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

YouTube Premium cancelled TV shows A24 travel Black Mirror Lifetime The CW spy thriller MTV Vudu Musicals Ovation asian-american game of thrones Holiday 2017 Winners Pop TV mutant WGN Crunchyroll 4/20 Teen Binge Guide TIFF adaptation ratings FX on Hulu Syfy Polls and Games criterion transformers GoT Hallmark Amazon Studios serial killer AMC Animation video on demand indie romantic comedy PlayStation news binge Film Festival Bravo docudrama period drama chucky parents Spectrum Originals game show Dark Horse Comics diversity hist sag awards TV Arrowverse Mary Poppins Returns Mystery El Rey hispanic witnail Writers Guild of America Pet Sematary spider-man Nickelodeon The Witch golden globes a nightmare on elm street Sundance TV Pixar BBC America Rocketman Chernobyl Amazon Prime Video IFC Films Tumblr all-time DirecTV PaleyFest PBS Emmy Nominations stoner blockbuster concert Brie Larson Family Food Network Shondaland Marvel Adult Swim Amazon Prime Reality Competition WarnerMedia TCA DC Universe dceu name the review Winter TV MSNBC OWN Women's History Month Drama Hallmark Christmas movies dragons E3 Rock Esquire crime drama YA ITV LGBT Awards Pop American Society of Cinematographers DC Comics Musical nature Apple The Arrangement Emmys critics Premiere Dates documentary Spring TV Reality Holidays 21st Century Fox Spike child's play Trophy Talk police drama Funimation Podcast TLC 2016 crime ghosts Logo TV renewals spinoff comiccon spain SundanceTV Discovery Channel anthology Ghostbusters Comedy Central dramedy composers technology medical drama Fox News franchise Walt Disney Pictures canceled discovery best TruTV Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Disney streaming service cancelled TV series 20th Century Fox Peacock screen actors guild psychological thriller Tubi space Baby Yoda BET Kids & Family Sony Pictures supernatural Anna Paquin HBO OneApp crime thriller revenge Fantasy Election Action Cosplay Lucasfilm cancelled television Mudbound adventure 71st Emmy Awards Thanksgiving SDCC Showtime festivals Year in Review disaster Academy Awards 2015 BBC The Walking Dead sequel south america Red Carpet Pirates political drama Crackle talk show batman CBS IFC Netflix free movies reboot Country Horror NYCC 2018 films Trivia Western breaking bad Comedy Christmas television Cannes FXX Freeform cars LGBTQ A&E Turner VOD sitcom dark spanish language APB Paramount cats Shudder werewolf Music cartoon Disney Channel Black History Month YouTube HBO Go Comic Book Super Bowl casting Calendar See It Skip It Tomatazos ABC Travel Channel Pride Month blaxploitation quibi comedies teaser canceled TV shows true crime CW Seed First Reviews justice league Set visit YouTube Red movies Acorn TV latino twilight BET Awards zombie Heroines GIFs Best and Worst Star Wars cancelled zombies cooking Nat Geo doctor who robots Superheroes Turner Classic Movies strong female leads TCM book Stephen King science fiction thriller Valentine's Day reviews Superheroe ESPN Character Guide animated dc Sneak Peek 007 documentaries satire Mary poppins CBS All Access Awards Tour series DC streaming service renewed TV shows Opinion joker die hard emmy awards richard e. Grant jamie lee curtis VICE facebook natural history scary movies psycho Starz HBO Max movie what to watch Watching Series Universal 2020 Britbox comic Oscars Infographic Film Netflix Christmas movies Marvel Television social media sports MCU rotten movies we love Television Critics Association based on movie RT21 miniseries CMT Marvel Studios Sundance Now finale crossover CNN Disney Plus Disney+ Disney Plus Sundance anime TCA Awards Television Academy unscripted indiana jones Martial Arts award winner Interview Hear Us Out NBC streaming Song of Ice and Fire Grammys Tarantino Toys Lifetime Christmas movies directors Columbia Pictures DGA TCA 2017 Classic Film Creative Arts Emmys Comics on TV tv talk Ellie Kemper cults mission: impossible war Marathons GLAAD versus Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt independent politics cinemax Sci-Fi slashers Biopics 24 frames 2019 TCA Winter 2020 Warner Bros. dogs Summer mockumentary Paramount Network Amazon Disney boxoffice elevated horror harry potter USA Network Nominations cops historical drama First Look toy story Schedule Elton John RT History President 45 Quiz biography The Purge universal monsters children's TV christmas movies Epix theme song romance green book kids Trailer Cartoon Network Captain marvel Avengers aliens New York Comic Con Extras Star Trek Mindy Kaling screenings foreign Photos Fall TV vampires Masterpiece Rom-Com TNT BAFTA Countdown Certified Fresh Box Office SXSW USA comics Apple TV+ TV Land Hulu X-Men Video Games zero dark thirty stand-up comedy E! ABC Family VH1 San Diego Comic-Con singing competition Mary Tyler Moore National Geographic video FX BBC One TBS halloween Endgame Apple TV Plus Lionsgate FOX History Rocky