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What Martin Scorsese has to say about “The Irishman"

Filmmaker Martin Scorsese on making the The Irishman, starring Robert de Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci.

The Irishman is the story of the man who claimed to have murdered union boss, Jimmy Hoffa. Scorsese is the director with heavyweight trio Robert de Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci in the lead roles. Scandinavian Traveler met the now 77-year old legend Scorsese in London ahead of the Netflix premiere on 29 November.

Martin Scorsese. Photo: Getty ImagesHow did this much-rumored project come about?
“De Niro and I hadn’t worked together since Casino in 1975. We tried to connect with different projects, but we kept -missing each other. Nine years ago, when we were both in our late 60s, we knew we had to do one more, so we had to choose something. I didn’t want to do a genre piece, I no longer have any enthusiasm for that, I’m too old. Bobby found this book, I Hear You Paint Houses, and I could see that he was emotionally involved with the character. Then I knew  it could be worthwhile for us at our age. He mentioned Joe Pesci and I thought of Pacino, I’ve wanted to work with him for years.”

The movie contains many flashbacks to different periods in the lives of the main characters. You used complicated digital technology to make them look younger.
“Nine years ago, we could perhaps have done it with make-up. Not now. 
I couldn’t use younger actors, because someone like Bobby, who grew up in the same neighborhoods as I did, he knows the way of life there, he has a look in his eyes. 

And there’s also no point in younger actors, because the context of time is different. You have to explain the real-life characters. Bobby knows the context. These actors in my film, you can’t film them acting with things in their faces and do scenes with a tennis ball. So this guy came up with a new system, it’s lots of technical stuff, and it cost a lot, but at the last minute Netflix stepped in and gave us the money.”

You often tell the story of a person’s rise and fall...
“Yes, but that’s the story of most people’s lives. You strive for something, then life happens. This guy comes out of the war, he’s a changed man, he has no education, he’s alive, he has family, he knows how to kill, he has no choice what to do. The question in the film is ‘do you grow as a human being, into what?’ There’s hubris, there’s pride, he’s making a life, but it costs a lot. He has to pay the price, something he doesn’t realize until that final moment of betrayal.”

The irishman premiered in November. Photo: Netflix

Is this a movie about today, even though it’s set backwards in time?
“It’s obvious that it’s a film about today. We talked a lot about that. Negotiations, power shifts, telephone conversations, implied threats, a lot of it feels familiar.”

You love film – how does it feel to have made a movie that goes almost straight to streaming?
“We had support from Netflix, there was no interference. But it’s a tradeoff. We get four weeks in the cinemas before it goes to streaming, and then it will still be in theaters. I prefer the big screen, of course, but here, the last 90 minutes should draw you in, even in front of the TV.” 

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