Everything We Know

Everything We Know About Martin Scorsese's The Irishman

We dig into the celebrated director's long-in-development passion project -- its premise, its stunning cast, its release, and why it took so long to make.

by | July 31, 2019 | Comments

Will The Irishman Bring Oscar Glory to Netflix?

Can a de-aged De Niro bring home an Oscar for ‘The Irishman’? We explore what brought Scorsese’s passion project to Netflix.

Posted by The Rotten Tomatoes Channel on Thursday, August 1, 2019

Martin Scorsese’s latest feature film, The Irishman, has been talked about for years, enduring financial, developmental, and technological bumps along the way, but with the release of the teaser trailer this morning, we finally get our first look at what it’ll look like, when it’ll come out (sort of), and who’s involved, but let’s be honest, this trailer had you at “hello.”

So, let’s break down what we know — and don’t know — about Martin Scorsese’s Netflix-produced film The Irishman. [Updated on 7/31/19.]

The Premise

Jimmy Hoffa

Jimmy Hoffa in 1961

Based on I Heard You Paint Houses, the biography of Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran by Charles Brandt, The Irishman tells the story of mafia hitman Sheeran and his relationship to, and possible murder of, Teamsters Union leader Jimmy Hoffa. The disappearance (but let’s just call it murder) of Jimmy Hoffa is one of the most notorious organized crime stories of the 20th century, and more than 40 years later, the case still remains unsolved.

Hoffa’s connections to organized crime began in the 1930s when he was a union activist in New York, and it was here that the young Hoffa first gained an audience with mafia dons Russell Bufalino and Angelo Bruno. After years of moving up in the Teamsters Union, all while making shady backdoor deals with the East Coast mafia, Hoffa became president of the Teamsters from 1957 until 1971 and turned it into one of the most powerful in the world.

But, on July 30, 1975, just four years after stepping down as Teamsters president, Hoffa vanished without a trace. The unsolved disappearance has led to countless theories of what happened, including ones that posit Hoffa was either buried underneath Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands, compacted in a car and sold as scrap metal and shipped to Japan, or buried under a suburban Detroit driveway. The one commonality is that they all agree the mafia had him taken out.

The teaser trailer released today seems to have higher ambitions than just exploring Hoffa’s rise, fall, and presumed death, however. With frequent allusions to John F. Kennedy and the role of “big business and the government,” it seems like The Irishman will tackle the connections between a tangled web of organized crime, crooked unions, and American politics in the 20th century.

The Cast and Crew

Universal courtesy Everett Collection

(Photo by Universal courtesy Everett Collection)

We first got a glimpse of the type of talent in this movie in the initial teaser (even though it was only their names), but now we finally get to see some of the greatest actors in film history and one of the most beloved and revered directors of all time doing their thing.

We all know the work Scorsese, De Niro, Keitel, and Pesci have done together, including Mean StreetsTaxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, and Casino, but adding Pacino to that crew is the pistachios on the cannoli.

In the upcoming film, Pacino plays Union leader Hoffa and De Niro plays his friend and alleged killer Sheeran, while Keitel and Pesci play bosses of rival East Coast crime families.

But the talent doesn’t stop there, as The Irishman’s roster is both top heavy and deep. In addition to these heavy hitters, the film will also feature Oscar winner Anna Paquin, two-time Emmy winner Bobby Cannavale, two-time Emmy nominee Jesse Plemons, and Emmy-winner Ray Romano.

In case you weren’t keeping count, that cast features actors who have been nominated for a combined 19 Oscars, 35 Golden Globes, and 27 Emmys, and have collectively taken home five Oscars, five Golden Globes, and seven Emmys. And that’s just in front of the camera.

Between Scorsese, screenwriter Steven Zaillian, editor Thelma Shoonmaker, and cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, the talent behind the camera has combined for 25 Academy Award noms and four wins.

So, with all that talent and excitement, how has it taken so long for this film to get made?

The Journey

Andrew Cooper/Paramount courtesy Everett Collection

(Photo by Andrew Cooper/Paramount courtesy Everett Collection)

This film has been a passion project for director Martin Scorsese for years, with news coming about the potential film as far back as 2008. (That same article refers to Scorsese’s adaptation of Shutter Island as an upcoming release, just to give a sense of how long ago 2008 was.)

Since then, the film has floundered in development hell, and Scorsese moved on to directing other long-gestating passion projects like Hugo, The Wolf of Wall Street, and 2016’s Silence. But Scorsese kept coming back to the story of the most famous mob hit in history, and finally, in 2017, Paramount and Fábrica de Cine came together to co-finance the film and aim for a 2019 release.

So how did it end up on Netflix, you ask?

The Budget

Mean Streets

Yes, like all things, it comes down to cold, hard cash.

Initially targeted for a $100 million budget, the movie’s cost soon ballooned to nearly $200,000,000 after the production opted to use a CGI de-aging technique to make De Niro, Pacino, and co. appear younger while playing the younger versions of their characters.

Because of this price tag (and perhaps still feeling the burn left by Silence, which cost upwards of $50 million and took in less than $25 million at the box office), Fábrica de Cine and Paramount decided to back out of the project less than a year after agreeing to fund it.

Fábrica de Cine producer Gaston Pavlovich explained this difficult decision, saying “We quickly realized that Marty and De Niro really thought that the aging process was going to be a very important aspect of this film. The traditional model was not going to work with this new vision of the project… [we could not] risk that amount [of money] when all our data was telling us that it was not going to come back.”

Thankfully, Netflix stepped in, and the importance is not lost on Scorsese, who recently said, “People such as Netflix are taking risks. The Irishman is a risky film. No one else wanted to fund the pic for five to seven years. And of course we’re all getting older. Netflix took the risk.”


(Photo by Netflix)

Even so, the CGI de-aging comes with both budgetary and cinematic concerns. Previously used on Brad Pitt in Benjamin Button, Jeff Bridges in Tron: Legacy, and Robert Downey Jr. in Captain America: Civil War, the de-aging technology has advanced in recent years to appear more natural, but still remains costly. So costly, in fact, that until Samuel L. Jackson (and, perhaps less noticeably, Clark Gregg) was made to look 25 years younger in the recent Captain Marvel, it had only been used sparingly.

Editor Thelma Schoonmaker called it a “risk,” saying, “We’re youthifying the actors in the first half of the movie. And then the second half of the movie they play their own age. So that’s a big risk. We’re having that done by Industrial Light and Magic Island, ILM. That’s a big risk.”

While it might be cool to see young Pacino, young De Niro, young Pesci, and young Keitel in the same scene, it could also venture too close to the uncanny valley and take the viewers out of the film.

Schoonmaker has also expressed some trepidation over how the public is going to view seeing a 30-year-old Pacino, De Niro, et al. in a 2019 movie: “I haven’t gotten a whole scene where they’re young, and what I’m going to have to see, and what Marty’s going to have to see, is ‘How is it affecting the rest of the movie, when you see them young?’” In that same interview, the eminent editor said that, of the few people they’ve screened the movie for, “nobody minds. Nobody minds watching them play young, because they’re gripped.”

While we don’t see too much of the de-aged film legends in the teaser trailer, what we do see looks pretty good. On first impressions, the one shot of a young De Niro talking on the phone might be a little distracting, but this is just the first glimpse, so that’s a given. With what is sure to be stellar directing from Scorsese and brilliant acting from some silver screen legends, audiences likely won’t even notice that there’s a 40-something Robert De Niro in a 2019 movie.

The Release

Paramount Pictures

(Photo by Paramount Pictures)

As one of Netflix’s main prestige productions for 2019, it was always expected that The Irishman would be released at the heart of awards season, and now we have confirmation.

It was recently announced that The Irishman will celebrate its world premiere as the Opening Night film for the 2019 New York Film Festival on September 27. Most likely, the film will be available for the general public a few weeks later in theaters and on your couch.

Previously, Scorsese has expressed his disdain for movie-watching on small screens, saying that when he was growing up, films “had to be shown in certain ways — people went to a movie, it wasn’t something you could choose or pick up, or walk out of the room. You actually made a commitment. It was a different experience.” He continued, “the ideal would be to see cinema in its proper context… It’s a problem of pure concentration.”

Robert de Niro agrees, saying at a recent film festival, “Movies have to be shown on a big screen.” It appears Netflix also shares this sentiment, as the teaser trailer announces that the film will be shown in “select theaters.”

Unfortunately, we still don’t really know when exactly The Irishman will be released. But we now know that it will have a splashy premiere at a prestigious film festival at the end of September, and will be shown in theaters and on the streaming service sometime this Fall.

The Irishman  is currently set to release in select theaters an on Netflix during the Fall of 2019.

Tag Cloud

comedies international independent gangster action-comedy richard e. Grant laika IFC Peacock obituary what to watch 99% anthology Disney+ Disney Plus Baby Yoda blaxploitation Nickelodeon reviews live action marvel comics 2017 Disney Plus HBO game show halloween tv kids scary movies cooking Christmas spanish Bravo anime Thanksgiving elevated horror Country romance saw Britbox Star Trek blockbusters Certified Fresh Podcast President venice Apple TV Plus Tokyo Olympics Marathons adenture Shondaland Premiere Dates video on demand Starz Tomatazos Box Office Alien A&E cinemax a nightmare on elm street scene in color docudrama Amazon Prime ratings Columbia Pictures Walt Disney Pictures Star Wars mob feel good mcc Best and Worst sopranos 007 video Emmy Nominations dragons Arrowverse award winner halloween Turner dc Cosplay casting Nat Geo australia foreign composers TNT Trophy Talk young adult Comic-Con@Home 2021 Teen rom-coms worst movies supernatural Avengers Interview twilight HBO Max south america superman comic books Freeform Travel Channel VOD Sneak Peek black comedy Exclusive Video reboot biography Disney streaming service witnail Year in Review Grammys dramedy natural history thriller art house cults OWN mutant OneApp prank ghosts Wes Anderson 93rd Oscars rt labs critics edition Cannes Lifetime Christmas movies E3 new york scorecard Mary Tyler Moore boxing Comedy theme song quibi Showtime Vudu high school unscripted Rock werewolf GoT Character Guide FX on Hulu BBC America Hallmark Christmas movies The Academy Reality Competition wonder woman Black History Month Emmys Crackle History razzies Quiz doctor who Polls and Games Trailer diversity Sony Pictures National Geographic Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt GLAAD Television Critics Association screen actors guild fast and furious canceled cancelled Spike harry potter 2016 facebook NYCC news VICE dceu Film Festival sag awards critics cartoon worst binge comic golden globe awards Superheroes archives basketball child's play suspense Instagram Live dogs TCA Awards Lifetime Chernobyl TIFF Horror The Arrangement E! Pet Sematary science fiction talk show First Look Spectrum Originals cancelled television target space hispanic Trivia Amazon First Reviews SundanceTV italian Mindy Kaling godzilla satire USA Network superhero remakes Video Games American Society of Cinematographers DC Comics Music FX zombie CNN book DGA spy thriller X-Men Tumblr cops TV One nbcuniversal Captain marvel Ovation Fargo james bond crime drama Winners Image Comics politics Disney Spring TV toronto Comic Book olympics ITV Photos Election renewed TV shows 2015 deadpool Song of Ice and Fire hist CW Seed tv talk WGN period drama CMT The Walt Disney Company jurassic park ID Sundance Now directors psychological thriller documentary Extras crime thriller know your critic APB hollywood slashers king kong PBS adaptation TV movies biopic 2021 disaster Awards Tour Food Network Paramount Plus Lucasfilm Mary Poppins Returns genre TCM Cartoon Network revenge Anna Paquin Animation hispanic heritage month Women's History Month IFC Films hidden camera Awards trailers Marvel marvel cinematic universe 73rd Emmy Awards ESPN Nominations Biopics Netflix Christmas movies Marvel Studios streaming AMC dreamworks Amazon Prime Video women Marvel Television best Comics on TV name the review CBS ABC Family heist movie boxoffice The Walking Dead HBO Go WarnerMedia romantic comedy Warner Bros. 45 Opinion Netflix The CW justice league TBS Drama Western Tubi ABC Signature ABC Universal aliens LGBTQ breaking bad dexter cancelled TV series El Rey sequel Rom-Com BET french TCA 2017 NBA cancelled TV shows Rocketman Adult Swim universal monsters Martial Arts teaser all-time series new zealand movies asian-american 20th Century Fox mockumentary Logo live event historical drama joker Film chucky AMC Plus Pride Month psycho The Witch franchise Classic Film Apple TV+ Shudder Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Binge Guide crossover Creative Arts Emmys Pirates MCU rt archives Infographic singing competition FXX 1990s streaming movies Discovery Channel San Diego Comic-Con indie Elton John FOX MSNBC stop motion Turner Classic Movies Mary poppins Lionsgate pirates of the caribbean 2019 Dark Horse Comics Fall TV Pop TV spider-man concert spinoff BAFTA medical drama Pixar 71st Emmy Awards NBC parents Tarantino Heroines Set visit BBC One royal family DirecTV 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards TCA Winter 2020 Mystery 2020 spanish language Academy Awards Valentine's Day Acorn TV mission: impossible 72 Emmy Awards A24 strong female leads football classics aapi Endgame war slasher kaiju Apple transformers sequels comic book movies critic resources SDCC Ellie Kemper Disney Channel PaleyFest book adaptation YouTube TV Land batman monster movies ViacomCBS YouTube Premium debate Fox Searchlight sitcom Superheroe green book Rocky TLC Musicals Calendar Countdown Watching Series toy story rt labs GIFs vampires movie serial killer dark Sundance festival DC Universe Ghostbusters zombies Black Mirror criterion USA Broadway japanese robots crime Masterpiece emmy awards telelvision BBC VH1 Winter TV canceled TV shows Kids & Family animated television IMDb TV RT21 cats Hulu 90s docuseries christmas movies black technology screenings latino Syfy posters political drama nfl indiana jones Universal Pictures DC streaming service See It Skip It rotten movies we love golden globes BET Awards true crime Oscars Sci-Fi scary Paramount Network Super Bowl Comedy Central Schedule festivals YA Epix based on movie Television Academy comics Fantasy 4/20 Hallmark YouTube Red finale The Purge Musical vs. zero dark thirty kong Legendary SXSW Holiday Pacific Islander films cars Red Carpet Reality Crunchyroll popular stoner LGBT Mudbound Funimation spain fresh sports stand-up comedy 2018 Amazon Studios new star wars movies MTV rotten blockbuster travel Writers Guild of America 24 frames CBS All Access TV police drama Stephen King Family documentaries spider-verse social media lord of the rings Summer children's TV legend Hear Us Out versus Pop New York Comic Con die hard free movies discovery PlayStation Action comiccon Brie Larson Esquire Toys jamie lee curtis 21st Century Fox TruTV TV renewals Neflix game of thrones RT History Paramount nature king arthur TCA Fox News miniseries adventure Holidays comic book movie japan Sundance TV