The Irishman: Scorsese talks decision to go with Netflix
Staff Reporter | On 13, Oct 2019
Martin Scorsese has spoken out about his decision to go with Netflix for his latest film, The Irishman.
The movie, which had its international premiere at the London Film Festival yesterday, brings together Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci for a three-hour epic about hitman Frank Sheeran and the disappearance of labour union bigwig Jimmy Hoffa.
“A mature, thoughtful reflection on the consequences of past actions, Scorsese’s patient crime drama is a masterclass in restraint,” we wrote in our review of the movie.
Scorsese was in town for the London Film Festival premiere, and he waded into the debate about Netflix and cinemas.
“One thing that should always be protected and I think will always be there is a communal experience,” he said. “And I think that’s in a theatre.”
But, he added “homes are becoming theatres too” and that “one has to keep an open mind”.
“There’s no doubt that seeing a film with an audience is really important,” he continued. “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.”
Indeed, the project’s escalating budget saw previous backers Paramount back away several years ago, as the use of CGI to de-age the cast proved not only experimental but also expensive. With Silence also not performing at the box office, execs got cold feet about the whole thing.
He said that Netflix’s appeal was “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,” he conceded, but highlighted that there was “theatrical distribution prior to that”, with Netflix lining up a three-week theatrical window for cinemas willing to show the picture, as well as a festival run that included New York and London.
“I figure, that’s a chance we take, on this particular project,” Scorsese concluded.
His comments arrive after he made previous remarks about Marvel-type movies, descibing them as “theme park films” rather than conventional cinema. His emphasis, though, was less on their value – “That’s a different experience. It’s not cinema, it’s something else” – and more on the way they have “invaded” cinemas.
“We need theatre owners to step up, to allow theatres to show films that are narrative films,” he insisted, echoing his comments on the lack of room to make The Irishman in the traditional movie industry.
As for Netflix, he also observed that he “thought for a while that long-form TV was going to be cinema, but it’s not”
“It’s a different viewing experience: you can go to episode three, four, then ten, one one week, another the next – it’s a different kind of thing,” he elaborated.
He finally returned to his central point about preserving the communal experience of seeing films: “What’s got to be protected is the singular experience, ideally with an audience.”
The Irishman will be released in select UK cinemas from 8th November, before streaming worldwide on Netflix from 27th November. For more of our coverage from the 2019 London Film Festival, click here
Photo: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for BFI