Martin Scorsese has exited a long-promised Frank Sinatra biopic. Field of Dreams screenwriter Phil Alden Robinson and Hunger Games screenwriter Billy Ray had been working on scripts for the film at various times, with The Toronto Sun reporting that Leonardo DiCaprio was set to star.
“We can’t do it,” Scorsese told The Toronto Sun. “I think it is finally over. [Sinatra’s estate] won’t agree to it. Open it up again and I’m there.”
Scorsese, whose new movie Silence is out now, said he had hoped to make an unfettered portrait of both the singer’s highs and lows. The latter theme proved to be a sticking point with Sinatra’s family. “Certain things are very difficult for a family, and I totally understand,” Scorsese said. “But if they expect me to be doing it, they can’t hold back certain things. The problem is that the man was so complex. Everybody is so complex – but Sinatra in particular.”
It’s a sentiment Scorsese had shared previously in an interview with ShortList. “It’s very hard [to write the script] because here is a man who changed the entire image of the Italian-American,” he said. “And that’s just one thing. Along with his political work, civil rights, the mob.” He said at the time that he hoped the picture would feel like a combination of his movies GoodFellas and The Aviator.
“We can’t go through the greatest hits of Sinatra’s life,” he said at the time. “We tried this already. Just can’t do it. So the other way to go is to have three or four different Sinatras: younger, older, middle-aged, very old. You cut back and forth in time – and you do it through the music. … So that’s what we’re trying for. It’s very tricky.”
The director had signed on to helm the biopic in 2009. “My father had great admiration for the talent of the people he chose to work with, and the talented people who worked with my father had great admiration for him,” Tina Sinatra said in a statement at the time. “It is personally pleasing to me that this paradigm continues with Marty Scorsese at the helm of the Sinatra film.”