Shutter Island producers Mike Medavoy and Brad Fischer of Phoenix Pictures on Martin Scorsese’s special relationship with Leonardo DiCaprio and why thrillers of the 1930s and 1940s are part of the director’s DNA.
How did the project come about?
Mike Medavoy (MM): Brad found the book [by Dennis Lehane]. He had a previous relationship with the screenwriter [Laeta Kalogridis] who we worked with on Pathfinder, and so he sent it to her to write a draft, and then said we really ought to give the script to Marty. I thought it would be a long shot, but Brad proved me wrong.
How closely does the screenplay stick to the book?
Brad Fischer (BF): There’s only one key element at the end which is different, but I don’t want to give it away… Dennis was very closely involved — when he read the first draft, funnily enough his only criticism was that it stuck too closely to the novel.
Did you have a relationship with Scorsese before you made this film?
MM: I was at United Artists and I worked with Marty on three films, New York, New York, Raging Bull and The Last Waltz.
BF: I grew up on Marty’s films, from Taxi Driver to Goodfellas. He was one of the reasons I got into the industry.
Was it easy to convince Scorsese to make the film?
MM: The thing that makes a movie interesting is the emotional voyage of the character. Marty said in this case, it was the story of Teddy Daniels [DiCaprio’s character] in particular that hooked him.
BF: If you look at Marty’s career, other than Cape Fear, he hasn’t done anything else in this gothic thriller genre — yet he has always been influenced by such films from the 1930s and 1940s. It’s in his DNA.
This is Scorsese’s fourth film starring Leonardo DiCaprio. How does their relationship work?
MM: Marty and Leo have found a very comfortable way of working together and a mutual respect. He had it with De Niro earlier on — he will probably make another film with De Niro [Scorsese later revealed he is working on a mob movie with the actor], and he will probably make another one with Leo.
BF: The relationship between Marty and Leo is not one that begins and ends with one film. There is an evolution across the body of work.
You have produced together a string of successful films for your company Phoenix Pictures. What’s your secret?
MM: This is my 314th movie. You get to know how it works.
BF: We don’t bring a project to a studio until we have the script, cast, budget, director, so the only thing the studio has to do is decide whether or not to greenlight the movie.