这部由Netflix出资拍摄的电影改编自查尔斯·布兰特的纪实小说《听说你刷房子了》（I Heard You Paint Houses），讲述了弗兰克·谢兰（德尼罗饰）充满暴力的漫长人生。他是一位退伍军人，后来变为了一名打手，既肩负着作为一名卡车司机公会官员的职责，又要处理好与布法利诺犯罪家族的关系。在其一生中，谢兰与无数黑手党成员和政府官员都有交集，并与黑帮老大罗塞尔·布法利诺（佩西饰）和劳工领袖吉米·霍法（帕西诺饰）成为了密友，但霍法因为卷入可疑事件而不知去向。
德尼罗和斯科塞斯时美国电影史上成果最为丰硕的演员-导演阵容之一，自1973年《穷街陋巷》（Mean Streets）上映以来合作了9部电影，但他们自《赌城风云》（Casino，1995年）之后就再也没有聚首过，倒是一直在探讨改变唐·温斯洛的惊悚小说《弗兰基·摩欣的冬天》（The Winter of Frankie Machine），只不过一直未能实现。《驱魔人》（The Exorcist）的导演威廉·福瑞德金据悉正在对该小说进行改编。
Martin Scorsese’s organized-crime opus The Irishman finally made its world premiere at the New York Film Festival on September 27.
Following a media-and-industry screening of the three-and-a-half hour epic that kicked off at 9 a.m. at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, Scorsese took the stage with actors Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci, and producers Emma Tillinger Koskoff and Jane Rosenthal.
The Netflix film, adapted from Charles Brandt’s nonfiction book I Heard You Paint Houses, charts the long, violent life of one Frank Sheeran (De Niro), a military veteran-turned-hitman who balanced responsibilities as a Teamsters official with ties to the Bufalino crime family. Throughout the ages, Sheeran intersects with countless mafiosi and public officials, forming close friendships with mob boss Russell Bufalino (Pesci) and labor leader Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino)—the latter of whom disappeared under suspicious circumstances.
“It’s the life they were in,” said Scorsese, discussing the cyclical violence and sudden brutality of life for his characters in The Irishman. “They’re human beings. [Frank’s] not a psychotic. He has feelings, and he hurts inside... There’s a moral conflict, because he’s basically a good man—yet he has to go through with it. How does a good man live with themselves after that?”
Perhaps fittingly for a mob epic spanning 50 years, The Irishman’s path to the big screen started over a decade ago.
De Niro and Scorsese have enjoyed one of the most fruitful actor-director collaborations in American cinema history, teaming on nine feature films since 1973, when Mean Streets was released. But they hadn’t worked together since Casino (1995), and kicking around the idea of adapting Don Winslow’s thriller novel The Winter of Frankie Machine wasn’t leading anywhere concrete (The Exorcist director William Friedkin is now said to be working on an adaptation).
De Niro had been previously brought Charles Brandt’s 2004 memoir I Heard You Paint Houses, written by a former homicide investigator and prosecutor, and eventually passed the book onto Scorsese. “I could see he was very strongly attached to the character,” recalls the director. “We didn’t have to say much.”
As the pair worked to develop I Heard You Paint Houses, they struggled to secure funding for their mob epic, which require expensive de-aging effects so that the veteran actors could play their characters across decades. De Niro’s protagonist is, at his youngest, around 24, with the film following his life until he’s 80.
“We couldn’t get the backing—there was no way—for years,” recalled Scorsese. “Ultimately, it was [Netflix content chief] Ted Sarandos.” Netflix put up the $160 million budget, which no other studio at that time was willing to do. What’s more, Scorsese said the streamer allowed him to operate with few constraints.
“They were creatively attuned to us,” recalled the director. “There was no interference. There were notes at times, and we addressed them—or not.”
Production was hectic; across the 108-day shoot, recalled Tillinger Koskoff, The Irishman team shot 309 scenes in 117 locations, with sometimes two or three location moves a day. The extensive equipment, including a total of nine cameras (one of which Scorsese dubbed “a three-eyed monster”), didn’t slow them down, said Rosenthal, but it wasn’t exactly a light load for crew to carry either.
But the actors were so deeply entrenched in their characters that time flew. Pacino, especially, took to walking around set with headphones in, getting into character by listening to audio files of old speeches. “You had Jimmy Hoffa’s voice in your ear on set,” remembered Scorsese, addressing a bemused-looking Pacino. “I thought it was music!” Pacino replied, shrugging, “Why should I tell them what I’m listening to?”
In working with Netflix, Scorsese often mulled the fluctuating state of the moviegoing experience. “It was an interesting hybrid, I guess, in a way how you balance between what a film is and what is viewed at home and in a theater or both,” he said. “We are in an extraordinary time of change.”
But ultimately, Scorsese and De Niro knew The Irishman would find an audience, no matter which studio they partnered with. “When it comes down to it, ultimately,” he added, “we felt the picture had to be made. For ourselves, really.”
Though an audience member asked those on stage to comment on The Irishman’s connection to modern politics, Scorsese largely declined to comment on any present-day parallels.
“It’s all about power,” he offered. “Power erases everything else... And, as you know, they’ll do anything to keep the power.”