For his return to the world of organized crime with the long-in-development crime epic The Irishman, director Martin Scorsese has assembled an incredible cast of actors, many of who are no strangers to the genre. This murderer’s row of talent includes frequent Scorsese collaborators Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel and Joe Pesci, who came out of retirement for the Netflix film. Speaking about why Joe Pesci came out of retirement for The Irishman, Martin Scorsese said:
These are individual choices and sometimes people don’t want to do something for different reasons. It could be, financial issues. You could have that — I’m not saying he did, right? It could be family issues. It could be health. It could be boredom from doing a certain kind of film. Playing a certain character. Ultimately, if Bob asks enough and he pushes enough, does this makes sense? Let me put it this way: It would have to be comfortable for [Pesci] to make it, you know?
Joe Pesci did not come out of retirement for The Irishman lightly, and the Oscar-winning actor was initially quite adamant about not wanting to do the film. For Martin Scorsese, who directed Pesci in Raging Bull, Goodfellas and Casino, there are a myriad of reasons that could have impacted both Joe Pesci’s reluctance and his ultimate decision to come out of retirement for the film.
Martin Scorsese acknowledged that an actor might not want to join a project for any number of reasons. The 76-year-old actor could have had financial, family or health issues that made him say no to the project so many times. That’s not to say Joe Pesci had any of those problems, Martin Scorsese was just guessing at the kind of things that could contribute to someone not wanting to do a project.
It also could have just been that Joe Pesci had been retired for a while and wasn’t particularly interested in coming back for another gangster movie, even one starring Robert De Niro and directed by Martin Scorsese. The legendary director doesn’t know what the specific reason is that kept Joe Pesci away or what exactly brought him back.
Joe Pesci needed to be coaxed into returning and it reportedly took him being asked 40 times for him to finally say yes. Martin Scorsese suspects that with Robert De Niro, who did the majority of the asking, pushing and asking Joe Pesci enough, it may have gotten the actor to the point where he started to ask himself if doing the project made sense.
In his comments to Entertainment Weekly, Martin Scorsese seems confident that Joe Pesci wouldn’t have ultimately said yes and come out of retirement for The Irishman if he didn’t feel comfortable with it. So he eventually must have saw something in the opportunity and the film that swayed him enough to feel good about a cinematic swan song with The Irishman.
The Irishman will be Joe Pesci’s first major theatrical role since 2010’s Love Ranch. Prior to that his last film was 2006’s The Good Shepherd, but he hasn’t been appearing in films regularly in about two decades. For The Irishman, Joe Pesci returns to the crime drama genre where he made his name, and won his Oscar.
Joe Pesci plays Russell Bufalino, a crime boss whose calm demeanor represents a stark contrast to some of Pesci’s previous roles. Perhaps playing a very different type of character is part of what convinced the actor to come aboard. Whether he’s glad he returned or not we don’t know, but if nothing else, he can be thankful that he didn’t come out of retirement for a stinker.