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Martin Scorsese is in that uppermost tier of auteur directors, and as such you might think that he would be a theatrical purist in the way that Quentin Tarantino, Steven Spielberg or Christopher Nolan are. But that’s not entirely the case, and rather than eschewing streaming services, Martin Scorsese’s new movie is a Netflix original film. When Netflix acquired the new Martin Scorsese movie, it seemed like a game-changer, and now the legendary director has revealed why he took The Irishman to Netflix. He said:
There’s no doubt that seeing a film with an audience is really important. There is a problem though: we have to make the film. 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.
As you would expect, Martin Scorsese obviously values the theatrical experience and wants people to see films, including The Irishman, with an audience in theaters, but you have to be able to make it first. Wanting to preserve the theatrical experience is all well and good, as long as you can actually deliver the movie. Being able to make the film he wanted to make is why Martin Scorsese took The Irishman to Netflix.
It seems that Martin Scorsese couldn’t find anyone in Hollywood to back his film. Perhaps that’s because of the expensive de-aging technology used in the movie that ultimately ballooned its budget up to a blockbuster-level $160 million, potentially even as high as $200 million. For a period piece gangster film, that’s a lot. And sure, Scorsese could have slashed that budget by casting different actors to play the same character at different periods in their lives instead of using de-aging, but that’s not what he wanted to do.
Martin Scorsese said there are multiple reasons The Irishman wasn’t going to get made, so it may not have been entirely budget-related. This is a film he has talked about and tried to get made for over a decade. The director didn’t go into all of it, but regardless, as reported by The Guardian, he did say that there was no room for him to make The Irishman through the traditional studio channels. That meant that taking the film to Netflix was the only way it was going to get made.
Netflix afforded the director the opportunity to make The Irishman that was unavailable elsewhere, while also promising a hands-off approach. Having no studio interference on an auteur-driven movie that’s $50 million is one thing. Having no studio interference on a movie with a budget of $160 million is something else entirely. Martin Scorsese seems to have really appreciated the freedom to make the movie he wanted to make, unencumbered by budget and without having to compromise his vision.
So although Martin Scorsese values and prefers the theatrical experience, it was a choice between honoring that to a fault and not making The Irishman at all, or compromising on that point in order to put his art out into the world and make the movie he wanted to make. He thought it was worth taking the chance to make this film, and I would say he made the smart decision.
The early reviews for The Irishman are beyond glowing, validating the freedom Netflix afforded the director. Audiences will still be able to, and should, experience The Irishman in theaters since it will have a 26-day exclusive theatrical run, after which anyone with a Netflix account can watch a new Martin Scorsese movie from the comfort of their own home.
It’s kind of fascinating that The Irishman is something that Martin Scorsese has been wanting to make for such a long time. Ultimately it came together when the technology allowed it to be fully realized and the landscape of the movie business had changed to such a point that he could get a big-budget movie made even if it wasn’t a traditional theatrical release.
The Irishman arrives in theaters in limited release on November 1 and it hits Netflix on November 27. Check out our 2019 Release Schedule to see what other movies you can look forward to this fall.