Martin Scorsese has wanted to adapt Shusaku Endo‘s novel Silence for fifteen years. He planned to make the film after 1997’s Kundun, but has continued to push Silence to the backburner to make other projects. For those unfamiliar with the novel, it follows group of missionaries in 1683 sent to Japan in order to investigate the reported torturing of Christians by the country’s emperor. It’s been a story with a personal bent for Scorsese since he planned to become a Jesuit priest before he went on to be a filmmaker. Having read the novel in college, I’ve been excited to see Scorsese take on the material, but my disappointment doesn’t come close to the frustration of production company Cecchi Gori Pictures, which is now suing the director over the repeated delays.
Hit the jump for more. [Update: Scorsese has released a statement responding to the lawsuit]
“Cecchi Gori claims it invested $750,000 to develop the property and that Scorsese agreed way back in 1990 to direct it after Kundun (1997). In 2004 and 2011, Scorsese and his company allegedly signed deals to postpone Silence so he could direct The Departed, Shutter Island and Hugo. As part of those deals, Scorsese is said to have agreed to pay “substantial compensation and other valuable benefits, for the right to direct these three other films prior to Silence,” according to the complaint. Those fees are said to be $1 million – $1.5 million per film plus up to 20 percent of Scorsese’s backend compensation.”
So there is some commitment on Scorsese part since he repeatedly took money out of his pocket for the chance to keep the project. However, Cecchi Gori claims that Scorsese never paid his delay fee for Hugo, and then decided to adapt The Wolf of Wall Street, which put Silence on hold yet again. Understandably, Cecchi Gori is a little peeved because while a legendary director like Scorsese would be a boon to the production, the rights have sat on the shelf so long that they’re gathering cobwebs. If Scorsese had let the movie go, Cecchi Gori could have taken it to another filmmaker and possibly get it made.
Even though Scorsese has a host of other projects to choose from after he finishes Wolf of Wall Street (including a biopic of Frank Sinatra), this litigation may force him to finally put Silence into production.
Update: Representative have released the following statement responding to the lawsuit:
“It is shocking to us that the lawyers for Cecchi Gori Pictures would file a suit pursuing such absurd claims considering the amicable working relationship existing between Martin Scorsese and the principals of Cecchi Gori Pictures.The claims asserted are completely contradicted by, inconsistent with, and contrary to the express terms of an agreement entered into by the parties last year.
The lawsuit filing on the eve of Mr. Scorsese starting another picture has all the earmarks of a media stunt.
Mr. Scorsese is confident that he will prevail in court should Cecchi Gori Pictures actually pursue this meritless action.”