Why Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman Will Be A Truly Special Film

Abhishek Srivastava - 51 weeks ago

The release of The Irishman is nothing short of an event. The film brings together three stalwarts of Hollywood under one roof. While the film marks Robert De Niro’s 9th association with director Martin Scorsese, Al Pacino for the first time took cues from the ace director. Interest about the film is at an all-time high and with critics showering the film with positive reviews during its screening at the New York Film Festival, it’s certain that the film will further gain momentum close to its release. TFHY details the factors which make The Irishman a true magnum opus.

(Robert De Niro and Sebastian Maniscalco in a still from The Irishman)

After Casino, both De Niro and Scorsese were on the look out for a script which could bring them together. In 2006, they even discovered the basic plot for their next collaboration which was to bring them together after 24 years. The book they together earmarked was Don Winslow’s The Winter of Frankie Machine but to their sheer ill luck Don’s book was about to be made into a film by mandarins at Paramount. It was then De Niro chanced upon Charles Brandt’s I heard You Paint Houses. In an interview to Empire magazine, De Niro had said, “To me this story’s kind of great.”

The film is based on Charles Brandt’s memoir I Heard You Paint Houses and deals with hitman Frank Sheeran, who went from criss crossing America as a truck driver to becoming trusted confidante of labour leader Jimmy Hoffa. ‘I Heard You Paint Houses’ was a code word for mafia during the 70s and meant hiring contract killers.  

The screenplay of The Irishman was written as early as 2007 by Steven Zaillian (also the man behind the script of Schindler’s List, Moneyball, Mission Impossible). De Niro and Scorsese early on had realized that Al Pacino and Joe Pesci perfectly fit the bill of the two important charatcers in the book – Jimmy Hoffa and Bufalino. The to and fro nature of the book coupled with the scale of the film led to suggestion by people involved in its making that three young actors could play De Niro, Pacino and Pesci in the film. 

(Al Pacino in a still from The Irishman)

A taped reading of the script was scheduled in January 2013 at De Niro’s office at Tribeca which was attended by Scorsese, Keitel, Pacino and Pesci. Before going for the session, Al Pacino had confided in Bobby Cannavale his nervousness of being directed by Martin Scorsese. His nervousness stemmed from the fact that he had never worked before with Scorsese. 

The Irishman remained on backburner for long even as Scorsese finished three films - Hugo, The Wolf of Wall Street and Silence. It was during the shooting of Silence that Martin Scorsese was introduced to Pablo Helman in Taiwan who informed the director of de-ageing technology. 

The film picked up pace again after Scorsese was through with the shooting of Silence but the scale of the film ensured that Paramount dropped out of the film and another financier from Mexico, Fabrica de Cine followed suit. It was then Netflix jumped into the fray to take care of the entire budget of the film and shooting of the film commenced on 18th September 2017. 

(Robert De Niro and Al Pacino shooting in New York for The Irishman)

In the past two decades, Joe Pesci has appeared in just two films and it is said that Joe Pesci had no interest in being part of The Irishman and had rejected the film umpteen times. At that time racehorses and golfing excited him much more than acting in films. Pesci said yes to the film only after De Niro approached him. 

Stephen Graham who shot to fame with This is England and Snatch, plays Anthony Provenzano in the film was apparently so intimidated by the presence of Pesci, Pacino and De Niro on the set that on the first day of the shoot he went to the toilet some seven times and even called his wife to express his fear. 

With a budget close to $160 million, The Irishman was shot at 117 locations in 108 days. The final film has 3019 scenes and has a length slightly less than three hour thirty minutes. 

Al Pacino’s association with Martin Scorsese was supposed to happen long back when they together were involved on a film that dealt with the life of Modigliani, the painter but the film never fructified.


The Irishman / Martin Scorsese / Al Pacino / Robert De Niro / Joe Pesci / Stephan Graham / Charles Brandt / I Heard You Paint Houses / Netflix

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of The Film Hashery.

Sign up to get access to the stories behind films and conversations on cinema worldwide.