'Silence' Producer Niels Juul on Martin Scorsese's Decades-Long Passion for the Project

The CEO of Cecchi Gori Pictures discusses the film's languid path to the screen, and talks about its ties to the studio and the director's oevures.

Despite the eclectic range of films Martin Scorsese has tackled during his career, the one thing it all shares in common is the filmmaker’s passion. But a handful of those came to fruition not just because of that passion, but because of determination and outright persistence – the culmination of years and years of trying to get them onto the silver screen. Silence, an adaptation of the novel by Shusako Endo, is one of those long-term projects that he’s been working on for decades, according to producer and Cecchi Gori Pictures CEO Niels Juul.

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Silence was a love project that was discussed all the way back in 1989 with Vittorio Cecchi Gori’s father Mario Cecchi Gori and Scorsese,” Juul told The Hollywood Reporter earlier this week. “They’ve wanted to do this picture for over 30 years now.”

Although Scorsese recently announced that he's tabling this to work with Leonardo DiCaprio on The Wolf of Wall Street, his collaboration with Juul is a major step in the CEO’s efforts to rebuild Cecchi Gori Pictures, a once-venerated company which helped bring Il Postino, A Bronx Tale and Seven to the screen. The CEO said that the film bears hallmarks of both Scorsese’s and the studio’s historic oevures. “It’s an extremely exciting and important story,” Juul said. “It’s very human and it has all the elements and fingerprints of a true Cecchi Gori film. But it’s Marty’s vision, and he’s already gone really deep into it and done great, great scripts.”

Juul described the film’s plot, which examines Catholicism, as many of Scorsese’s past works have done. “We think it has enormous potential both critically and commercially,” he said. “It’s a Japanese novel, but it’s a very interesting piece about two Portuguese Jesuits who go out to Japan to basically tell the Catholics to remain faithful after the Japanese emperor banned Catholicism in Japan. People who were Catholic had to denounce it or get killed, and the Vatican sent out these two to persuade the remaining Catholics to remain [faithful].”

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Although most of his work for Cecchi Gori is in the service of rebuilding its brand, Juul is listed as a producer of Silence. But he admitted that his duties for the studio have precluded his participation in a lot of the creative decisions on the film. “I’ve basically been mainly on the business side of things,” Juul explained. “I’ve been helping negotiate the Silence agreement -- I’ve been running the negotiation, and that’s mainly my expertise, that’s where I come from.”

According to Juul, Silence is reflective of his responsibilities going forard balancing the business and creative sides of the moviemaking business. “My primary role is to make sure it’s suited for Cecchi Gori and making sure it’s doable for Scorsese and his representatives,” he said. “That’s my main contribution on the business side of things.”


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