Hollywood great Robert De Niro has revealed his portrayal of a hitman in his movie The Irishman is not far from the truth, stating: “The Irish, they all killed well.”
De Niro has teamed up with his great friend and legendary director Martin Scorsese for one more gangster movie, and they also persuaded fellow veteran mafia actors Joe Pesci and Al Pacino to join the cast.
The Irishman has been bankrolled by streaming giant Netflix and with so many legendary stars being involved, it has been one of the most anticipated movies of the year.
It is based on the 2004 book I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt. The phrase ‘I heard you paint houses’ was a code used in the criminal underworld for ‘I hear you kill people’.
De Niro spoke about his role as Frank Sheeran, the title character, The Irishman. The movie is set in the years following World War II and Sheeran climbs through the ranks of the mafia by working as a hitman.
De Niro said: “There were racial tensions between the Jews, the Irish, the Italians but they all worked together in that world. Some people did things better.
“The Irish, they all killed well, but the Jews were always thought of as the accountants, who would take care of the finances and who were smarter.
The Irish were a lot of hitmen, but I suppose you could say they all overlapped!”
De Niro says he was keen to work with Scorsese again, after they collaborated to produce some of the finest gangster movies of all time such as Goodfellas and Casino.
The pair also had to persuade Joe Pesci to come out of retirement to join them for one last project.
De Niro said he asked his friend more than 50 times before finally winning him over with the line: “Come on, we’re not going to do this ever again.”
Fellow Hollywood legend Al Pacino completed the star-studded cast.
He added that he expects it to be last big project the group works on together.
The 76-year-old said: “I don’t see us putting on a movie like this again. I hope we do other films together, but like this? Not likely. This is it.”
The Irishman sees an ageing Frank Sheeran looking back on his days as a mafia hitman. The production includes incredible digital techniques to make the actors appear younger as the story looks back on their past.
De Niro said: “When we first started this project, there was talk about younger actors to play me, Al and Joe.
“At one point, as the time went on and Netflix got involved and the technology improved, Marty decided to go with it and that was very exciting.
“The big difference was that we had a movement coach to remind us when to slouch like an old guy and when to remember to walk like a 39-year-old healthy guy.”
The Irishman has received criticism from some quarters because it has been funded by Netflix and will be released straight to TV rather than into movie theatres.
However, De Niro is philosophical about the way the industry is going.
He said: “I think it’s inevitable, so either you ride with it and figure out how best you want to tell your story and through what form — the small screen, the iPhone, the iWatch.
“People have big screens at home now too. It will be seen in theatres briefly, in some places, so that’s a good thing.
“We don’t even know where we will be with technology in ten years, so who’s to say?”
Finally, given his role as Frank Sheeran, the ‘Irishman’, De Niro revealed he wants to learn more about his own family heritage.
He said: “Some people got a hold of me and started giving me information.
“I have yet to look into it, but I’m very curious about it. I have always been very curious about it, more than curious — I want to find out.
“I am going to get a hold of those people but I have been so busy now, but I do plan to get a hold of them and get more information on it.
“I like that my ancestry is Irish and that I am from Tipperary, or a part of it. That sounds nice because everyone knows Tipperary, right?”
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