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‘Silence’: Six Things We’ve Learned About Martin Scorsese’s Passion Project

"Silence," starring Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield, hits theaters on December 23.

Martin Scorsese

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For Martin Scorsese, “Silence” is not just another movie. The film based on Shūsaku Endō’s 1966 novel of the same name has been a passion project for the filmmaker and high on his list of priorities ever since he first read the book. The story follows two 17th century Jesuit priests (played by Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield) who face violence and persecution as they travel through Japan to spread Christianity and locate their mentor (Liam Neeson).

READ MORE: Paramount Reveals Martin Scorsese’s ‘Silence’ Footage, Plus Darren Aronofsky and Jennifer Lawrence’s New Film ‘Mother’

Scorsese recently sat down with The New York Times Magazine to discuss the now legendary movie. Here are six things we learned about the project, as reported by the Times.

1. Scorsese has been trying to get “Silence” made for almost 30 years.

After reading the novel in 1989, Scorsese quickly snapped up the film rights and began telling nearly everyone he knew how much he wanted to make the movie. Even while shooting films including “The Aviator,” “The Departed,” “Shutter Island” and “Hugo,” he conceded that “Silence” was the movie he really wanted to shoot. After 2014’s “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Scorsese put his foot down and said he would not attach himself to another movie project until “Silence” was completed.

2. All the principal actors cut their fees.

Scorsese wanted to make “Silence” so much that he didn’t even take a fee for the project. Principal actors Driver, Garfield and Neeson either worked for Screen Actors Guild scale or for much less than their usual quote.

3. Making the movie was a massive logistical undertaking.

The $47 million production was filmed in Taiwan for eight months; the total number of cast and crew reached 750 people. “Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas” producer Irwin Winkler helped navigate “dozens” of legal disputes that threatened the project, according to the Times.

4. Adam Driver lost more than 50 pounds for his role.

During a four-and-a-half-month period, Driver shed 51 pounds to play the part of Father Francisco Garrpe, with the help of a nutrition coach. “It’s about control, and as an actor you want to have control, but it’s also about suffering,” he told the Times. “It gives you information you can use in the role.” After filming concluded, he started a routine of eating “triple breakfasts.”

5. Andrew Garfield went deep into religious training for his part.

Jesuit Rev. James Martin, an author and editor at large of a Jesuit news publication, worked with both Driver and Garfield to help prepare them for their roles. Garfield spent nearly a year learning about the Jesuit faith, taking part in a week-long silent retreat and even learning so much that he wound up pushing back on lines of dialogue that he said weren’t realistic for a Jesuit. “I got totally swept up in all things Jesuit and very taken with the Jesuit spirituality,” Garfield told the Times.

6. The Pope might see the movie before U.S. audiences.

This month, “Silence” will screen for for 400 Jesuit priests in Rome and for cinephiles at the Vatican. “It’s no stretch to suppose that Pope Francis, a Jesuit himself, will find a way to be there,” according to the Times.

“Silence” hits theaters on December 23.

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