Despite his long cherished project ‘Silence’ not doing well at the box office (currently $10m off a $50m budget) and garnering only one Oscar nomination for its cinematography Scorsese remembered being told by his manager and agent not to make the film. “’This is insane’”, they warned him. “’This project has gone on for years, there are so many legal problems, one of the financiers is in jail’”.
Nevertheless they were ignored and decades after first coming across Shūsaku Endō’s novel, he finally got to make the film which Scorsese described as “an obsessive endeavour for many years”.
The final part of the jigsaw involved him going to Cannes to meet distributors on behalf of the film’s sales agent, IM Global. “I stayed in a room for two days and nights and people came in and I talked,” Scorsese joked about the process by which he was finally able to secure the money.
His next film The Irishman that is looking like a far more box office friendly prospect and is set to star Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. Based on the story of Frank Sheeran, the hitman alleged to have murdered teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa the original title of thefilm based on the book by Charles Brandt, was I Heard You Paint Houses. “That was a conversation that Jimmy Hoffa has with Frank, the character De Niro plays,” Scorsese explained. “They’re put on the phone. Hoffa says to Frank, ‘So and so says you’re a good guy and I heard you paint houses.’ And Frank Sheeran says, ‘Yeah, and I do clean up.’” The expression “to paint a house” is mob parlance for “to kill someone”
Scorsese expressed relish at the prospect of working with both De Niro and Pacino. Surprisingly, the filmmaker has never worked with the latter (Scorsese and De Niro have made eight films together, and De Niro and Pacino have worked together three times).
“Al and I have been trying to do a picture since 1971,” Scorsese said. He was first introduced to Pacino by Francis Ford Coppola and has vivid recollections of seeing Pacino before his film career took flight in an off-Broadway show called Rats.
Interestingly it seems that the film is being financed by Netflix which the director has been critical about the company saying “The problem now is that it is everything around the frame that is distracting. Now you can see a film on an iPad. You might be able to push it closer to your [face] in your bedroom, just lock the door and look at it if you can but I do find just glimpsing stuff here or there, even watching a film at home on a big-screen TV, there is still stuff around the room. There’s a phone that rings. People go by. It is not the best way.” That Scorsese has misgivings over the small-screen experience is unsurprising, but the timing is intriguing given that his next film The Irishman is likely to have a curtailed theatrical release
Whether Netflix will give the film a theatrical release is unknown at present.
Scorsese has been in London as part of the British Film Institute’s major retrospective of his back catalogue and the on-stage Q&A where he told the audience that De Niro improvised the ‘You talkin’ to me?’ scene in which his character Travis Bickle confronts himself in the mirror.
“It was the last week of shooting,” he revealed. “In the script, the dialogue is not there. I asked Paul [Schrader, the writer] and said, ‘I think he (Bickle) needs to speak to himself in the mirror.’
At the time, Scorsese five days late on a 40-day shoot, the studio Columbia Pictures were “furious” and he was under a load of pressure to complete the film.
“I got on the floor in front of [De Niro] and then he started playing with the gun and then started saying, ‘Are you talking to me?’ and just kept repeating it. He developed that moment. As I say, it was done under a lot of [pressure]. The assistant director, who was a good guy, was banging on the door, saying we’ve got to go.”
Scorsese was also asked about his Sinatra biopic that now seems will never be made whih he has been planning again for many years. . “I spent a lot of time on it,” Scorsese said. “I grew up with Sinatra in the ’50s and ’60s. I remember when he was, in the early ’50s, considered finished, over. I remember how cruelly he was treated by the press and Hollywood.” “He was tough,” Scorsese remembered. “He still had that edge. I understood why.”
The BBC will be screening his chat on BBC4 on March 4th 2017