Adapted by Gangs Of New York’s Jay Cocks from Shûsaku Endô’s novel, Silence has been a passion project of the director’s for years. It follows two Jesuit priests – Garfield and Adam Driver – who go looking for their mentor (Neeson) in 17th century Nagasaki, Japan, and encounter violent persecution.
“Being raised an Irish Catholic myself, the subject of faith and Catholicism struck very deeply home” Neeson said during a preview for the film at the 4th Annual Los Cabos International Film Festival. “The question in the film is: Is there a god? We’re all in some way asking ourselves that all the time. What is the purpose of life? What is faith? Why have faith? Why do we wake up in the morning and get out of bed? It’s as basic as that and the film asks all these questions and dramatizes them in a very exceptional way.”
The rigors of the characters meant the cast had to lose weight for their roles, which they all, according to Neeson, embraced. “Martin wanted us all to look a bit more gaunt, which Adam and Andrew did as well. I know Adam went to the extreme. He’s an ex marine and when he’s given an order, he follows it through. He was like something out of Auschwitz. Martin requires this level of dedication and I think it pays off.”
And “silence” doesn’t just refer to the title, but how Scorsese preferred the set when he was talking to the actors or crew. “Martin is intimidating.” Neeson says. “He’s legendary — so as a performer you have to get over that. I had to get over that… He requires absolute silence on set, like everybody has to stop work when he’s giving a direction or explaining a scene. I mean everybody — the guy that’s painting 400 yards away has to stop. If he hears one tiny sound, it’s shattered for him so he commands that respect. He commands that silence and especially for this film it was necessary.”
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