VIDEO: Netflix releases Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’ teaser trailer about NEPA hitman and crime family
In February, a commercial for “The Irishman” aired on television during the Oscars, but it simply confirmed that the highly anticipated Martin Scorsese film would be coming to Netflix this fall without showing any footage, instead opting for a simple voiceover as bullet shells fell past the names of stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel.
Today, Netflix has finally released a real teaser trailer for the movie based on the 2004 true crime bestseller “I Heard You Paint Houses” by Charles Brandt about the life of hitman Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran:
Employed by the Bufalino crime family, which was based in Northeastern Pennsylvania, Sheeran confessed to committing more than 25 murders for the mob, including labor union leader Jimmy Hoffa, who was famously never found. The Bufalino family operated out of Pittston, Scranton, and Wilkes-Barre, so it is safe to say that parts of “The Irishman” will take place in NEPA, though nothing was shot in the area.
The official synopsis reads:
Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci star in Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” an epic saga of organized crime in post-war America told through the eyes of World War II veteran Frank Sheeran, a hustler and hitman who worked alongside some of the most notorious figures of the 20th century. Spanning decades, the film chronicles one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in American history, the disappearance of legendary union boss Jimmy Hoffa, and offers a monumental journey through the hidden corridors of organized crime: its inner workings, rivalries, and connections to mainstream politics.
Scorsese and De Niro collaborated on some of the greatest organized crime movies of all time, including “Mean Streets,” “Goodfellas,” and “Casino,” along with other classics like “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull,” and “Cape Fear,” so “The Irishman” is shaping up to be another legendary film. It will mark their ninth movie and first full-length feature they’ve worked on together since “Casino” in 1995.
Work on “The Irishman” started in 2008 at Paramount Pictures, but after Scorsese’s “Silence” underperformed at the box office, production was delayed until Netflix took the reigns in 2017. While there will be a very limited theatrical release so it is eligible for awards next year, this will be Scorsese’s first movie to go directly to a streaming service since they’re footing the bill for his (and the company’s) most expensive film yet; the budget has reportedly surpassed $140 million and may go as high as $200 million.
“There had been a lot of juggling regarding who would put money in and when it was coming,” De Niro said in an interview with Collider in December. “When Netflix came in, they just came in. They relieved a lot of anxiety and grief about doing it in a certain way, the way Marty wanted to do the film, and it’s as it should be. So now it has to be presented in a traditional grand style. When Netflix switches to small screens, even if today they can be big, that’s something to be worked out and debated. I don’t know where that stands.”
The rising budget is due to the long shoot (the longest of Scorsese’s career at 106 days), the handsome paychecks for its director and stars, and mainly to pay for the costly CGI by Industrial Light and Magic that will de-age the cast so they can play these people throughout different decades of their lives. Now 79, Pacino talked about this technology on The Bill Simmons Podcast last year and how it affected his performance.
“There’s computers on the camera sides, and they’re various ages. So physically, you’re changed. I was playing Jimmy Hoffa at the age of 39, they’re doing that on a computer. We went through all these tests and things. And then I’m playing 48, even in my 50s. Someone would come up to me and say, ‘You’re 39.’ [You’d recall] some sort of memory of 39, and your body tries to acclimate to that and think that way. They remind you of it,” Pacino explained.
“The idea was to go back four, maybe five decades, so Marty wanted the people at ILM to do this as best as it’s been done to this point, to make us look younger,” De Niro said in the Collider interview. “And I was excited by that. It gave us the freedom to do scenes when we are younger and not worry about makeup so much. Sometimes we used movies when I’m in my 50s, in my earlier years, just without makeup. So I’m very curious to see how it looks.”
While it will be interesting to see if this truly works on screen, the real payoff is in watching Scorsese and De Niro work together again. This is the fourth time De Niro and Pacino will star together in a film, but “The Irishman” will surprisingly mark the first time Pacino has been directed by Scorsese. Pesci is even coming out of retirement to rejoin his “Goodfellas” and “Casino” collaborators.
Don’t expect this movie to be another “Goodfellas,” however, according to Oscar-winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker, who has edited Scorsese’s films since “Raging Bull” in 1980.
“It is not ‘Goodfellas.’ It’s completely different. It’s wonderful. They’re going to love it. But please don’t think it’s gonna be ‘Goodfellas,’ because it isn’t,” she emphasized in a recent interview with Yahoo Movies UK, adding that this will make her editing feel different as well.
“It’s a different kind of movie; it’s episodic, it’s not narrative. When you do a narrative film, you’re always saying, ‘Oh well, you know, we could slim that down, we could move the shot, maybe we should integrate that, maybe we should flashback with that.’ That’s not the way this movie is. It actually came together very quickly; it’s very different. You will see. It’s extremely different and it really works, which is very exciting.”
Schoonmaker noted how ambitious and risky the entire project is with its special effects. Other movies have attempted to de-age actors, with mixed results, but this film takes things to a whole different level.
“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. We’re seeing some of it, but 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?'” she said.
“Interestingly, we’ve only been able to screen for very few people, because they’re wearing some things on their faces, and on their clothes, that tracks their movement… Nobody minds. Nobody minds watching them play young because they’re gripped. Very few people have seen it because we can’t show it to a big audience. But the characters are so strong, it doesn’t matter – it’s really funny. I don’t know what it’s going to be like when we get it all – that’s the risk. And it’s an expensive project; [Netflix is] taking a risk there.”
In addition to the face tracking, De Niro talked very briefly about having to wear platform shoes to play the much taller Sheeran on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” last April:
Along with De Niro, Pacino, and Pesci, the star-studded cast also includes Harvey Keitel, Anna Paquin, Bobby Cannavale, and Ray Romano. Those who can’t wait for the film to come out can pick up a copy of Brandt’s book, “I Heard You Paint Houses: Frank ‘The Irishman’ Sheeran and Closing the Case on Jimmy Hoffa,” and read the real story, which now includes some updates in anticipation of “The Irishman.”
As part of the 2019 Northeast Pennsylvania Film Festival, Brandt visited Scranton in March to talk about his book and his meetings with Scorsese, De Niro, and Oscar-winning screenwriter Steven Zaillian in a live presentation titled “When Scorsese Calls.”
“When we had script meetings, it was Scorsese, De Niro, Steve Zaillian, and me in the room. It was like winning the lottery,” Brandt said before the event. “I sat there with these men as part of a very important and historic project. It was awe-inspiring and humbling. They’re such geniuses and I don’t know their craft, but I know that the questions they asked me about the people involved showed a sensitivity and humanity that I was in awe of.”
Watch a clip from NEPA Scene’s exclusive video of this presentation below:
by Rich Howells
Rich is an award-winning journalist, longtime blogger, adequate photographer, podcast co-host, and practicing poet. He is the founder and editor of NEPA Scene.