It's taken him a quarter of a century, but Martin Scorsese has finally made real progress on his previously inert adaptation of Silence, Japanese writer Shusaku Endo's historical fiction novel. Starting off his week right, the celebrated filmmaker has not only obtained the required funding for his movie, but also a production green light and the services of Amazing Spider-Man star Andrew Garfield.
Ken Watanabe (Inception) will reportedly be joining Garfield on the screen, putting to rest old murmurings regarding Daniel Day-Lewis and Benicio Del Toro's involvement. Emmett/Furla Films and Corsa Films are providing the financial backing; production allegedly will start in June of 2014, and location scouting is already underway, though additional details remain scarce at this time.
Scorsese does have a screenplay under his belt, which he completed work on back in 1996 with the aid of long-time collaborator, Jay Cocks. That alone should give an idea of just how much effort and energy has been expended trying to get Silence (which Japanese director Masahiro Shinoda adapted in 1971) off the ground. The announcement comes after more than two decades spent circling the project, in which time the ever-busy Scorsese made movies ranging from Goodfellas to Bringing Out the Dead to The Departed to Shutter Island.
At a glance, it appears that Scorsese's own industriousness, as well as concerns over Silence's potential box office performance, are responsible for keeping the movie in stasis. Perhaps that's not surprising; Silence, the story of a Portuguese Jesuit missionary sent to Japan to aid the Church and investigate accusations of apostasy, feels like a potential companion piece to Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ. While that film proved to be a winner among critics, it sank commercially, so anxieties over Silence's ability to sell tickets might not be totally unfounded.
Nevertheless, the story has held a place in Scorsese's heart for a very, very long time, and the prospect of him working on a film he has a personal stake in is exciting. Scorsese, a self-described "lapsed" Roman Catholic, was inspired by the novel's no-frills approach to exploring Christian themes and ideology; while his more recent mainstream efforts have largely been satisfying, there's something inherently compelling about him handling material that he feels a deeper connection to.
For Garfield, who will play Father Rodrigues, the missionary sent to Japan, signing on with Scorsese reads like a shrewd move. Garfield already has one Spider-Man film under his belt, with the sequel set for release next year. While Silence won't start shooting until just after the start of The Amazing Spider-Man 2's theatrical run (and therefore may not appear in cinemas until 2015), working with Scorsese should be a much-needed change of pace from web-slinging for Garfield, and should provide him with an excellent stage on which to further develop as an actor. Meanwhile, Scorsese has The Wolf of Wall Street set for release this November.
We'll keep you updated on the status of Silence.