EXCLUSIVE: Martin Scorsese has set prolific Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano for a lead in Silence, the film that begins shooting early this year. He joins Andrew Garfield, Liam Neeson, and Adam Driver in the Jay Cocks-scripted adaptation of the novel by Shusaku Endo.

Asano is perhaps best known for starring in the Sergey Bodrov-directed Mongol. He replaces Ken Watanabe in the role of an interpreter who accompanies two Jesuit priests (Garfield and Driver) as they search for their mentor (Neeson) who went to 17th Century Japan to spread the gospel of Christianity. Watanabe needed to drop out when production pushed the dates and they clashed with Watanabe’s commitment to the Broadway revival of The King and I, which begins rehearsals in New York this month.

Asano made his Hollywood debut in the Thor films and he also appeare in Battleship and 47 Ronin. Asano is managed in the US by Gotham/Principal and is represented in Japan by Anore.

Silence is being funded by Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films with Corsan Entertainment co-financing. Shooting will get underway in Taiwan. Paramount acquired U.S. distribution rights last summer.