The Upcoming Frank Sinatra BioPic.Posted: May 14, 2009
A new, major film biography of Frank Sinatra is on the way, to be directed by Martin Scorsese. Accounts vary.
The Hollywood Reporter says this:
The deal comes after years of negotiations with Frank Sinatra Enterprises, a joint venture of the crooner’s estate and Warner Music Group. Internal politics of the estate, where family members had to form a consensus as to how to tell the story and, more importantly, just how much of the story to tell — was a hurdle that had to be overcome.
While Variety says this:
The process of acquiring the late entertainer’s life and particularly music rights was “very complicated, as you can imagine,” Schulman said, because of the multiple parties involved. “The responsibility we are taking on to tell his story — that would cause anyone to be very careful about who they grant these rights to,” she added. “Everyone knows that Marty Scorsese is a final-cut director. So there had to be a lot of trust that he would tell this story in a way that didn’t destroy (Sinatra’s) memory.”
These quotes give two different impressions of how hamstrung Scorsese is going to be. The first quote indicates the family is having a lot of input into the storytelling. The second quote indicates the family is trusting Scorsese to tell the story his way. We shall see.
Family input may be no bad thing. The Sinatra children, Nancy, Frank Jr. and Tina, and their mother Nancy, as well Frank’s last wife Barbara, have insight into the real man that no one else would have. So if their input takes the form of “you really must include this, ” instead of “you can’t show this,” it will make for a greater film. But that quote from The Hollywood Reporter about the family forming consensus on “just how much of the story to tell” doesn’t give one optimism that their input will be more about inclusion than exclusion.
Then again, as a Sinatra idolator, I think a movie that glorifies him may be just what I want to see. I’m really not sure how interested I will be in a “warts and all” portrayal.
A tricky proposition.
A danger in terms of reviewers’ perception of the movie is that all this advance publicity about the family’s involvement will cause reviewers to receive the movie as a whitewash, no matter what the film’s actual qualities.
I have high hopes for the movie, but cautious ones. Scorsese’s Howard Hughes biopic was a huge lumbering thing that never got off the ground. The young Scorsese could have done an amazing job with Sinatra’s story, but I’m not sure about the old Scorsese. Maybe this is the film that will return him to form. If any subject could, it’s this one, which is right in the wheelhouse of the director who made Mean Streets, Raging Bull and New York, New York as a young man.
I don’t know who should play Sinatra, but I’m not crazy about the strong suggestion in the Variety article that it will be Leonardo DiCaprio. I know the singing in the movie will be Frank’s, but DiCaprio’s speaking voice seems too light to match up with Frank’s when the singing starts.
All caveats to one side, though, this seems like a movie that must be made now. Scorsese (an ideal choice in many ways) won’t be alive forever, the Sinatra family (whose input I hope will improve the film) won’t be alive forever, and we won’t be alive forever.
(Photos courtesy of an invaluable resource — the LIFE photo archive hosted by Google.)