Doing something he says he has never done in his entire career, director Martin Scorsese has come to Cannes to personally sell a film to foreign buyers. But it is not just any film but rather a passion project called Silence he has been hoping to bring to the screen for 23 years. The adaptation of Shusaku Endo’s novel about Jesuits and the dawn of Christianity in 17th Century Japan is not the kind of thing studios are rushing to make but Scorsese, who actually toyed with becoming a priest at one time, is determined to make it.
Today Emmett/Furla Productions threw a reception with Scorsese on the Johnny Walker And Sons Voyager Yacht where the Oscar-winning film icon basically pitched his wares. When I sat down to speak with him he said he was starting to lose his voice after two days in Cannes meeting buyers and convincing them that he was really going to finally roll cameras on the movie he has had in development longer than any other. “I think this is the first time I have done this, to sell a movie, but it’s a special picture. I have been working on it since 1989. Everytime it started to move away from me I went back to try to get it. It’s one I really want to make and I finally broke the script with Jay Cocks in 2006, and we were going to make it then, but there were some legal issues and family things to take of. And now I must say in the last few days with Randy Emmett and all these guys it will finally come together”, he said adding that he hopes to start shooting in the summer of 2014 as soon as star Andrew Garfield is available.
Scorsese’s partner of 11 years in Sikelia Productions, Emma Tillinger Koskoff is the lead producer on the project and says she sees the light at the end of this very long tunnel. “We are looking at June and July of 2014 in Taiwan. I went last week and scouted for nine days. We are going to probably base in Taipei and shoot in and around there. Randy Emmett and George Furla came in, stepped it up, did what they had to do and we’re off to the races. Marty is going to go back to his independent filmmaking roots and do this for a price, and Taiwan is supporting us. We are in good shape,” she said.
Emmett, 42, could not contain his enthusiasm about having the opportunity to work with Scorsese. “I went to film school and studied every Martin Scorsese movie and now he’s sitting two feet away from me and I’m making a movie with him. It is like being a kid in a candy store. I said I would sell everything I have to be in business with him. We’re lucky because we have great partners who want to back the movie so it is a dream come true. He’s so passionate about this movie, it comes out in every conversation he has. He’s relentless to let people know that and I am just blessed to be along for the ride”, he said, adding they put it all together finally with a combination obviously of international and then equity financing with their partners, which he says is how they do most of their deals.
Irwin Winkler, another producer on the project and longtime Scorsese producer (GoodFellas, Raging Bull, New York New York) was also there and says the key to their success in Cannes this week was the personal touch Scorsese brought in convincing potential buyers this project was actually going to happen, and soon.
Winkler also just served as Executive Producer on the upcoming Scorsese reteaming with Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf Of Wall Street, which Paramount will release in November just as the Oscar season heats up. “I think it’s a really terrific movie. Leo’s great. Marty’s great. A terrific script by Terry Winter. All in all it’s very, very good,” he said when asked about its award prospects. Winkler said that he came in on it very late after Scorsese asked him to get involved. An Oscar winner for Rocky, he has been involved in numerous big studio movies since the 60’s but says the reality of the business is that for a movie like Silence to be made it takes a different approach than a bigger budget film like Wolf Of Wall Street. “It’s a picture that on the surface is not a big blockbuster but we think it has a great chance. 23 years he has been trying to get it off the ground. The reality of the independent world is that when you want to do a picture like Silence you do stuff you normally wouldn’t do, like being here in Cannes on a boat,” he said.