Silence: Actors Yoshi Oida, Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver

Yoshi Oida

Crew members marveled at the strength and energy of 83 year-old Yoshi Oida displayed as he threw himself into the role of Ichizo. Oida, a native of Japan who lives in Paris and has spent many years in France working there with Peter Brook, is a renowned teacher of acting, the author of three books on the subject. On the set of Silence Oida embraced his role with vigor and commitment.

“Ichizo is a noble man, the kind of person it is a gift to portray. It’s a matter for me of understanding him emotionally, the way he thinks and feels, the way he experiences his profound faith,” Oida says. “But it’s also essential for me to understand firsthand what the character suffers not only mentally and emotionally but physically.”

In the process, Oida utilized many of the concepts he had written about in his books.  “Spending time on the cross during the crucifixion scene became a moment of grace for me,” he says. “At the same time it was necessary for me to lie down and rest between takes. Ichizo had no such luxury, of course. Even so, working physically like that gives me a sense of what so many people went through.”

Andrew Garfield was impressed watching Oida work, a vivid illustration of acting techniques.  “I was so happy to meet Yoshi and to have the chance to work with him. I read his book The Invisible Actor in drama school and it made a deep impression on me. I told him so. Amazing to work with him,” Garfield says.

Equally astonishing in these scenes was Shinya Tsukamoto who seemed to endure hours on the cross for the film. He was tied to the wooden structure by rough-hewn ropes, buffeted by surging waves and burning sunshine, requiring very little assistance or help from stunt workers who were on hand to relieve him.

“I cannot express what an honor it is for me for be in a film by Scorsese, to work with him every day,” says the actor, who is of course more renowned in his own right as a highly successful and respected film director.

“People discuss faith with me on set because the nature of faith is one of the big themes of the film. When they ask if I have faith, I say my faith is Scorsese,” Tsukamoto says. “These are not empty words. The seriousness of this film, the rigors we have all gone through to film, Mr. Scorsese most of all, endow him and the project with a kind of sanctity, a deep beauty full of the richest meaning.”

Andrew Garfield

For Andrew Garfield, the role of Father Rodrigues remained a profound challenge for him every day of production.

Before filming got under way the actor spent a lot of time as he says getting the material into “my body, my bones. I did a real spiritual exploration. My father was Jewish, my mother Christian and my brother and I were brought up without any religious instruction or practices. I’m interested in Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism – all religions and cosmologies,” he says.

For his preparation, Garfield spent time with Father Martin, the Jesuit scholar and author based in New York. “I developed a deep relationship with Father Martin.  He introduced me to the life of Jesus and to the Jesuits and I was inspired by them.”

Garfield says his work with the priest gave him insight into Rodrigues soul.  “Father Rodrigues begins being an idealistic, single-pointed person thinking he knows what life is about. But he comes to realize he’s one of many, all too human, and he has to accept his humanity.”

Garfield says, “Every day of filming I was deeply immersed in the 1640 Japan of my imagination. But shooting on these extraordinary locations in Taiwan was a gift. We have the most multinational crew I’ve ever worked with. How moving it was to see all these people forming a village to serve this incredible director in telling this incredible story.

“These kinds of epic, mysterious and complex journeys don’t always get made into a film, stories that are neither black or white, good or evil but true to life, gray and complex. The fact that this one got made is a testament to Marty’s vision and determination,”

Adam Driver

For his part, Driver found the physical privation the actors had to endure particularly challenging. He says losing weight was as much preparation for the role as the historical research he did.

“It was helpful to be hungry and tired most of the time.”

As Driver explains, being poorly nourished is not the only testing situation the fathers find themselves in Japan.

“They’ve been traveling thousands of miles by sea and land. We don’t see it on screen but we have to feel in the way the characters present themselves, the fact that they endured difficulties and hardships far from home, traveling in harsh conditions for two long years.”

As for the rough and sometimes hard to access but beautiful locations, Driver says, “they were bad for comfort but good for the movie. A small part of what the characters endured in Japan.”