In 1997, Scorsese decided to follow up his lavish and ultra-violent crime thriller “Casino” with, naturally, a grand biographical drama about Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth Dalai Lama. The film was the pet project of screenwriter Melissa Mathison, perhaps best known for writing “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” She even met with the Dalai Lama to ask if she could write about his life. He agreed and sat down for interviews that would form the foundations of her script. While she had never worked with Scorsese before, Mathison felt he would be a strong choice to direct “Kundun” because he had a sharp understanding of faith, thanks to his own Catholic background (he famously almost became a priest instead of a director). While the bad-faith discourse repeats the claim that Scorsese only makes uber-macho gangster films, Scorsese also made tender period dramas like “The Age of Innocence” and savvy dramas of women’s independence such as “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.”
Yet this was new territory for the filmmaker — a biopic focused on the youth of a revered religious figure who is still alive and the subject of immense political strife. Not only that, but the movie would contain an ensemble of entirely unknown actors. It was a tough sell, but it did have one giant in its corner: Disney. If any distributor could make such a story a hit, it was them. Soon, Scorsese had set up production in Ouarzazate, Morocco (for reasons that will soon become clear, actually filming in Tibet would have been impossible). While the budget was relatively low -– a reported $28 million -– it would prove to be an ambitious project.
Credit: Source link