Legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese was in New York this week to promote his new film Silence. The awards contender tells the story of two Christian missionaries (played by Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) who face the ultimate test of faith when they travel to Japan in search of their missing mentor (Liam Neeson) – at a time when Christianity was outlawed and their presence forbidden.
The celebrated director’s 28-year journey to bring Shusaku Endo’s 1966 acclaimed novel to life is released in UK cinemas on New Year’s Day 2017.
HeyUGuys was at the New York press conference, with Martin Scorsese and some of the cast in attendance including Adam Driver, Liam Neeson and Issey Ogata. Here are five things we learned.
1. Scorsese says he’s explored questions about faith throughout his career, back to ‘Mean Streets’ in 1973.
Martin Scorsese: “What true faith is or what true Christianity is has always been foremost in my mind my whole life, no matter what I’ve done. Even going back to Mean Streets, the opening line is ‘you don’t make up for your sins in a church, you do it in the street, you do it at home. All the rest is bullshit’. Meaning that you don’t separate religion, go into a building and then go outside and behave differently. The struggle is outside.
“You know, inside you might get some support or you might find it through chanting, through rituals, through meditation, all this sort of thing. In any event, with SILENCE, the real mystery of the apostasy is that he (Father Rodrigues, played by Andrew Garfield) gives up the truth that he is in Japan to share with everyone. He gives up the truth and ultimately achieves the real truth of Christianity, which is a stripping away of the self and emptying the self, not having anything left to be proud of.
“That fascinated me. How do you go there? To that place? That took me different ways, to making ‘Kundun’; ‘The Last Tempation of Christ’ certainly, but this book, SILENCE, fascinated me and it took me years to come around to it.”
2. Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield went on a silent retreat in Wales to prepare for their roles as Jesuit priests.
Liam Neeson: “Adam and Andrew did a retreat in Wales, a seven day silent retreat and did the spiritual exercises too.”
Adam Driver : “Yeah, I did seven days, but Andrew did the thirty days spiritual exercises. We met at St. Beuno’s other Jesuits and it was glaringly obvious who the two actors were! But that was so fun to talk about later.”
3. Liam Neeson read books questioning faith when he returned from the shoot
Liam Neeson: “I don’t believe you can really have deep faith without deep doubt. I think they both go hand in glove. I’m convinced of that now, and that certainly affected me when I came back from shooting the film, I was delving into Richard Dawkins’ book ‘The God Delusion’ and stuff like that and science journals about inroads they’re making with the brain and the discovery of neurotransmitters and the natural opioids in the brain that can perhaps explain faith. Can explain religion. All that’s really, really interesting to me now. But I still believe in a God.”
4. Scorsese originally cast the film back in 2009, including Issey Ogata who plays Inquisitor Inoue in the film
Martin Scorsese: “I cast the film in Japan back in 2009, we were going to make the film then.” Scorsese’s journey to make the film after completing Shutter Island faltered, then Hugo and The Wolf of Wall Street took over.
5. Scorsese has stopped watching new films
Martin Scorsese “There’s over saturation. particularly in our world as it is now and nothing really does have a meaning. Images for example are everywhere. Cinema used to be in a building and even on television, you’d see a film or whatever. I must say a lot of the films that I’m aware of…and I don’t see that many new ones over the past two or three years, I stopped because the images don’t mean anything.
“We’re just completely saturated with images that don’t mean anything. Words certainly don’t mean anything anymore, they’re twisted and turned. So where’s the meaning? Where’s the truth? So we have to strip away everything. It goes back to that question I had in ‘Means Streets’, how do you live a good life? A life which is good, meaning compassion, and respect for others, in a world like today or in a world where I grew up, quite honestly.”
Silence is release in the UK on the 1st of January, 2017.