It’s the film we feel like we’ve been talking about forever. It’s been in the pipeline for over a decade and it was summer 2017 when we reported that pocket powerhouse Joe Pesci had come out of retirement and signed on (after turning Scorsese down 50 times) to join a cast that on the surface signalled a mini Goodfellas reunion. And who couldn’t fail to get excited about that mouthwatering prospect?
Netflix is bankrolling the film, and it’s going to be the most expensive film of Martin Scorsese’s storied career at a whopping purported cost of between $175 – 200 million. Which we’ll get to later.
Plot & Cast
The film centres around the real-life WWII veteran turned hitman Frank Sheeran, aka The Irishman. The mobs killer for hire who made his former friend, union leader Jimmy Hoffa ‘disappear’ in 1975. Scorsese stalwart Robert DeNiro plays Sheeran in a thankful shift back to the type of hard-nosed role that made him the such a beloved actor. Expect scenery to be chewed up by Al Pacino who plays Hoffa, incredibly in his first time working with the director.
Joe Pesci plays mob head honcho Russell Bufalino who first introduces Sheeran to Hoffa, then later orders the hit on him. Harvey Keitel plays a rival mob boss Angelo Bruno, head of the Philadelphia crime family. The stellar cast is rounded out by Oscar winner Anna Paquin, Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire) and Ray Romano of Everybody Loves Raymond fame.
It’s all based on the book, I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt. A line we hear in the trailer uttered by Pacino’s Hoffa to Sheeran, alluding to his killing, the ‘paint’ being the blood that inevitably splatters the walls.
With the film spanning decades, Scorsese worked with Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic to de-age the actor’s faces. A technique used in recent movies such as Tron: Legacy where Jeff Bridges was given a youthful makeover. It’s a decision that’s come with some controversy with concerns that viewers could be taken out of the film and become distracted by older actors looking so fresh-faced.
It’s thought the scenes with the seemingly youthful DeNiro, Pacino et al will make up the first half of the film, serving as flashbacks to the narrative. In an interview earlier this year the director said,
“Why I’m concerned, is that we’re so used to watching them as the older faces. When we put them all together, it cuts back and forth.”
The painstaking, lengthy and very costly process requires repeated photoshopping of individual movie frames to soften or remove wrinkles and reshape the faces physiological structure. As “The Irishman” chronologies Sheeran’s life over the decades, Scorcese is using the technology to de-age cast members rather than using alternative actors with De Niro appearing as young as 30 years old.
Let’s get back to that budget and why it’s such a whopping figure. Primarily this comes down to the aforementioned de-aging technology which by all accounts took up a massive chunk of change.
Netflix bought the rights to The Irishman for $105 million at the beginning of 2017, after other financers had backed out over rising costs. The streaming giants agreed to stump up the revised $125 million production cash. But due to Scorsese relying heavily on these expensive effects, costs have continued to rise putting the final figure closer to the $200 million mark.
Scorsese’s Biggest Budgets / Box office Takings
Hugo (2011): Between $156 – $170 million budget – $185.8 million made worldwide
The Aviator (2004): $110 million budget – $213.7 million made worldwide
Wolf of Wall Street (2013): $100 million budget – $392 million made worldwide
Gangs of New York (2002): $97 million budget – $193.8 million made worldwide
The Departed (2006): $90 million budget – $291.5 million made worldwide
Shutter Island (2010): $80 million budget – $294.8 million made worldwide
In the current media climate, Netflix were essentially the only game in town when it came to realising Marty’s passion project. They can afford to take risks that even Hollywood studios can’t. Little wonder with over 150 million subscribers to date and along with the recent price increase, that alone will bring in multiple millions of extra revenue month on month that will see the streaming giant continue to dominate the landscape for years to come.
And it’s not just the budget that’s bloated, with the film coming in at a running time of three and a half hours. So not only is it Marty’s most expensive flick, but it will also be his longest to date.
The Irishman premieres at the New York Film Festival on 27 September. it will also play on October 13th at the BFI London Film Festival’s closing gala. On 1st November it hits cinemas before landing on Netflix on 27th November. And we cannot wait. Watch the trailer below.
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