Martin Scorsese’s multiple-decade-spanning mob drama “The Irishman” carries a massive budget of $159 million, with a big chunk of that being spent on de-ageing technology which will be applied to several characters, most notably the lead role of mob hitman Frank Sheeran played by Robert De Niro.
The story requires the actor to play Frank whose age ranges from 24 to 80 years old in the story – De Niro himself just recently turned 76. Now, a cover story on the film in Empire reveals that in order to test the de-ageing technology and prove the film could work, Scorsese and De Niro recreated a scene from 1990s “Goodfellas”.
The scene had a then mid-40s De Niro appears as Jimmy ‘The Gent’ Conway who orders his associates to discard their flashy new purchases at a Christmas party. In mid-2015, De Niro repeated his original lines in front of his director and Industrial Light & Magic’s Pablo Helman. Scorsese says:
“We made a little set that looked a little like the original film, and then Bob got going. He did his monologues and soliloquies and different expressions. ‘Get rid of the fur coat! Get rid of the Cadillac!’ Then he went through a series of computer processes.”
Following some effects tinkering by Helman, Scorsese and De Niro and others watched the new, de-aged version in the filmmaker’s personal screening room back-to-back with the original 1990 version. It was at that point they realised “this is going to work” says Scorsese who calls the process ‘youthification’. Even so, for Scorsese the process is merely a tool allowing him to tell the story:
“I really had no choice. The risk was there, and that was it. We just tried to make the film. After sitting on the couch for ten years… we finally had a way.”
Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, Stephen Graham, Kathrine Narducci, Domenick Lombardozzi, Ray Romano, Jeremy Luke and Jesse Plemons co-star in the film which will have its world premiere at the New York Film Festival at the end of September ahead of a November 1st limited theatrical run and a November 27th streaming release.