Legendary director Martin Scorsese’s latest film, Silence, has yet to open, but fans of the Oscar winner are already looking ahead to his next project. After spending years in development hell, Scorsese is finally going to helm the crime drama The Irishman, which reunites him with his old muse Robert De Niro (for the first time since 1995’s Casino). It tells the story of Frank Sheeran, a mobster who claimed to have murdered Jimmy Hoffa. Al Pacino is also set to star, marking the first time in his career he will collaborate with Scorsese. Distributor Paramount is eyeing a 2018 release.
One of the reasons why it took so long for The Irishman to come into fruition is because the project sports a production budget of $100 million, which was a concern for some studios. That seems like a rather high price tag for a gangster picture, but there’s actually a good reason for that. Scorsese is going to implement state-of-the-art visual effects technology to digitally de-age his elder actors for certain scenes, a technique that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story gained notoriety for this month.
Speaking with Cinema Blend, producer Gaston Pavlovich discussed the merits of the approach, revealing that they have already conducted tests to get a better idea of how it will work:
“Well it’s an extraordinary technology that we’ve been looking at. You don’t use prosthetics, make-up, they have acting and the technology is able to have them go through different time ages without the prosthetics. So we’ve seen some tests and it looks extraordinary. We were able to film Bob and just do a scene, and we saw it come down to when he was like 20, 40, 60, so we’re looking forward to that, from that point of view, for The Irishman … Imagine seeing what De Niro looked like in The Godfather 2 days, that’s pretty much how you’re going to see him again.”
As stated above, director Gareth Edwards used this revolutionary CGI for Rogue One, most notably for the scenes involving Grand Moff Tarkin (played by the late Peter Cushing in A New Hope). Some viewers felt that the recreation of Cushing’s likeness was very well done, while others were a little distracted and thought it raised fascinating ethical questions for the film industry to consider. It will be interesting to see how the technology is used in The Irishman, but right now it’s hard to fault the decision. If the crime drama is to require flashbacks, it’d be better to use De Niro, Pacino, and others and then digitally de-age them. If younger actors are brought in, it would run the risk of being a poor imitation. It’ll be disorientating for some to see 1970s De Niro back on the big screen in 2018, but if the filmmakers have those capabilities, they should use them.
It should also be comforting for cinephiles that Scorsese has never been one to dabble in splashy digital effects just for kicks. He’s most likely thought long and hard about the best way to tackle these scenes, and if he thinks this is the way to go, he has more than earned the benefit of the doubt. Also, any sequences where the young De Niro and Pacino return would probably be a short portion of the running time. As of now, the plan is to only use the technology for flashbacks, not the entire movie, so it’s not as if The Irishman will be leaning too heavily on it. Hopefully the team has a good handle on everything, and The Irishman can be a visual effects showcase as well as a throwback Scorsese picture.
The Irishman does not have an official release date as of this writing.
Source: Cinema Blend