Scorsese to Finally Bring ‘Silence’ to the Screen in 2014?

Mark Deming
Movie Talk

Martin Scorsese is not only one of America's greatest filmmakers, he's a determined man. If he sets his mind on making a film, there's a good chance it’s going to happen. And though it's been nearly twenty-three years since Scorsese first announced he planned to bring one of his favorite novels to the screen, it looks like the picture will finally go into production next year.

In 1990, Scorsese first discussed his plans to make a film version of Shusaku Endo's novel "Silence," and he was tentatively set to begin production on it in 1997 after completing "Kundun." Even though actually getting the picture into production has been a difficult, on again/off again proposition for two decades, it has been reported that Scorsese will be making an official announcement at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival that he'll begin shooting his passion project in the summer of 2014.

"Silence" is being backed by Emmett/Furla Films, a production company best known for action and genre fare, but they're eager enough to work with Scorsese that they've signed him to a two-picture deal. And Emmett/Furla is particularly interested in backing "Silence," even though Cecchi Gori Pictures ended up in a legal skirmish with Scorsese after he repeatedly postponed work on "Silence" in order to make other films (first "The Departed" and "Shutter Island," and later "Hugo" and "The Wolf of Wall Street," the latter currently before the cameras). Scorsese ended up paying a reported $3.5 million to Cecchi Gori so he could hold on to the project and wait until the time is right, and it seems that time will be next year.

Shusaku Endo's "Silence" tells the tale of a pair of Jesuit priests in the 17th Century who travel to Japan in order to bring Christianity to the nation, and find the mission even more difficult than they imagined. Given Scorsese's Catholic upbringing and early ambitions to become a priest, "Silence" certainly seems like a story that would speak to him personally, and allow him to ponder the notion of faith as he did in "Kundun" and "The Last Temptation Of Christ."

While Daniel Day-Lewis, Benicio Del Toro and Gael Garcia Bernal were all said to be starring in the film at various times when it seemed poised to go forward, there's no word now on who will appear in film, though Scorsese is said to be currently auditioning actors for the picture. The screenplay was written by Jay Cocks, who knows about long-gestating Scorsese projects; he also wrote the script for "Gangs of New York," which the director first began discussing in 1978 and intended to shoot in 1982 after "The King of Comedy" before financing fell through. It was twenty years later, in 2002, that "Gangs of New York" finally opened. Given that "Silence" looks to be as ambitious and challenging a project as "Gangs," here's hoping this story ends on a note of triumph as that one did.