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Andrew Garfield & Ken Watanabe Join Martin Scorsese's Japanese-Langauge 'Silence'

by Kevin Jagernauth
May 7, 2013 1:25 PM
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Silence Martin Scorsese Andrew Garfield Ken Watanabe

When it was announced last month that Martin Scorsese's long-developing dream project "Silence" was finally getting made, with a shoot next year in the works, we tempered our excitement. We had heard this before, more than once, and for a variety of reasons, the movie never happened. But today comes some great news, as not only is it moving forward, but the film has found its first actors.

Andrew Garfield and Ken Watanabe are now on board the film, according to a Variety sit down the with the filmmaker, who also reveals that "Silence" will be a Japaense-language film. An adaptation of Shusaku Endo's novel, the story will follow two 17th century Jesuit priests who face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor and to spread the gospel of Christianity. Garfield will be playing the Portuguese Father Rodrigues, who goes to Japan to follow up on rumors that his mentor has abandoned the church, with Watanabe as his translator. Obviously, this will be a smaller scale, niche effort than the director's past works, but it could also be somewhat of a genre flick, if viewed from a particular angle.

“Then again, it’s a thriller. Thriller meaning they are undercover,” he said. “I’m interested in this, whether it’s undercover priests or undercover cops.” Location scouting is underway, Robbie Robertson may reunite with the filmmaker to score the movie, Issei Ogata is also on board, and filming is aiming for July 2014.

While many will point to the once rumored cast of Daniel Day-Lewis, Benicio Del Toro and Gael Garcia Bernal, this is still a pretty solid round up of actors, and before Garfield was swinging through Manhattan, he earned attention for his turns in fare like "Boy A" and the "Red Riding" trilogy, so we're excited to see what he'll do here. And Watanabe has already proven his bonafides in pictures with Clint Eastwood, Christopher Nolan, Rob Marshall and more.

And for the one commenter who always drops in every time to remind us about the 1971 Japanese film version of "Silence," directed by Masahiro Shinoda -- nope, Scorsese hasn't seen it.

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More: Andrew Garfield, Silence, Martin Scorsese

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  • Biko Lang | May 19, 2013 3:51 AMReply

    Scorcese plans to shoot 'Silence' in Taiwan rather than Japan? Yes!

    Martin Scorsese plans to shoot his Japanese movie "Silence" in Taiwan
    rather than in Taiwan, after seeing what Taiwanese-American director
    Ang Lee was able to accomplish there with Oscar-winner "Life of Pi."

    Although the film is based on an obscure 1966 Japanese novel that tells the
    story of a hapless Jesuit missionary trying in vain to introduce Christianity to
    Buddhist and Shinto Japan in the 1600s, Scorcese has already scouted
    locations in Taiwan after getting a welcoming greenlight from Lee.

    One of Scorcese's executive producers already spent a long week in
    Taiwan scouting locations
    around the island nation, according to a Chinese-language media report
    in Taipei.

    However, while the film adaption of the Japanese novel will be shot in
    Taiwan, the movie will be released as a Japanese-language film with
    Japanese dialog dubbed in in post-production.

    Andrew Garfield and Ken Watanabe have been cast in the movie,
    according to sources.

    Scorcese went to Cannes recently to try to sell "Silence" -- a personal pet
    project still in development after 23 years of gestation -- to foreign
    buyers, and he's ready to roll on the project he started in 1989.

    City and the surrounding countryside will serve as the principal
    photography locations and Taiwanese film officials, already happy with
    the global
    publicity that native son Lee's ''Life of Pi'' brought in, are more
    than welcoming to
    Scorcese's plans, according to local media here.

    While Taiwan is not Japan, Taiwan was a colony of Japan for 50 years
    from 1895 to 1945 and much of the country still retains many areas and
    buildings that look like they belong right in the middle of old Tokyo.

    Scorcese apparently got the idea to shoot the movie in Taiwan after
    personally conferring with Lee and getting his personal
    recommendation. Scorsese said Lee recommended that he seriously
    consider thinking about shooting "Silence" in Taiwan when the two men
    chatted after attending a screening Scorcese's ''Hugo'' two years ago.

    Lee was in the middle of filming "Life of Pi" at the time and had
    nothing but good things to say about the crews and government
    officials he was workign with in his native land. Scorcese listened,
    and after "Pi" won an Oscar for Lee in early 2013, he made his
    decision to film in Taiwan, too.

    The late Japanese novelist Endo (1923 - 1996) was a minority Catholic
    in a Buddhist and Shinto nation and "Silence'' -- titled ''Chin-mo-ku"
    in Japanese -- tells the tale of a Jesuit missionary who faced severe
    prejudice and persecution at that time in Japan's history. The novel,
    which won the 1966 Tanizaki Prize in Tokyo but was never read much
    outside Japan, is partly written as a letter by a foreign missionary
    who questions and yet revels in the existence of a Christian God.
    Critics in Japan have said that the theme of ''a silent God'' who
    supports a Jesuit in adversity was greatly influenced by the Endo's
    own personal experience of religious discrimination in Japan.

    Scorcese, who is Catholic himself, has long been fascinated by the
    Christian religious impulse and vocation, as seen in his 1988 Paul
    Schrader-scripted ''The Last Temptation of Christ," is no stranger to
    arguing with God. "Christ" was based on the Greek writer Nikos
    Kazantzakis's 1960 novel which spoke of the life of Christ in human
    terms rather than traditional divine terms.

    So expect "Silence" to continue Scorcese's dialogs with God, hidden or not.

  • The Fanciful Norwegian | May 8, 2013 12:36 AMReply

    Issei Ogata is a way more exciting addition than the others. He doesn't do enough film work (just six films since the turn of the century, plus a few TV credits) but he's always amazing. I'm guessing it won't be a very big role though.

  • PEDRO | May 7, 2013 5:43 PMReply

    Japaense? Which language is that?

  • THOR | May 7, 2013 4:46 PMReply

    Jay Cocks sucks cocks.

  • Real | May 7, 2013 3:15 PMReply

    Andrew is a great actor. He did some amazing work in the UK. I wondered why he hadn't filmed anything since The Social Network with all the praise he received and the exposure he received from Spider-Man. Good to see him book such a prestigious role.

  • MJ | May 7, 2013 3:38 PM

    Agreed, but The Amazing Spider-Man did just come out last summer which I'm sure involved a lot of promo and then they very quickly started shooting the sequel which only wrapped recently, so it makes sense. I am glad to see he'll be continuing in drama and not going full Hollywood, and what a project to prove that point with.

  • Roark | May 7, 2013 3:15 PMReply

    Wait - filming in July 2014?! I thought it was shooting this year. What a bummer.

  • MJ | May 7, 2013 3:39 PM

    Wolf of Wall Street won't even be out until November, has he ever had a second project shooting before finishing a film? I don't think so.

  • Chris | May 7, 2013 2:40 PMReply

    Regarding Garfield, let's not forget his terrific performances in The Social Network and Never Let Me Go.

  • Ray H | May 7, 2013 3:11 PM

    Whoops. Wrong ethnicity. He's Portuguese in this one.

  • Ray H | May 7, 2013 3:10 PM

    I imagine Scorsese must've seen Garfield in "The Social Network" where he also played a character of Brazilian ethnicity.

  • alynch | May 7, 2013 2:40 PMReply

    If I recall correctly, the part Day-Lewis was up for was the disappeared mentor, so I'm still going to hold out hope until I hear of somone else being cast in that role.

  • yer | May 7, 2013 2:16 PMReply

    Who will be the DP? Richardson? I'd love to see him work with Deakins again, Kundun is underrated.

  • d | May 7, 2013 2:11 PMReply

    I have no problem with this. Excited as hell.

  • Yoohoo | May 7, 2013 2:04 PMReply

    The original film is actually really good. It's surprising that Scorsese hasn't seen it, 1. b/c he's Scorsese and 2. because Garfield does resemble the actor that played Father Rodrigues in Endo's film.

  • putney | May 7, 2013 1:50 PMReply

    garfield? you can't be serious.

  • Jb | May 7, 2013 11:06 PM

    Putney--wait are you serious? What have you seen him in? If not boy a or never let me go...rectify that please.

  • yer | May 7, 2013 2:00 PM

    Talk about a major downgrade from Del Toro/Lewis/Garcia. I really hope either DDL or De Niro ends up playing the role of the disgraced father, it's a Brando in Apocalypse Now type of role. Something that could be legendary.

  • Daryl Hannah | May 7, 2013 1:42 PMReply


  • droop | May 7, 2013 2:57 PM

    how do i commend you on your quote without sounding like the "iknowwherethatsfrom"-asshole? impossible. anyway, well played, christopher is the best

  • I forgot my name | May 7, 2013 1:39 PMReply

    About time. C'mon Marty Daniel doesn't have anything lined up. By the way Andrew is actually a pretty good actor. (I really wouldn't make a judgement from Spider-Man)

  • Why? | May 7, 2013 1:32 PMReply


  • Susie | May 7, 2013 1:43 PM

    It helps a little if you try to forget the previous cast.

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