The Irishman star Robert De Niro confirms Martin Scorsese's upcoming crime drama will receive a theatrical release from Netflix before it's available to stream. A passion project of the director's, The Irishman lingered in development hell for a number of years before the pieces started to fall into place back in 2016. At that time, the film was set up at Paramount, but the studio eventually balked due to an exorbitant budget that skyrocketed up to $140 million. Scorsese is implementing the now-omnipresent digital de-aging special effects for flashback scenes featuring older members of the case, like De Niro and Al Pacino.
Netflix picked up The Irishman in 2017, footing the bill so the film could become a reality. Scorsese wrapped production earlier this year, and it's expected (but not confirmed yet) that the movie will be ready for release in 2019. One of the biggest questions surrounding The Irishman is if cinephiles would be able to see it on the big screen, since not every Netflix original movie plays in theaters. Fortunately, it sounds like the streaming giant has worked something out for The Irishman.
While at the Marrakech Film Festival (via THR), De Niro discussed The Irishman's release pattern, implying the plan is for it to screen in a limited number of locations before Netflix subscribers can watch it online:
“We've talked about it with Netflix. They are going to do a presentation of our film the way it should be, in a theater, in certain venues, the best theatrical venues there can be. How they resolve it is, in the beginning, they will show it on the big screen — we're talking about big venues where it would play, where it should play — and what happens after that, I'm not sure."
It isn't surprising Netflix would be interested in going this route. Given the pedigree involved, The Irishman surely has the potential to be an awards contender. Even in these latter stages of his career, Scorsese remains a filmmaking force and delivers one quality picture after another; five of his feature films this century earned Best Picture nominations (with The Departed winning in 2006). In order to qualify for Academy Awards, a movie needs to play for at least one week theatrically in Los Angeles County, so Netflix is taking the necessary steps to ensure their latest film can receive Oscar recognition. They previously gave Roma and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs limited runs in theaters so they could be in the race this year. The former, which comes from director Alfonso Cuarón, is one of the frontrunners for Best Picture.
Even if The Irishman wasn't an on-paper threat for Oscar nominations, it's nice to see it'll play on the biggest of screens for a short period of time. Scorsese has stayed away from spectacle-driven works in his career (Hugo, which dominated the technical categories in 2011, is an exception), but he's always crafted his films to be seen in theaters. It'll be exciting to see what vision and style he brought to The Irishman, which is said to be a little different from his earlier gangster films.