How does a person follow up a film as unabashedly profane and amoral as The Wolf of Wall Street? By making a movie about Jesuit priests in 17th century Japan, naturally. Martin Scorsese's three hour epic of financial sector excess has remained visible in popular consciousness thanks to numerous awards season accolades, heaps of controversy, and domestic box office success, but the Oscars will be here and gone before too long, and he'll be moving on with his next picture: Silence, his long-gestating adaptation of Japanese author Shusaku Endo's 1966 novel.
Scorsese has talked about Silence for a very, very long time, but the film only received a studio green light, financial backing, and the makings of a cast last Spring. This past Friday, Scorsese rounded out that cast with addition of Liam Neeson, who will bring his certain set of skills to bear alongside the talents of once and future Amazing Spider-Man star Andrew Garield, as well as the immensely gifted Japanese maestro Ken Watanabe; most importantly, though, the celebrated filmmaker has pulled himself out of legal hot water with producer Cecchi Gori over Silence's (lack of) progress.
Deadline broke the news on both turns of events; while Neeson being brought into the fold here is easily the more exciting wrinkle of the two, court issues undoubtedly carry more weight. It seems that Gori has been in and out of the courts with Scorsese since August 2012, when the former sued the latter for neglecting his commitment to directing Silence. It seems like the sparring pair only determined to take their dispute out of the court system quite recently, though details on that are, for the moment, rather vague.
Clearly the move worked for them, as they've reached a settlement whose details remain unknown (and will probably stay that way). The best part of the kerfuffle is that we can now officially look forward to Silence as Scorsese's new endeavor, particularly given that the film appears to be a passion project of his. Of course, Silence was guaranteed to be on his docket, anyways - its June 2014 production start date made that an unavoidable outcome - but it's a relief to see that he's going ahead with it nonetheless.
Silence details the story of a Jesuit priest, Sebastião Rodrigues, who travels to Japan to investigate claims of apostasy; he ultimately encounters a system of religious persecution and finds his own faith tested in the face of barbaric cruelty. At 200 pages in length, it's difficult to imagine Scorsese stretching the author's narrative into something with the same scope and scale as The Wolf of Wall Street; then again, there's a lot that he could extrapolate on from the text, notably harsh scenes of torture inflicted upon Japanese Christian practitioners.
Perhaps more than Endo's novel itself, though, it's Scorsese's troupe of actors who will really give Silence its shape as it's transitioned from page to screen. Garfield is already slotted to play Sebastião, while Watanabe's role is unclear; he may play a sympathetic character, abused for his beliefs, or he may play one of the Japanese security officials charged with rooting out hidden Christians among the local populace. Neeson, meanwhile, seems like a lock for Ferreira, Sebastião's mentor and the man he's sent out to find in the first place.
Silence should be a nice change of pace for Neeson, who in the last few years has done a lot of work to reinvent himself as an action star in such fare as the Taken series and Batman Begins (while occasionally taking roles in more comic fare like the upcoming The LEGO Movie). It'll also reunite him with Scorsese, who worked together on 2002's Gangs of New York. Principal photography on the film begins in June, so we probably won't hear much about Silence beyond additional casting news until then, but for now this is an exciting development.
We'll keep you posted on news about Silence as it becomes available.