Why The Irishman Focusing On An 82-Year-Old 'Feels Right,' According to Robert De Niro

Robert De Niro as Frank Sheeran in The Irishman

Martin Scorsese’s latest movie, The Irishman, follows Robert De Niro’s Frank Sheeran, who, at 82 years old, is looking back on his life as a World War II veteran and Mafia hitman. It turns out that Sheeran’s age at the start of the movie was among the main selling points for De Niro joining The Irishman, with the actor saying the following about this aspect of the Netflix release:

The whole story reflects how we are getting older, and that feels right. We're getting closer to that time, if you will.

Like Goodfellas, Casino and various other movies Martin Scorsese has directed, The Irishman is based off a true story, as it adapts the nonfiction book I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt. The book delved into confessions that Frank Sheeran gave about his time working with the Bufalino crime family before he died in 2003.

While The Irishman is obviously taking creative liberties with its source material, seeing an elderly Frank Sheeran reflect on his life remains intact. And while he’s not quite 82 years old yet, Robert De Niro sees the value of telling a story which explores the passing of time and someone reflecting on their life before reaching the inevitable end.

Making Robert De Niro look six years older is easy enough to accomplish, but when it came to the parts of The Irishman set decades previously, De Niro and several of his costars were digitally de-aged. The actor, while having been skeptical of CGI effects in the past, thought it turned out to be a “very good job.”

As noted by The Hollywood Reporter, originally Robert De Niro read I Heard You Paint Houses in preparation for a different movie he planned make with Martin Scorsese called Frankie Machine, which was about a retired hitman who’s forced back into action. But when it came time for Scorsese and De Niro to talk with Paramount Pictures about making Frankie Machine, De Niro brought up I Heard You Paint Houses, and the end result was Frankie Machine being set aside and The Irishman being born.

Though it was originally intended to be a traditional theatrical release, eventually Martin Scorsese and his team brought The Irishman to Netflix, and the rest is history. At around $159 million, it is one of the streaming platform’s most expensive movies, and there’s no question those special effects cost a pretty penny. Still, they were just a means to an end for Martin Scorsese to effectively tell this story that, as Robert De Niro addressed, focuses on mortality and what one has done with their life.

The Irishman also stars Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin and Stephen Graham, among many others. The movie has been met with critical acclaim, ranking at 96% among critics on Rotten Tomatoes, and is already expected to be a frontrunner come awards season.

You can stream The Irishman on Netflix starting tomorrow, November 27, and the movie is also still go. Don’t forget to plan your visits to the theater next year with our 2020 release schedule.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore, Adam is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He started working for the site back in late 2014 writing exclusively comic book movie and TV-related articles, and along with branching out into other genres, he also made the jump to editing. Along with his writing and editing duties, as well as interviewing creative talent from time to time, he also oversees the assignment of movie-related features. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Journalism, and he’s been sourced numerous times on Wikipedia. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.