Of the many challenges facing Martin Scorsese in the development and eventual production of his Frank Sinatra biopic, casting an actor in the iconic lead role must be the most daunting. Do you go for an unknown, or draw from the well of great living American actors - all of whom would probably decapitate a horse for the chance to play the Chairman of the Board?
In an interview with the Indian daily newspaper The Hindu (pointed out to me by The Playlist), Scorsese tipped his hand a little - though it's entirely possible that this was idle speculation. According to Scorsese, “I've had it in mind for a long time. Even the initial script is ready. I'm yet to spot the actor who can bring back Frank Sinatra alive on screen. My choice is Al Pacino, and Robert De Niro as Dean Martin.”
Pacino as the older Sinatra? Well, the height matches up. And they're both Italian. But the idea of an icon playing an icon is kind of disconcerting. Pacino rarely disappears into roles nowadays; you're always acutely aware that you're watching The Great Al Pacino act. Sometimes, this is fun (as in HEAT, GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS or THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE); mostly, it's exhausting. And in a film about one of the most indelible American performers of the twentieth century, it would surely be distracting. De Niro as Dean Martin would be equally vexing: great for an SNL sketch, not-so-much for a straight-faced biopic.
But who am I to question Martin Scorsese?
There's no telling if the Sinatra film will be Scorsese's next after the HUGO CABARET (which is scheduled to begin shooting in 3D sometime in June), but I imagine he'd want to get to this "epic" while he still has the energy to pull it off. I'm assuming that "initial script" is by Phil Alden Robinson (which is being written with the approval of the Sinatra family, so it's probably best to not expect anything too salacious).