It has been 15 years since Robert De Niro last starred in a Martin Scorsese film. If all goes according to plan, that streak will end next year. The two hope to begin filming The Irishman in 2011.

Al Pacino and Joe Pesci were rumored to be involved, but beggars can’t be choosers and this quasi-confirmation from the director is enough to hold us down for a while. According to Collider, the announcement came at BAFTA’s Life in Pictures event. The film will bring back the De Niro of old as he portrays mob hitman Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, who allegedly murdered Jimmy Hoffa.

De Niro is an icon. He falls under the same category as Jon Favreau’s comparison of Harrison Ford (Cowboys and Aliens) to John Wayne. Like Wayne, each actor brings their entire body of work with them. For all the gangsters De Niro has portrayed over the years, it will be nice to see him as a hitman for once, instead of ordering the hits. But with that “body of work” come the pitfalls as well.

Right now, audiences are not sure what to think of De Niro. He remains unpredictable by performing in films like the upcoming Little Fockers, which releases December 22nd. The question is whether or not roles like these, which clearly play off the humor of his past onscreen characters, are damaging to his reputation. I can tell you he could care less.

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Producer and longtime friend, Jane Rosenthal, has frequently explained that De Niro is simply in touch with his comedic side. He loves to laugh and joke around, so comedic films are a natural avenue for him to experience that kind of entertainment. It’s not like he hasn’t taken more serious roles of late. De Niro recently starred opposite Edward Norton in Stone and finished shooting an Italian film Manuale d’amore 3 with Monica Bellucci.

Yet, The Irishman is a welcome return to his “mob roots.” Once Scorsese inevitably completes the financing phase of pre-production, the ball can truly begin rolling on the film. Steve Zaillian (Schindler’s List, Gangs of New York) is already writing the script based on the Charles Brandt novel I Heard You Paint Houses.

While Scorsese wants to begin production next year, the projects are piling up. He is currently filming the 3D family mystery Hugo Cabret, developing his Sinatra biopic and potentially producing a Theodore Roosevelt biopic. But the entertainment industry is a better place when Martin Scorsese is busy and the addition of Robert De Niro in one of those projects is like a warm sunrise on a cold, winter morning.

Can Scorsese and De Niro get back to their gangster ways or has De Niro gone soft? Shoot away in the comments section below.

Source: Collider