If things had gone according to plan, Martin Scorsese’s upcoming mob movie “The Irishman” would be playing in theatres, not streaming on Netflix, and the acclaimed director is batting away criticism of bringing his new project to Netflix.
According to Scorsese, he had little choice when the studios that initially planned to release it dropped out, reportedly after the costs of digitally “de-aging” septuagenarian stars Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino for scenes as their younger selves led the budget to soar.
And while Scorsese remains adamant that a film should be a communal experience watched together by an audience, not on a small screen, he admits that without Netflix stepping in “The Irishman” would never have gotten made.
“There’s no doubt that seeing a film with an audience is really important,” he tells The Guardian, referencing backlash over the brief window (less than a month) between the film’s brief theatrical run (in order to qualify for Oscar consideration) before it starts streaming on Netflix.
“There is a problem though: we have to make the film,” Scorsese, 76, explains. “We’ve run out of room, in a sense; there was no room for us to make this picture, for many reasons. [But] having the backing of a company that says that you will have no interference, you can make the picture as you want — the trade-off being: it streams, with theatrical distribution prior to that. I figure, that’s a chance we take, on this particular project.”
According to The Guardian, the film was originally set to be financed by Paramount and STX, who dropped out in 2017, with Netflix picking it up later that year. However, it’s believed that the CGI to “de-age” the actors in extensive flashback sequences led the film’s budget to expand to a rumoured $200 million. When combined with the lacklustre box office of Scorsese’s previous film, 2016’s “Silence” (which only brought in $7 million domestically), it’s understandable that the studios might worry about recouping their investment.
Despite having dabbled in long-form television (he and Mick Jagger were exec producers of the HBO flop “Vinyl”, which was cancelled after its first season), Scorsese remains a firm believer that a standalone film, viewed in a theatre, is still the premiere cinematic experience.
“I thought for a while that long-form TV was going to be cinema, but it’s not. It simply isn’t,” Scorsese contends. “It’s a different viewing experience: you can go to episode three, four, then 10; one one week, another the next — it’s a different kind of thing. What’s got to be protected is the singular experience, ideally with an audience.”
“The Irishman” will be released in theatres on Nov. 1 before heading to Netflix on Nov. 27.