Given the climate of the film industry, perhaps this was inevitable. Martin Scorsese’s next film, the long gestating “The Irishman” is heading to Netflix, in one of the streaming service’s biggest power plays.
The project was originally set up for domestic distribution at Paramount, Scorsese’s longtime home, for pictures like “Shutter Island,” “The Wolf Of Wall Street,” and “Silence,” with indie upstarts STX acquiring significant foreign rights last summer for $50 million. The project was going to be fully financed by Gaston Pavlovich‘s Fábrica de Cine, but they recently exited due to the escalating budget, which essentially left any distribution deals up in the air.
Even more, the shakeup at Viacom and the exit of longtime Paramount honcho Brad Grey, left it unclear if Paramount would be able to release the film. Instead, Scorsese and his team, who are moving fast on “The Irishman,” put together another package, and Netflix swooped in. “Scorsese’s movie is a risky deal,” a source told Indiewire’s Anne Thompson. “And Paramount is not in the position to take risks. This way, he can make the project he wants.”
Part of that risk is the budget of the movie, which is said to be around the $150 million mark, thanks to the cost of “The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button“-esque special effects that will be used to de-age Robert De Niro for portions of the film. There are no other confirmed cast members just yet, but Scorsese and De Niro are still keen on getting a reluctant Joe Pesci, and while Al Pacino, Bobby Cannavale and Harvey Keitel have all been rumored for roles as well, nothing as been confirmed (the latter said last summer he hadn’t been asked to join the movie).
Whether Grey left or not, the move to Netflix isn’t much of a surprise. Scorsese’s “Silence” was an expensive money loser that has only earned $7 million worldwide against its whopping $50 million budget, and even a seemingly sure thing like the “World War Z” sequel with the tantalizing duo of Brad Pitt and David Fincher was living in a not-green-lit limbo — Paramount was hedging its bets.
“The Irishman” has been kicking around since 2008 and centers on a mob hit man who looks back on his career of high profile slayings, with rumored ties to the deaths of President Kennedy and Jimmy Hoffa. Steve Zaillian (“The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” “The Night Of”) adapted the screenplay from the book “I Heard You Paint Houses” by Charles Brandt.
Per usual, Netflix has acquired worldwide rights and is expected to give the film a theatrical release and awards push. Expect a limited run though as Netflix will likely still be using their service as the main method of distribution. No start date is set, but the film is aiming for a 2019 release.