Martin Scorsese defends decision to make deal with Netflix for The Irishman | Film


Martin Scorsese has wrapped up the London film festival with a defence of the streaming giant Netflix, who stepped in to finance his new film when other backers dropped out.

Speaking at a press conference before the international premiere of The Irishman, his new film starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci that closes the festival, Scorsese said that while it was vital to defend the “communal experience” of watching films in cinemas, Netflix were prepared to give him full backing after more traditional studios dropped out.

Scorsese 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.”

The Irishman.



The Irishman. Photograph: Landmark Media/Alamy Stock Photo

The Irishman, which tells the story of real-life mafia hitman Frank Sheeran (played by De Niro) who is suspected of befriending and killing celebrated union boss Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino) in 1975, was acquired by Netflix in 2017 after its previous backers Paramount and STX dropped out in 2017. It is thought the studios got cold feet after the cost of pioneering “de-aging” CGI, used to make the central characters appear younger in extensive flashback scenes, caused the budget to balloon to a rumoured $200m, as well as the disappointing returns for Scorsese’s previous film, the martyrdom drama Silence.

However, Netflix have incurred the wrath of other sectors of the film industry which are committed to defending the cinema experience. Several major US chains, including AMC and Regal, and two UK chains (Vue and Picturehouses) are likely to refuse to screen the film, as part of a long-running boycott of the streaming giant and its failure to respect the cinemas’ traditional 90-day window of exclusivity. Netflix has also been excluded from the Cannes film festival for the last two years (due to France’s even more stringent rules), while Scorsese’s fellow director Steven Spielberg is recently thought to have suggested that their films should not be eligible for Oscars. Partly to compensate for its limited presence in cinemas, The Irishman will screen for a month at New York’s historic Belasco theatre on Broadway.

Scorsese also renewed his criticism of “Marvel-type pictures”, repeating his assertion they were “not cinema”. They are “theme-park films”, he said, “where theatres become amusement parks”. “That’s a different experience: it’s not cinema, its something else, and whether you [like] them or not we shouldn’t be invaded by it. That’s a big issue and we need theatre owners to step up, to allow theatres to show films that are narrative films.” Directors James Gunn and Joss Whedon, and actor Samuel L Jackson defended Marvel, after Scorsese first broached the subject in a magazine interview earlier in October.

The director also expressed doubts that longform TV would replace the filmgoing experience. “I thought for a while that long form TV was going to be cinema, but it’s not. It simply isn’t. It’s a different viewing experience: you can go to episode 3, 4, then 10; one one week, another the next – it’s a different kind of thing. What’s got to be protected is the singular experience, ideally with an audience.”

The Irishman is released on 1 November in the US and 8 November in the UK, before being avaialble on Netflix on 27 November.



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