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Has The Financial Disappointment Of ‘Hugo’ Killed The Chances Of Martin Scorsese’s ‘Silence’ Getting Made?

Has The Financial Disappointment Of 'Hugo' Killed The Chances Of Martin Scorsese's 'Silence' Getting Made?

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.

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PR Guru

The fault lies not in the quality of the film or with the producer, director or the stars but with the totally misdirected, non targeted PR and marketing campaign for Hugo. From the time Hugo went from conception, to green light into production and into post and then ready for the big screen the fast paced world of communication, IT developments and social media, advertising and PR had progressed, adapted and super developed at rapid speed & continues to change at lightning pace. It's like whoever was doing the PR for Hugo missed the boat big time – same with John Carter. In fact as soon as i've finished writing this post something else will have come along to surpass the next interactive, communication advancement be it I phone, facebook, bla bla bla – it's a new world – producers, directors – STUDIOS – Hugo is a wake up call. The PR for a family movie – which is basically what this is – at Christmas, was just not even out there – in the most easy, basic publicity campaign. Hugo should have been the must see Christmas holiday family movie event experience. Hugo had the potential to clean up and become an all time box office sensation – it's the marketing and PR that just didn't tap into the 'kids' families or AUDIENCE it was intended for. Yes it's artistically fabulous, leading to the age old debate or art vs commerce. Just because it's lovingly crafted by a genius director doesn't mean it can't take money at the box office. It was mis sold or even under sold. Producers need to take a good long look at getting back to basics in getting bums on seats at the cinemas, engaging with their audience / customer and creatively utilising all current social & traditional PR, publicity & marketing tools out there and really sweating the asset. It seems that PR is an after thought and just book out a few billboards, same old same old boring press junkets and roll out the talent at the movies Premier for A listers, run by A listers, aimed at the A listers – totally missing out the audience / customer it is intended for. For a movie aimed at kids it really needed to keep up with the kids! Hugo is a stunning movie on every level and Graham King and Martin Scorsese have made one of the most beautiful, thought provoking movie masterpieces of our time – it's not the movie it's the promotion of the movie that has let the legendary team down.

A lesson to all filmmakers:

Request at least 1/3 of your picture budget to go to internal marketing. Do not allow, as Scorsese did, the major to control one-hundred percent of the advertising and potentially misrepresent your picture. Imagine what could have been Hugo's box office had Scorsese hired an outside firm to do it under his supervision. All our movies' PR is handled privately and internally, because handing it over to the majors can be risky. Look also at John Carter. We're an indie but we already know better. Watch where Goliath trips and lace your sandals, kids…

Robin K. Reed

I thought Scorsese wanted to do a film on the romance between Ms. Taylor and Mr. Burton based on the book Furious Love. I think he would need to do that right away or he is going to loose the interest that was built up by the book and Ms. Taylor's death in 2011.

Kay Ebeling

As a survivor of pedophile priest rape when I was age five, I really wish someone like Scorsese would make a movie concerning this crime spree in the Catholic Church. 7000 priests were aided and abetted by bishops to rape over a hundred thousand children in recent history in the USA alone. Talk about "Silence." Where is the outrage, where are the movies depicting these crimes? I produce a blog as one of the victims, at The statistics I mentioned are documented at where you can read the database of accused priests starting A-Z, all seven thousand of them. Now there is a story that needs to be told.


If Graham King is upset that he took a loss on Hugo, he certainly shouldn't be blaming it on Scorsese. As the article points out, the film is a critical and awards success by any definition. Scorsese made the best film he possibly could from the material.

The fault for a lack of financial return lies with GK Films, Paramount, and their marketing departments. One could argue that it was stupid for King to spend that much in the first place. I think that the only time a director could shoulder the blame in a situation like this is if he made a shitty film, and that's clearly not the case here.

I Love Scorsese

Truthfully the only thing holding SILENCE back from happening is Scorsese himself. He's still the greatest living director BUT he forgotten how to make a movie by the seat of his pants or on the cheap. The man who cut corners & took risks to get 'The Last Temptation of Christ' is gone. Now Scorsese is the guy who needs every toy necessary to tell a simple story. SILENCE should be a smaller scale film but I feel Scorsese is holding it back by wanting the film to be an epic.
If Paul Thomas Anderson was able to make a movie like THERE WILL BE BLOOD for under $30 million then Scorsese should be able to make a movie like SILENCE for under $40 million. But I think the man who took 40 days and $18 million+ to shoot one episode of 'Boardwalk Empire' isn't going to make the sacrifices and choices necessary to make that happen.

Nik Grape

I just read that Scorsese plans to shoot every single one of his future movies in 3D after a talk with Ang Lee at CinemaCon. …. So now after hearing this and that, I'm wondering: what happened to Martin Scorsese?


Somebody get Scorsese and Megan Ellison together.

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