The long-awaited plans for Hollywood director Martin Scorsese’s biopic of entertainment icon Frank Sinatra appear to have bitten the dust. Scorsese admitted to The Toronto Sun that Sinatra’s estate was not open to the idea of creating a film to dramatise the life and times of one of the best-loved entertainers of all time, which had been in the offing since 2009.
It’s a huge disappointment to Sinatra fans and film-lovers across the globe, who would have loved to have relived the glitz and glamour of Sinatra’s acting and singing career. According to previous reports, Scorsese had aspirations of securing The Godfather actor Al Pacino to play “ol’ blue eyes”, as well as Leonardo DiCaprio, while Robert De Niro was allegedly lined up to be cast as fellow Rat Packer, Dean Martin. For many years, Scorsese has dedicated hours of work on a potential screenplay for his Sinatra biopic and appeared to be favouring a movie which shone a spotlight on numerous aspects of Sinatra’s life, indicating that he could have been played by Hollywood actors of various ages.
Scorsese in a battle with Tina Sinatra
For some time, speculation has been rife that Scorsese has struggled to gain the approval of Sinatra’s daughter, Tina, who was named on the biopic project as an executive producer of any future film. In fact, there has been a long-held view that Tina has been the one holding Scorsese back, favouring a more sanitised retelling of her father’s unforgettable life. A source close to Scorsese told The Guardian that Scorsese wants this project to be hard-hitting and not shy away from the vices of Sinatra’s life, “…but Tina wants to show the softer side of her dad and let the focus be on the music.”
Scorsese was seemingly keen on focusing more on Sinatra’s links to the mafia, with supposed relationships with the likes of Lucky Luciano, Carlos Gambino and Sam Giancana. These friendships led to the FBI keeping Sinatra under constant surveillance even throughout his glory years. Scorsese told the Toronto Sun: “We can’t do it. I think it is finally over. [Sinatra’s estate] won’t agree to it. Open it up again and I’m there.
“Certain things are very difficult for a family, and I totally understand. 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.”
What could have been for the Sinatra biopic?
There were so many interesting facets to Sinatra’s life that would have made such a fascinating life story. From the way in which Sinatra transformed the global image of being an Italian-American citizen to his political and civil rights work and his alleged ties with the underworld, it’s unsurprising why Scorsese has spent so many years trying to find the right angle to let the biopic shine on the big screen. In an interview with ShortList some time ago, Scorsese admitted: “We can’t [just] go through the greatest hits of Sinatra’s life. We tried this already. Just can’t do it.”
Frank Sinatra was such an inspirational figure on so many levels. In fact, many would argue that Sinatra was the very essence of rock ’n’ roll before rock ’n’ roll was even a musical genre. His sexual energy and swagger, combined with his love-hate relationship with the police made Sinatra hot property in the eyes of the media and his fans.
On stage, Sinatra’s Rat Pack was also the definition of 21st-century “squad goals” many decades beforehand; bringing up his showbiz pals, Humphrey Bogart, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford to create a group of loveable rogues, each of whom were born entertainers and ripped up the Las Vegas casino stages for many years to come. Speaking of Las Vegas, Sinatra’s presence on the Vegas entertainment scene and his appearance in the original Ocean’s 11 movie, released in 1960, helped to firmly establish Las Vegas in popular culture and according to Betway one of the most popular places to visit for gamblers in the world to date. Furthermore, his gambling and love-themed hit songs such as “Luck Be a Lady Tonight”, which first appeared in an ensemble of hit musicals in 1963, all intimated that they had been written during his time in the Vegas limelight.
Sticking with the music theme, Sinatra also showed the way for artists to seek more autonomy as performers, setting up his own record label in a two-fingered salute to Capitol Records, which was eventually sold on to Warner Brothers. That appetite for individuality has influenced many contemporary artists to go down their own path too, notably pop icon Madonna and rap artist Jay Z – the latter creating Roc-A-Fella Records with Kareem Burke in 1996.
Business as usual for Scorsese
With the Sinatra biopic now firmly on the backburner, Scorsese – no stranger to star-filled casts – now has his eyes firmly fixed on the eagerly-awaited adaptation of Erik Larson’s 2003 hit novel, The Devil in the White City. The director will team up once again with Leonardo DiCaprio for their seventh Hollywood project after hugely successful partnerships in Gangs of New York (2002), The Departed (2006), Shutter Island (2010) and The Wolf of Wall Street (2013); the latter of which scooped almost $400m ($392m) at the box office.
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