While the critical adulation — eleven Oscar nominations and five wins — for Martin Scorsese‘s “Hugo” put a nice finish on the film’s journey to the big screen, in the cold light of day, and on a financial level, the film was a bust. While it didn’t get the same kind of ink that something like “Men In Black 3” did, production on “Hugo” was rocky, with Scorsese struggling to adjust to 3D during the filming, forcing the production schedule that was loosely slated from July to November 2010 to get extended to February 2011. At when it was all tallied up, the final price tag of the movie was apparently somewhere in the neighborhood of $180 million, and with the film only taking in $182 million worldwide it was likely not the hit backers GK Films was looking for. And according to THR, this has put a strain on the relationship between producer Graham King and filmmaker Martin Scorsese, potentially putting the director’s long-gestating dream project “Silence” in jeopardy.
First, let’s rewind a bit. King and Scorsese have been joined at the hip for the last decade or so, collaborating on a string of successful films including “The Departed,” “The Aviator” and “Gangs of New York” and both brought their producer powers to “The Young Victoria.” And it seemed they would be continuing to work together in the future. It was just over a year ago that it was reported that “Silence” would be Scorsese’s next picture, with Graham King backing the film. But it seems much has changed since then.
According to the trade, “Hugo” cost GK Films nearly $80 million in losses, and added up to a dismal 2011 that also included duds like “The Rum Diary” and “In the Land of Blood and Honey.” But more importantly, GK Films money man, oil billionaire Tim Headington, is said to be bleeding to the tune of $200-250 million, which may cause him to reassess his input into the company. Needless to say, there is now apparently friction between King and Scorsese because of the position “Hugo” has put the producer in, and that is the reason why “Silence” did not go forward as planned.
But we understand King’s reluctance to pull the trigger on “Silence.” It’s certainly a film that would be tough to position, an adaptation of Shusaku Endo‘s novel about two 17th century Jesuit priests who face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor and to spread the gospel of Christianity. Even with actors like Daniel Day-Lewis, Benicio Del Toro and Gael Garcia Bernal linked to roles early on, a period movie about religion isn’t going to be packing them in. Certainly if “Hugo” had been a runaway success, it would be much easier to get this moving, but it does say something that the next movie Scorsese is doing is the much more commercially viable “The Wolf of Wall Street” with buddy and megastar Leonardo DiCaprio. And it notedly marks a break with King, with the film set up at Red Granite Pictures.
So what will become of “Silence”? If King ultimately decides he’s not going to make it, we presume Scorsese could work out a deal to take it elsewhere, package the picture and hope to get financing. But again, given the subject matter and the potential cost, even with Scorsese’s name attached, it might be a hard one to drum up support for. However, if “The Wolf of Wall Street” is a hit (and there’s really no reason why it won’t be), everyone could soften up and find a reason to get Scorsese’s passion project made. Memories are short in Hollywood, money and success talks, and maybe this time next year, it will all be water under the bridge for King and Scorsese.