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October 25, 2019

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Here’s What You Need to Know About The Irishman

As we gear up for the long-awaited launch of Martin Scorsese’s new film, The Irishman, we thought we’d take a deeper dive into all the reasons that there is so much excitement around this release. Cinephiles simply can not wait for this to hit the screens, and critics are already generating plenty of awards buzz. While the film has only screened at a few festivals up until this point, it currently holds a 100% certified fresh rating from 82 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.

Before the film comes to theatres next month and Netflix on November 27th, here’s what you need to know.

A legacy continues.

The Irishman will be Scorsese’s 25th feature over his half-century-long film career. Scorsese is widely regarded as a true master of the medium and massively influential to the industry as a whole. Famed film critic Roger Ebert called him, “one of the source points of modern movies,” and there are next to none that would argue otherwise.

In celebration of his body of work, the TIFF Cinematheque in Toronto will be hosting Scorsese: A Retrospective, beginning October 30 and running through to the new year. You’ll be able to experience all 25 of Scorsese’s feature films, including The Irishman, on the big screen.



I heard you paint houses.

Mugshot of Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran

The Irishman tells the real-life story of Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a mob hitman and war criminal. The film is based on a memoir by crime writer and former homicide investigator, prosecutor and defense attorney Charles Brandt. The memoir, I Heard You Paint Houses: Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran & The Inside Story of the Mafia, the Teamsters & the Last Ride of Jimmy Hoffa, chronicles Sheeran’s life and details the alleged crimes that he confessed to prior to his death in 2003. His confessions include the murder of American labour union leader Jimmy Hoffa.

A long time in the making. 

The film has reportedly been in development since the early 2000s but became repeatedly delayed, hindered by script rewrites, scheduling, budgeting, and even limitations in technology at the time. Since conversations began on this project, Scorsese went on to direct three other films (Hugo, Wolf of Wall Street and Silence) before production for The Irishman could begin.

Screen Shot 2019-10-21 at 3.49.42 PMScreen Shot 2019-10-21 at 3.50.11 PM
Robert De Niro stars in The Irishman as Frank Sheeran in various stages of his life.

Additionally, the script for the film would see the portrayal of Frank Sheeran from as young as his 20s to as old as his 80s. The character was to be played by a single actor, Robert De Niro, throughout the film and only recently has effects technology become advanced and convincing enough to meet the director’s expectations for the film. Audiences will get to see a digitally de-aged de Niro and Joe Pesci in scenes throughout the movie. Luckily, the effects artists had to look no further than Scorsese’s past work for a picture-perfect reference. The artists told Empire that they referenced and recreated de Niro’s performance in Goodfellas to accurately de-age a new performance from him.

Reunited once again. 

This film will mark Scorsese’s ninth feature collaboration with De Niro, who has previously starred under his direction in Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, New York, New York, Raging Bull, The King of Comedy, Goodfellas, Cape Fear, and Casino. Many of these have been ranked among the greatest films of all time. It has been fourteen years since their last film together and there is no doubt that cinephiles are excited to see these two create another classic together.

Actors Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci have previously appeared in three Scorsese films together.

The Irishman also reunites Scorsese with another actor, Joe Pesci. He has been largely retired for years and his role in this film as mob boss Russell Bufalino is his first on-screen feature role in nearly a decade. The trio, Scorsese, De Niro, and Pesci have famously worked together for Raging Bull, Casino and Goodfellas, for which Pesci won his Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. It took some time to convince Pesci to come out of retirement, and it was De Niro that ultimately persuaded him saying, “who knows if we’re ever going to have this chance again? Let’s just do it.”

This film also marks another collaboration with editor Thelma Schoonmaker, who first collaborated with him on his debut feature, Who’s That Knocking at My Door, in 1967 and has edited each and every one of his features since Raging Bull in 1980. Her work has been nominated for seven Academy Awards. She won for Raging Bull, The Aviator, and The Departed. Watch this fascinating interview with her on some of her favourite moments and scenes they’ve created together.

Original gangsters. 

As if De Niro and Pesci were not enough star power on their own, the leading cast for The Irishman is rounded out by none other than Al Pacino. It’s difficult to name an American crime thriller that didn’t involve at least one of these names. Collectively they’ve starred in over 30 crime thrillers and helped to shape the genre. They’ve even appeared on screen together a handful of times. This culmination of on-screen crime bosses is the thing exciting audiences the most. Movie buffs want to see Travis Bickle, Tommy DeVito, and Tony Montana meet. Although this film reunites these many past collaborators, it also marks an exciting first with Pacino’s first time working under Scorsese’s direction.

The Irishman is a momentous movie packed with star power and anticipation. There are plenty of reasons to be excited for it and we’re glad that the wait is almost over. Whether you’re planning to witness it on the big screen or at home on your own stream, this film is definitely one of the best bets for this season.

Watch the latest trailer for The Irishman:

The Irishman opens in theatres on November 8 in Toronto, on November 15 in Vancouver, Ottawa, and Montreal, and on November 22 in Calgary. The film launches globally on Netflix November 27.