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Don’t Expect Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’ to Screen at Fall Film Festivals

Anne Thompson

Waiting for ILM. That’s what Martin Scorsese is doing right now with “The Irishman.” And he’s not going to show some kind of work in progress, as he did with “Hugo” at the New York Film Festival in 2011, because he’s waiting for the complex, groundbreaking de-aging of characters played by Robert De Niro and Al Pacino to be just right, as the movie toggles back and forth between the older characters and their younger selves thirty years ago. ILM is using the actors’ full filmographies as sources for how the men look at different ages. But this kind of wrinkle-and-jowl-tweaking can be painstaking at best.

So don’t expect “The Irishman” to turn up at Venice, Telluride, Toronto, or New York. It’s more likely to be ready to screen to critics and other groups some time after that. However, Netflix head of original films Scott Stuber has been meeting with exhibitors to pave the way for its theatrical release. While no plans are final, the likely scenario is a variation on the “Roma” theatrical preview for three weeks before streaming, with the film continuing in independent theaters at the same time.

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Steve Zaillian’s script for “The Irishman,” based on Charles Brandt’s novel “I Heard You Paint Houses,” tells the story of World War II veteran Frank Sheeran (De Niro), a mob hitman involved with the disappearance of union leader Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). As a guest told Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast, producer Irwin Winkler said that the film would be released at Thanksgiving. However, Netflix keeps repeating the same mantra: “It’s all still too early to say when or where it will debut.”

On a recent “A Bigger Canvas” podcast, Scorsese told “The Souvenir” director Joanna Hogg that he worries about the de-aging VFX. “Why I’m concerned, we’re all concerned is that we’re so used to watching them as the older faces,” Scorsese said. “When we put them all together, it cuts back and forth….Now, it’s real. Now, I’m seeing it. Now, certain shots need more work on the eyes, need more work on why these exactly the same eyes from the plate shot, but the wrinkles and things have changed. Does it change the eyes at all? If that’s the case, what was in the eyes that I liked? Was it intensity? Was it gravitas? Was it threat?”

Netflix has yet to announce a firm release date for “The Irishman,” which should open before year’s end, and by all accounts will certainly qualify for the VFX Oscar.

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