While Alfonso Cuaron may be well on his way towards winning Netflix its first ever Best Picture Oscar, there’s already reason to believe the streaming service will be back in the awards race next year with The Irishman. The gangster drama is the highly anticipated next film from director Martin Scorsese, and it’s been a long time coming. The film is an adaptation of the Charles Brandt book I Heard You Paint Houses and is a decades-spanning look back on the life of a hitman, with Robert De Niro filling the lead role with a cast that also includes Al Pacino and Joe Pesci.
Given that the principal actors are all in their 70s, bringing the characters’ younger days to life onscreen presented a challenge. But Scorsese hit upon the idea of using cutting-edge technology to de-age these actors, much the way Marvel Studios has been doing on films like Ant-Man and the upcoming Captain Marvel.
“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.”
Schoonmaker says The Irishman is an “expensive project” and notes that because so much of the film is visual effects heavy, the editing process has been unique:
“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?’ Interestingly, we’ve only been able to screen for very few people, because they’re wearing some things on their faces, and on their clothes, that tracks their movement… Nobody minds. Nobody minds watching them play young, because they’re gripped.”
Indeed, Scorsese tried for years to get the project off the ground, but it was so expensive that no studio was willing to foot the bill—until Netflix came along.
As for the film’s tone, Schoonmaker reiterated that “it’s not Goodfellas,” echoing comments that Scorsese made previously that likened the film to more of a reflective piece about a man looking back on his life choices.
Netflix has yet to set a firm release date for The Irishman, but the movie is expected to hit theaters this fall. And if Netflix is really serious about awards, they’ll likely mimic the release strategy of Roma: a splashy debut at a couple of film festivals followed by a robust theatrical exhibition ahead of the film’s streaming debut.