NOTE: This article has been updated to mention Lola Visual Effects, not ILM, handled the de-aging effects for Ant-Man and the Wasp and Captain Marvel.
Martin Scorsese's longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker reveals the entire first half of The Irishman will feature digitally de-aged actors. When the project finally escaped development hell in 2016 and started to move forward, it was set up at Paramount, but the studio ultimately passed on it due to concerns over the rising budget. In order to tell the decades-spanning story with a veteran ensemble including the likes of Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, and others, Scorsese is utilizing the increasingly popular technique of using CGI to de-age the cast. Obviously, that's a costly proposition, which is why The Irishman will be a Netflix release.
The practice has become commonplace in Hollywood in recent years, with notable examples happening in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Typically, it's for a single sequence or two (like Michelle Pfeiffer and Michael Douglas in the beginning of Ant-Man and the Wasp), but Lola Visual Effects is getting more ambitious with their experience. This year's Captain Marvel de-aged Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury for the entire movie, and now the wizards at ILM are also swinging for the fences on Scorsese's upcoming crime drama.
In an interview with Yahoo Movies, Schoonmaker opened up on the structure of The Irishman, stating the film's first half shows the ensemble in their "youths," before things transition in the second half:
“We’re youthifying the actors in the first half of the movie. And then the second half of the movie they play their own age. So that’s a big risk. We’re having that done by Industrial Light and Magic Island, ILM. That’s a big risk. We’re seeing some of it, but I haven’t gotten a whole scene where they’re young, and what I’m going to have to see, and what Marty’s going to have to see is, ‘How is it affecting the rest of the movie when you see them young?’”
This is an eye-opening revelation and speaks to the inherent dangers of Scorsese's approach. There is a lingering threat of this backfiring as audiences get stuck in the uncanny valley for an extended period of time. However, right now, the Oscar-winning director should have the benefit of the doubt. Scorsese most definitely would not have gone this route if he wasn't supremely confident in the technology. The Irishman has been a passion project of his for years, so he was always going to treat it with the care it deserves. Plus, filming wrapped back in March 2018 and the movie's been in post-production since - illustrating Scorsese and his crew did not rush the visual effects and took their time to ensure they look as photorealistic as possible. Schoonmaker noted the few people who have seen Irishman footage are "gripped" by the performances, so hopefully the CGI elevates the final product into something special.
One only has to look at the Captain Marvel trailers to see how far things have come. Jackson looks like he went straight from Pulp Fiction to the MCU's latest, and while fans still need to wait and see the finished film, the early returns are certainly encouraging. There's little reason to believe The Irishman won't turn out the same way, and it should lead to a rewarding experience. After all, casting actors to play the younger versions of De Niro and his co-stars has risks of its own (pale imitations), so it should be exciting to see the legends channel their pasts.
Source: Yahoo Movies