Silence: Scorsese’s Passion Project–Per Liam Neeson

At the Los Cabos Film Fest, Liam Neeson shared some of his thoughts about Scorsese’s historical drama Silence, which is in post-production, scheduled for 2016 release by Paramount.

Shusaku Endo’s 1966 novel tells the story of young Jesuit missionaries in the 17th century who were persecuted during their trip to Japan. They go in search of a priest (played by Liam Neeson), who has reportedly forsaken his faith.

“Martin requires a lot of commitment,” Neeson said at the press conference, explaining that he dropped 20 pounds off his already-lean frame to play a Jesuit missionary, while co-star Adam Driver became extremely gaunt while Garfield is already “a piece of wire.”

Scorsese “gives 200%,” said Neeson. “All he requires is that you give 100%.” “He’s intimidating,” Neeson explained. “He requires absolute silence on the set — if he hears one tiny sound, it shatters it for him.”

It was a physically demanding shoot for co-stars Andrew Garfield and Driver, and a big departure from roles like “Spider-Man” and “Star Wars.

Neeson said the production started off shakily, when Taipei was hit by a 6.1 earthquake and his 15th floor hotel room began to sway. “It was terrifying. The world started to shake.” He walked all the way to the ground floor and realized that the frequent temblors in the region barely affect the residents.

Neeson said the project resonated for him because of his Irish Catholic upbringing, and that the central question of the film is, “Is there a god?”

Mexico’s Fabrica de Cine, headed by Gaston Pavlovich, is a production partner on Scorsese’s passion project, based on the Shusaku Endo novel.

Currently editing. Scorsese sent a video message in which he explained that the team was finally able to bring the film to the screen because, “Gaston understood what I was trying to do and my commitment to it.”

Pavlovich said that while a Cannes premiere would be ideal, they won’t rush it if Scorsese isn’t satisfied. Paramount is expected to release the film in the U.S. in late 2016.

Pavlovich, who has produced several U.S. indies since opening a Los Angeles office for his Mexican company, says “Silence” has been the highlight of his professional career. “It’s fantastic to work with a genius,” he says.

But it’s all about preparation. When Pavlovich went to talk to Scorsese in New York, the 23-year old passion project was under the weight of one lawsuit and several delays. “I knew this was my risk. It had to be done quickly or we would lose the cast,” he said. But Scorsese and his producing partner Emma Tillinger Koskoff “respected that we were producing and were willing to compromise,” says Pavlovich.

The production came in around $51 million, not huge for a period piece shot on 35mm film on location with a director of Scorsese’s caliber, but still substantial for an independent film.

“It’s hard, it’s emotional — I think it will inspire a lot of debate,” Pavlovich says of “Silence.”

Scorsese recruited some of his collaborators, including cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, editor Thelma Schoonmaker and production designer Dante Ferretti, who constructed a facsimile of a 17th century Nagasaki monastery in Taiwan.