In Cannes to raise funds for his long-cherished project Silence , Martin Scorsese sits on a yacht in his best grey suit, sipping champagne.
“The subject matter is very close to my heart,” he tells Total Film . “I’ve been working on it since I first read the book [ Shusaku Endo’s 1966 masterpiece of the same name ] in 1989.”
Having finally overcome legal matters and wrangled a workable script by scribe Jay Cocks ( The Age Of Innocence , Gangs Of New York ), Scorsese hopes to shoot in 2014.
He describes the project as a “smaller film” requiring a “smaller approach, more internal”, but unleashes his famous honking laugh when he admits “there is landscape”.
Quite. Set in the 17th century, Silence deals with two Jesuit priests who face violence and persecution when they leave New York to head for Japan in order to spread Christianity.
For Scorsese, it’s an unquestionably personal film.
“It goes back to growing up in New York, living in an area that was pretty tough, and also the church at the same time,” he says.
“It’s similar to Mean Streets , in a way,” he continues. “It deals with spiritual matters in a concrete, physical world; a world where invariably the worst of human nature is revealed.”
But, tantalisingly, the 71-year-old director also refers to Silence as a “suspenseful film, with elements of a thriller… it combines that with themes that were overt in Kundun and Bringing Out The Dead .”
Scorsese has already cast Andrew Garfield in the lead and has actors in mind for the other key roles. He’s not telling just yet, but he does say, “There’s an older Jesuit, in his 50s, and another young priest. I have to cast the older gentleman before I can cast the younger one.”
We can only pray that Robert De Niro is sitting by his phone…