January 8, 2017

For the Producer of Scorsese’s Silence, Adelphi Was the First Big Break

by Amanda Hayman ’17

Were it not for Nicholas Petron, M.A. ’71, Randall Emmett may not have gone to college. Petron, professor and chair of Adelphi University’s Department of Theatre, saw Emmett’s promise early on. Emmett has since established himself in Hollywood as the producer of more than 90 films and shows, including Lone Survivor, End of Watch, Rambo and Martin Scorsese’s Silence. He credits Adelphi—and Petron in particular—with giving him his start.


In December 2016, on the cusp of the release of Silence, Emmett returned to Adelphi to give a master class with Petron. Theater students packed Adelphi’s Black Box Theatre for the lively class, which ran more like an episode of Inside the Actor’s Studio, with Petron serving as both interviewer and moderator.

Emmett elicited laughs with stories about his lean Hollywood start—four years of being mostly broke and sleeping on friends’ couches.

“I was obsessed and I knew that I wasn’t going to go home without doing what I wanted to do,” Emmett recalled. “For the most part, I was so passionate about never quitting and about getting to that end goal.”     

Gradually, he created a network of influential co-workers and friends, including actor Mark Wahlberg, who hired him as a personal assistant, and his current producing partner George Furla, who funded his first feature film.

Emmett described producing Scorsese’s Silence as the opportunity of a lifetime. Critics have praised the film—a star-laden depiction of Shusaku Endo’s novel about two 17th-century Portuguese priests who face persecution in Japan in their quest to find their mentor. “It’s my proudest moment in my career,” Emmett said, referring to his work on the film.

By his own admission, he was a lackluster student in high school with a talent for the stage. Petron admitted him to the theater department on the strength of his audition, and Adelphi gave him a scholarship. After a year, Emmett realized that his true passion was to be behind the camera, and he left Adelphi to pursue a B.F.A. in Film and Video.

Still, Adelphi had a profound effect on his career. So much so that his final performance at Adelphi in the David Mamet play, Speed-the-Plow, inspired him to produce an upcoming film adaptation of the play.

“Take advantage of being here because this is a really special place for me,” Emmett advised the assembled students. “This is a version of the real world because it sets you up to have the discipline to go on.”


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Adelphi University, New York, is a highly awarded, nationally ranked, powerfully connected doctoral research university dedicated to transforming students’ lives through small classes with world-class faculty, hands-on learning and innovative ways to support academic and career success. Adelphi offers exceptional liberal arts and sciences programs and professional training, with particular strength in our Core Four—Arts and Humanities, STEM and Social Sciences, the Business and Education Professions, and Health and Wellness.

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