Everything You Need To Know About The Irishman

21 August 2019
Netflix, Film, The Irishman, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese, Al Pacino
Image: Netflix

Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro's ninth film together will be landing on Netflix later this year. Here are all the need-to-know details...

It's the stuff of many cinephiles' dreams, a project that sees Scorsese, De Niro, Pacino and Pesci unite for a film that digs deep into the organised crime group that prompted the Kennedys to go after the Mafia in the Sixties. Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro's ninth film together, The Irishman, was born to succeed: the line-up, the story and the $200 million budget bestowed by Netflix put it on the must-watch radar before production even began.

With the film's narrative spanning over 30 years, its a little hard to deduce the specifics of The Irishman's plot from its quick-paced trailer and, as with any film of this calibre, many details about the story are still hush-hush. Still, since the film is based on real events, there's a lot that can be worked out about it without the aid of Scorsese or Netflix. From who De Niro's character was in real life to why the film needed such a huge budget, here's everything you need to know about The Irishman.

What is it about?

If you fancy swotting up with some gangster lit before you watch The Irishman, you'll probably want to read I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt, the book on which the film is based. It tells the tale of Frank Sheeran (De Niro), the mob hitman who got cosy with the Mafia and is thought to be responsible for the death of his friend and union president Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). Based on real events, it's assumed that the film will focus on an elderly Sheeran as he starts to reflect on his life and career as a hitman through flashbacks, hence the need for the de-ageing special effects, a point that Scorsese is particularly anxious about. “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," he said in an interview earlier this year on the realism of the effects. The worry is that the non-chronological order will give viewers ample opportunity to scrutinise the de-aged characters' virtual gloss, with Scorsese also acknowledging that the project was a "risky film" for Netflix to take on.

The real Frank Sheeran

So, who was this Frank Sheeran fella? A 6ft 4in veteran of the Second World War, who later confessed to being involved with multiple massacres and executions of German prisoners of war, Sheeran became a truck driver when he returned to the States, but supplemented his wage with criminal activity. Desensitised after life on duty, he took orders to kill in the same way he'd followed the commands of his army officers and soon became close with Mafia bigwigs Angelo Bruno (Harvey Keitel) and Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci), with the latter serving as Sheeran's mentor throughout the rest of his career. It was also Bufalino who hooked Sheeran up with Jimmy Hoffa, the man who said the famous line "I heard you paint houses", as a grisly allusion to Sheeran's murderous streak that could see blood splattered on his victim's walls. From then on, the pair worked together to protect the union, you know, illegally, until Bufalino later ordered the killing of Hoffa. It's this murder that will take up the majority of the plot in The Irishman, but Sheeran has plenty of other exploits to his name too, including alleged involvement in the assassination of John F Kennedy.

The $200 million budget

Costing $200m, The Irishman is the most expensive film Scorsese has ever made and that is largely down to the special effects that were needed to make De Niro, Pesci and Pacino look younger during the flashbacks. The original budget was supposed to be $125m, but by the end of post-production that figure had spiked, meaning Netflix have had to fork out a grand total of $305m for both the distributing rights and the actual financing of the film. To put that into perspective, the budget for Tarantino's Once Upon A Time In Hollywood was around $95m without distribution rights.

When you can watch it

An official date for The Irishman's widespread release is yet to be confirmed, but the film will premiere at the New York Film Festival on 27 September and will also be shown at the BFI London Film Festival's closing gala on 13 October. It's likely that it will then make its way onto Netflix soon after that, with select cinemas also showing the film, similar to the release of Alfonso Cuarón's Roma last year.

Via British GQ