Martin Scorsese: 10 Movies He's Considered Making...But We'll Probably Never See

Director talking movies that DID get made in 'A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies,' 1995 (Photo: Miramax)
Director talking movies that DID get made in ‘A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies,’ 1995 (Photo: Miramax)

By Oliver Lyttelton, Yahoo Movies

Martin Scorsese’s latest film, Silence, about two Jesuit missionaries in search of a missing colleague in 17th century Japan, is a longtime passion project for the master filmmaker. In development since 1990, it was nearly shot eight years ago with a different cast, including Daniel Day-Lewis, before reaching theaters this past weekend with Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, and Liam Neeson in key roles.

After more than 25 years, Scorsese can finally scratch Silence off his to-do list, but it’s just one of many, many films in Scorsese’s queue waiting to move forward. He’s a serial attachee to projects, only a fraction of which ever get under way — in just the past few years, he’s been linked to biopics of Evel Knievel, The Ramones, George Washington, Mike Tyson, and Leonard Bernstein, plus period serial killer tale The Devil In The White City. To mark the release of Silence, we’ve picked out ten other intriguing projects from the archives that the director developed, but ultimately didn’t see through.

Soon after 1980’s Raging Bull, Scorsese nearly made another biopic, albeit one that would have been very different: the life story of the legendary composer George Gershwin. Scorsese’s Taxi Driver writer Paul Schrader was going to write the script, but the pair fell out over a different project, a proposed remake of Hollywood melodrama The Bad And The Beautiful. John Guare (Six Degrees Of Separation) was brought on instead, and it was close to production in 1993, with Richard Dreyfuss and Robert De Niro linked, but it was scrapped when the studio wanted him to focus on a different project…

Scorsese has said that when he turned the Gershwin script in, Warner Bros’ response was, “We’d rather have one on Dean Martin,” and ultimately he gave in, saying that he and Goodfellas screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi “killed ourselves working on that script.” An all-star cast was lined up for the would-be biopic of the singer, actor, comedian, and Rat Pack stalwart, with Tom Hanks as Martin, Jim Carrey as Jerry Lewis, John Travolta as Frank Sinatra, Hugh Grant as Peter Lawford, and Adam Sandler as Joey Bishop. But when legal and script issues held it up, Scorsese made Gangs Of New York instead.

Watch the real Rat Pack in action in the original ‘Ocean’s 11’:

Theodora and Justinian
The Last Temptation Of Christ
is probably the closest Scorsese’s come to a swords-and-sandals historical epic, but he had a project that came close to being the real deal in the early 1990s: a film at Universal about Theodora, the 6th century Byzantine empress, and her husband, Justinian. It potentially would have been another religious film, like Last Temptation and Silence (both Theodora and Justinian are saints in the Eastern Orthodox Church). Most intriguing is that it was set to be written by legendary man of letters Gore Vidal. Sadly, the film never materialized; Vidal never wrote another produced film after 1989.

Jesus In New York
The Last Temptation Of Christ
proved to be one of the most controversial (and best) films of Scorsese’s career, but Scorsese had actually considered making a film of the story of Jesus much earlier in his career. He told Catholic journal Commonweal recently that, in the early 1960s, he “thought of making a film of the Gospel, but set on the Lower East Side, in the tenements, in modern dress.” But the director changed his plans after seeing another Biblical epic from a master filmmaker: “I saw Pasolini’s The Gospel According To Matthew, and I said, ‘No, there’s no way for me to do it.’ ”

Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee
Scorsese never got to work with one of the greatest movie stars, Marlon Brando, but they did come close. After his breakthrough film Mean Streets, Scorsese was developing an adaptation of Dee Brown’s seminal history of the Native American people during the 19th century, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee, which was to have starred Brando (the Native American cause being famously close to Brando’s heart, having sent activist Sacheen Littlefeather to pick up his Oscar for The Godfather as a protest). Alas, the project stalled (it was eventually made as a 2007 HBO movie), and Scorsese made Taxi Driver instead.

The Five Obstructions
Back in 2011, Scorsese nearly took on one of the most fascinating projects he ever considered: a team up with Danish enfant terrible director Lars Von Trier (Antichrist) on a version of Von Trier’s Five Obstructions project, which would have seen Scorsese remaking his classic Taxi Driver in five different versions based around challenges set by Von Trier. But things went quiet soon after the announcement, partly because Von Trier made controversial remarks at Cannes about the Nazis, and partly because, according to Taxi Driver writer Paul Schrader, “in Marty’s mind, it never was something that should be done.”

Watch the DVD trailer for a documentary about Lars Von Trier and His ‘Five Obstructions’:

High and Low
Remakes get a bad rep, but Scorsese has done some of the better ones in Cape Fear, The Departed, and even Silence. He spent years developing another, a version of Akira Kurosawa’s 1963 thriller High and Low, about the botched kidnapping of a wealthy executive. Scorsese hired Glengarry Glen Ross writer David Mamet to pen the remake in the late 1990s, but it was continually delayed for other projects. Eventually, Scorsese agreed to produce with Mike Nichols set to direct (curiously, Chris Rock was reportedly brought on to rewrite the script), but sadly, Nichols passed away before it happened.

The Winter Of Frankie Machine
Don Winslow is one of the very best crime writers alive, but his work has never successfully made it to the big screen. The nearest miss was an adaptation of his 2006 novel The Winter Of Frankie Machine, about a retired hit man lured out of retirement only to find that someone’s trying to kill him. The book was optioned by Robert De Niro back in 2005 with the intention of him starring in it, and the actor persuaded Scorsese to attach himself as director. But within a couple of years, Scorsese had stepped away, with his friend Michael Mann taking over (the film still hasn’t happened).

After Dino, Scorsese’s first attempt at a Rat Pack biopic, fell apart (see above), he took a different approach: focusing on the chairman of the board himself, Frank Sinatra. The project was first set up in 2009, and Scorsese discussed it regularly over the following years, suggesting he could shoot it in 3D, and even that Leonardo DiCaprio could play Ol’ Blue Eyes. But last December, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon, who was writing the script, indicated the project was dead, and Scorsese soon confirmed it, saying that issues with the Sinatra family had caused him to walk away.

Robert De Niro Sees Leonardo DiCaprio’s Relationship With Martin Scorsese as Similar to His Own:

The Irishman, Part 2
Like Silence, The Irishman is a long-in-development Scorsese project that appears to finally be getting in front of the cameras. The director’s return to the crime genre, scheduled to be Scorsese’s next film in production in 2017, tells the story of hitman Frank Sheeran and is set to star Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. It was once envisioned as two films, the second of which would have been a sort of meta-movie, that De Niro described in 2010 as “a kind of 8 1/2, La Dolce Vita, a certain kind of biographical, semi-biographical type of Hollywood movie — a director and the actor — based on things Marty and I have experienced.” It sounds amazing, but writer Eric Roth, who came up with the idea, would later reveal that the companion film had been dropped.