(L-R): Actor Al Pacino, actor-producer Robert De Niro and director-producer Martin Scorsese attend the press conference for their epic crime drama, ‘The Irishman,’ at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall during the 57th New York Film Festival.

Crafting a richly textured and epic tale that explores the full influence of crime on all aspects of American life through several decades is not an easy task for many filmmakers. But Academy Award-winning director-producer, Martin Scorsese has powerfully returned to his roots in the crime genre with his upcoming movie, ‘The Irishman,’ which features a dense, complex story that focuses on both the professional and personal life of labor union official-turned-hitman, Frank Sheeran in the mid-20th century.

‘The Irishman’ is a classic crime tale that chronicles the guilt and redemption of Sheeran, who was known as the title moniker, and had ties to the Bufalino crime family. The drama, which is based on Charles Brandt’s 2004 nonfiction book, ‘I Heard You Paint Houses,’ was written by Steve Zaillian. The screen adaptation is set to have a limited theatrical release beginning on November 1, which will be followed by its digital streaming premiere on Netflix on November 27.

The film reunited Scorsese with his ‘Taxi Driver,’ ‘Raging Bull’ and ‘Cape Fear’ star, Robert De Niro, who portrays Sheeran, and also served as a producer. The duo also reconnected with Joe Pesci, who also appeared with De Niro in the Scorsese-helmed dramas, ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘Casino.’

‘The Irishman’ begins with an elderly Frank, who, near the end of his life, is recounting his experiences to an unseen listener in his nursing home. Frank notes that he began his career as a truck driver for Teamsters 107 out of Philadelphia in the 1950s, during which he first encountered Russell Bufalino (Pesci), the head of the Northeastern Pennsylvania crime family. As Frank also begins to partake in petty crime, in order to further support his family, he also meets Philadelphia’s new crime boss, Angelo Bruno (Harvey Keitel), and made enough of an impression on the two crime bosses to begin climbing up the ladder of the crime syndicate.

As Frank continues to carry out jobs for Russell, as well as members of the South Philadelphia underworld, Russell introduces him to Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino), the head of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and has financial ties to the Northeastern Pennsylvania crime family. As Frank becomes close with Jimmy, Russell and Angelo begin to become leery of their bond, as the latter labor union leader is receiving mounting pressure and suspicion from the federal government. After the government’s inquiry into the gangsters’ activities eventually leads to a grand jury investigation into Jimmy’s later disappearance, Frank and his cohorts must face the consequences of their lives of crime.

Scorsese, De Niro, Pacino, Pesci and fellow producers, Emma Tillinger Koskoff and Jane Rosenthal, generously took the time on Friday to participate in a press conference, which was moderated by New York Film Festival (NYFF) director, Kent Jones at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall during the 57th NYFF. During the conference, the director, actors and producers talked about helming, producing and starring in ‘The Irishman,’ which served as the festival‘s opening movie. Among other things, the group discussed the process of making the drama over the course of several decades, putting the acclaimed cast together, finding the story’s emotional center in the adaptation process and the at times challenging process of the digital effects.

During the press conference, Scorsese delved into why it took so long for him to reunite De Niro. The filmmaker explained, “Bob and I wanted to work together since we did ‘Casino,’ which was in 1995. We would continuously check what we were doing…and we could never quite connect. When Bob presented the book to me, I could see he was very strongly attached to the character…So I got Steve Zaillian to come on and write the script about ten years ago. We also talked about Al and Joe being in it.”

De Niro also chimed in, stating that “Joe and I would talk about the movie, too…We went through a long process talking about it, but I’m just happy we all got to finally do it, because it did take a long time. We were lucky to have the people to put up the money, so that Marty was able to do it the way he wanted to do it.”

The filmmaker then chimed in on getting the budget together for the epic crime drama. “That was the key, because we couldn’t get the backing for years…and ultimately it was Ted Sarandos.”

Part of the struggle of securing the budget was the costly visual effects that were required to de-age the cast during the story’s decades-long plot. “Pablo Helman at Industrial Light & Magic had come up with a solution for the de-aging process that wouldn’t interfere with Bob, Joe and Al talking to each other with helmets on or with tennis balls on their faces. Seriously, I said they’re not going to do it!,” Scorsese noted. “We made tests a few years ago, but it was a costly experiment. But (Netflix chief) Ted (Sarandosa) everyone at Netflix said they’d go with it, and they actually backed the film and financed it. They were creatively attuned to us, so there was no interference of any kind.”

Watch the full ‘The Irishman’ NYFF press conference in the above video, and the drama’s official trailer below.

By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *