After years of lingering in development hell, it appears that Martin Scorsese’s mob picture The Irishman is coming into fruition. Based on the Charles Brandt book I Heard You Paint Houses, it tells the story of famed hitman Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, who had information about the disappearance and death of Jimmy Hoffa. The Irishman promises to be a team-up of cinematic legends; not only is Scorsese behind the camera, he’d reunite with his old muse Robert De Niro and work with Al Pacino for the first time in his career. Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel are also expected to join the cast.
U.S. distributor Paramount was aiming to sell the international rights during the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, finalizing an agreement with Fabrica de Cine (which financed Scorsese’s religious drama Silence). Despite the pedigree of The Irishman, there was some concern due to a rather high $100 million production budget (the director plans to digitally de-age his older actors for flashback scenes). However, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity proved too good for STX Entertainment to pass up and the burgeoning studio stuck a deal for those coveted international rights.
The news comes courtesy of Deadline, who say that STX came out on top following a lengthy negotiation process on Saturday, May 14. It could be a record for a Cannes sale, reported to be around $50 million. Paramount remains the American distributor, and Fabirca de Cine will help bankroll The Irishman. STX outbid heavy hitters such as Universal, Fox, and Lionsgate, making this a major victory for the studio that was only founded in 2014.
With these pieces in place, Scorsese can now move forward on the long-gestating film that’s been trying to get off the ground since 2010. There’s no telling when production would start, but De Niro was hopeful that the cameras could be rolling at some point in 2016. That could very well happen, but Scorsese is still putting the finishing touches on Silence (which is due later this year), so the start date for The Irishman will most likely depend on when the filmmaker’s schedule opens up. One would have to think it would be soon, since there was much interest in acquiring the rights at Cannes.
Though it can be argued that the likes of De Niro, Pesci, and Pacino are no longer in their primes, each one is more than capable of delivering a knockout performance when the material is there. Scorsese, who has aged like fine wine, always gets the most of his cast, and he’s snagged an ace screenwriter for The Irishman. The script is penned by Steve Zaillian, who has been nominated for four Academy Awards (winning in 1993 for Schindler’s List). He previously collaborated with Scorsese on the period piece Gangs of New York. There’s no denying that’s a talented creative team familiar with the workings of the genre. Chances are this De Niro/Pacino vehicle is more Heat than Righteous Kill.
All in all, this is a very exciting development for cinephiles. Scorsese and De Niro is one of the film industry’s premiere pairings, as the two have worked on bona fide classics like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas. Should De Niro sign on, this would be their first movie together since 1995’s Casino (which, coincidentally, was the last time Pesci made a Scorsese film). Now, more than 20 years later, the band’s getting back together for another true life tale of organized crime, conceivably for the last time. The Irishman is shaping up to be a true event film for that reason alone, and there will be several eyes watching it closely.
The Irishman does not have a release date. We’ll keep you updated as more information becomes available.