Martin Scorsese will film the movie in New Zealand and release it in 2010, according to the Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun. Names of actors linked to the project include Daniel Day-Lewis, Gael García Bernal and Benicio Del Toro.
Scorsese is known for his work on films including "The Age of Innocence," "The Departed," "Gangs of New York," "Casino" and the controversial "The Last Temptation of Christ."
The film on the Japanese martyrs is based on the book "Chinmoku" (Silence), by the Catholic Japanese author Shusaku Endo. The novel tells the story of a Portuguese missionary in Japan at the beginnings of the 17th century. "Silence" refers to the silence of God before the cross of Christ, in telling of the missionary's forced apostasy in the midst of horrendous torture.
Endo (1923-1997) was baptized at age 12. His novels reflect his effort to show Christianity reconciled with Oriental culture, as well as his vision of human weakness, sin and grace. Among his other writings are "A Life of Jesus" and "Deep River," in which he tries to present Christianity to the Asian mentality.
Last November some 188 Japanese martyrs from the same era as the plot of "Silence" were canonized. Japan is today less than 1% Christian, of which only about 450,000 are Catholics.