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Liam Neeson and Adam Driver are left with ‘more questions than answers’ as believers in Silence

‘It’s always good to remind yourself that you don’t know anything, and to forgive yourself because strong doubt is associated with faith’

Adam Driver, Martin Scorsese and Liam Neeson attend the New York Screening of Silence at Regal E-Walk Theater on December 8, 2016 in New York City.
Photo: Rob Kim/Getty Images

Liam Neeson and Adam Driver knew they had to be dedicated to Silence, just like their director Martin Scorsese.

The long-time-in-development Scorsese historical epic, based on Shusaku Endo’s 1955 novel, recalls the experiences of Jesuit missionaries in a repressed 17th century Japan. That’s when Catholics, especially priests, were targeted and tortured into denial of their faith or killed.

In the film, Driver plays Fr. Garupe who is joined by Fr. Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) in their Japanese quest to find Fr. Ferreira portrayed by Neeson.

The young priests’ goal is to refute the rumour that Fr. Ferreira has denounced the Catholic Church while immersing himself in the Buddhist Tokugawa shogunate society.

During a Manhattan interview, Neeson and Driver offer their thoughts:

On Neeson playing Ferreira, a real and controversial figure:

“He was quite a famous Jesuit and was a huge embarrassment to the church when this news filtered back that he had proselytized and subsequently was banished from the church,” says Neeson.

On Driver’s and Garfield’s pre-production preparation for their Jesuit roles by attending a month-long Jesuit retreat in Wales:

“It was glaringly obvious who the two actors were,” Driver says. “But it was still fun to talk about later.”

On enduring Ferreira’s simulated five hours of hanging-by-his feet torture that forced him into renouncing his faith:

“I was hanging there for only two minutes,” says Neeson of the scene. “It did cross my mind that this famous torture was devised for (Jesuits), and that we all have a breaking point.”

On the dramatic impact of the ordeal despite Neeson’s brief experience with it:

“So you’re hanging there, and you don’t know what’s up or what’s down,” says the actor. “It does strange things to your brain.”

On acting opposite some of the renowned Japanese actors in the cast:

“They have this incredible ‘centeredness’ and living in the second,” Neeson says. “I got the impression, too, they could have done 300 takes and that presence would have still been there.”

On committing to the Silence production filmed in Taiwan:

“We decided to travel across the world to be with strangers for three months,” Driver says. “We starved ourselves on mountainsides and in caves at 2 o’clock in the morning by the water.”

On the personal impact of investigating what faith means in Silence:

“I probably have more questions than answers,” Driver says. “It’s always good to remind yourself that you don’t know anything, and to forgive yourself because strong doubt is associated with faith.”

“I don’t believe you can really have deep faith without deep doubt,” says Neeson. “But I still believe in a God.”

National Post | Bob Thompson | January 4, 2017

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