsese will finally realize his long-held dream to direct Silence, an adaptation of the Shusaku Endo novel about 17th century Jesuits who risk their lives to bring Christianity to Japan. Financing for the film has been secured by Emmett/Furla Films and Paul Breuls and his Corsan Films. The plan is to shoot in Taiwan in July 2014, depending on cast, from a script by Jay Cocks and Scorsese.
I’m told that things are moving fast on this and that they are all making plans for Scorsese to come to Cannes and launch the picture. Talks are underway with Graham King for his ownership stake in the script. Numerous sales companies have been vying to handle foreign rights, but that task will fall to Len Blavatnik and Stuart Ford, who’ll jointly handle foreign on the film for Emmett/Furla through their respective Axis Films and IM Global.
The film will be produced by Irwin Winkler, Emmett and Furla, Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Checchi Gori, and Barbara DeFina, with Niels Juul exec producing. Scorsese will jump into the film after he completes The Wolf Of Wall Street.
Scorsese has wanted to make Silence since 1991. He has gotten close numerous times, with actors like Daniel Day-Lewis, Benicio Del Toro and Gael Garcia Bernal among those mentioned over the years. But the pic has always gotten pushed, and there was even a lawsuit over how long it all took. Even that didn’t dampen Scorsese’s passion. It is not the easiest or most commercial project, but when a master like Scorsese is so passionate about a movie that it sticks with him more than 20 years, he’s going to find a way to make it, and now he has. He’s repped by WME and Rick Yorn. This is another big step for Emmett/Furla, which has films upcoming that include the Peter Berg-directed Lone Survivor and the Denzel Washington-Mark Wahlberg-starrer 2 Guns. Getting in business with Scorsese is a prestige play, and with the reticence of major studios to take big chances on proven filmmakers, it shows the opportunity for an indie company with backing and balls.
When I interviewed Scorsese for Hugo during our awards season coverage two years ago, I asked him about why his passion for Silence has never waned. Here is what he said:
DEADLINE: You’ve tried to adapt the Shusaku Endo novel Silence, about 17th century Jesuits who risk their lives to bring Christianity to Japan. It isn’t commercial, it has been hard to finance, but it looks like you’ll finally get your chance to make it. Why has it been so important to you?
SCORSESE: My initial interests in life were very strongly formed by what I took seriously at that time, and 45-50 years ago I was steeped in the Roman Catholic religion. As you get older, ideas go and come. Questions, answers, loss of the answer again and more questions, and this is what really interests me. Yes, the Cinema and the people in my life and my family are most important, but ultimately as you get older, there’s got to be more. Much, much more. The very nature of secularism right now is really fascinating to me, but at the same time do you wipe away what could be more enriching in your life, which is an appreciation or some sort of search for that which is spiritual and transcends? That’s one of the reasons why I made the George Harrison documentary. Silence is just something that I’m drawn to in that way. It’s been an obsession, it has to be done and now is the time to do it. It’s a strong, wonderful true story, a thriller in a way, but it deals with those questions.
DEADLINE: Are the questions you’re asking here similar to the questions that drew you to Last Temptation of Christ?
SCORSESE: Yes, but this is a different line of questioning.
DEADLINE: We Catholics are always struggling for answers.
SCORSESE: There are no answers. We all know that. You try to live in the grace that you can. But there are no answers, but the point is, you keep looking. Because people tell you science tells us everything. Science doesn’t! They just have discovered these Neutrinos that go faster than the speed of light. And there is this idea that once we got to a point in the mid-20th century and now the 21st century where everything is known in a sense, right? Well, we don’t! We don’t really know everything. I mean, yes, we don’t know what happened in the Big Bang, but we understand the idea of progress. But have we really progressed? We’ve progressed on the outside, but what about inside? What about the soul and the heart? Without trying to sound pompous and ridiculous, I can tell you this is where my interest is.