Break­ing his Si­lence: Scorsese col­lab­o­ra­tor dis­cusses film decades in the mak­ing

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - GLOBE ARTS - SI­MON HOUPT

In

the 50 years that the writer Jay Cocks has been friends with Martin Scorsese, the two have col­lab­o­rated on some films that were made quickly – The Age of In­no­cence took all of 17 days to write, and it went into pro­duc­tion al­most im­me­di­ately – and oth­ers, such as Gangs of New York, which took decades to bring to the screen. Their lat­est col­lab­o­ra­tion is Si­lence, an adap­ta­tion of the novel by Shusaku Endo about two young Por­tuguese Je­suit priests in the 17th cen­tury (An­drew Garfield and Adam Driver) who risk their lives and faith to travel to Ja­pan to in­ves­ti­gate ru­mours that their men­tor (Liam Nee­son) has com­mit­ted apos­tasy. As the film en­ters the awards-sea­son fray, we spoke with Cocks, 72, about how the film grew out of at­tacks by the Chris­tian right on The Last Temp­ta­tion of Christ, on work­ing with Scorsese and on how to main­tain en­thu­si­asm for a project that takes al­most 30 years to come to fruition. Let’s start with just the facts. How many drafts did you do on

I think at least a cou­ple dozen. Have you fig­ured out your hourly wage on this? I don’t get paid by the hour. But how many hours would you say you worked on it? Oh, a cou­ple thou­sand at least. Not count­ing time see­ing rough cuts and talk­ing, stuff like that. You be­gan work­ing on it in 1989 or so. How long be­fore you had a draft that re­ally worked? Marty says in 2006 is when he feels we re­ally got a lock on the struc­ture.

What took so long? Do you know the story of how I came to be in­volved in this? Marty gets a hold of the book, he reads it as the dust is set­tling from Last Temp­ta­tion, he says, does this sound in­ter­est­ing? And with­out read­ing it, I say, you bet! Be­cause when­ever you throw your lot in with Marty, you know that it’s go­ing to be a great ad­ven­ture, and a great film. So – with­out read­ing it, I said yes. And I read it and went: Ho-ly smoke. Why? The novel is, shall we say, chal­leng­ing, for a cou­ple of tech­ni­cal rea­sons. The trans­la­tion is very poor, and some­times con­fus­ing. I mean, there seem to be even proof­read­ing prob­lems with it. It’s a book told in sev­eral voices: Third-per­son nar­ra­tive, first-per­son nar­ra­tive, epis­to­lary nar­ra­tive and, at the end, an of­fi­cial doc­u­ment and ex­cerpts from the his­tory of a Dutch trader. So, you have to take all these voices, and the in­ci­dents they re­late, and put them into some sort of dra­matic struc­ture. I em­barked on do­ing that, and the pro­ducer at the time called me up and said, You should stop, there are money prob­lems.

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