Movies

Scorsese praises ‘magical’ De Niro-Pacino bond

LOS ANGELES – Hollywood director Martin Scorsese has praised the “magical” relationship between Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in the trio’s new gangster epic The Irishman.

At an American Film Institute tribute event in Los Angeles earlier this month, the legendary filmmaker discussed the long-standing collaborations of his own generation.

“What we see in the film is their relationship as actors, as friends over the past 40, 45 years,” he said. “There’s something magical that happens there.”

The nostalgic mob movie, which premieres on Netflix on Nov 27, sees former mafia hitman Frank Sheeran (De Niro) reflect on his violent life, as he claimed to have killed more than 25 people on the orders of mafia boss Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and truck driver union leader Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).

De Niro and Pacino co-starred – separately – in The Godfather: Part II (1974), before memorably sharing the screen in 1995’s neo-noir classic Heat.

Scorsese said trust between filmmakers and actors was essential, before quipping that they also “have to have some talent”.

The Irishman is Scorsese’s ninth film as director with De Niro, whom he has known since they were both 16.

The director said he had been reluctant to join with De Niro on another gangster movie after hits such as Goodfellas and Casino unless they could “go deeper”.

But they joined forces again after finding the missing ingredient.

“It turned out just to be – us. We’re 75, 76 years old now. You look back and you think about the things you did in your life, or the things you wish you wouldn’t have. It was about time, it was about us looking back on our whole lives in the 60s and the 70s, and Hollywood and in cinema. And so that issue of time stayed with us,” he added.

The Irishman, which runs for three-and-a-half hours and cost a reported US$160 million (S$219m) to make, has been a decade in the making and is seen as a favourite in a rapidly looming Oscars race.

The ambitious movie also used 117 different filming locations to shoot 309 scenes, as well as a new technology developed by Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) to digitally “de-age” its stars on screen.

Scorsese said it was necessary to “come up with a solution for a de-ageing that wouldn’t interfere with Bob and Joe and Al.”

“Talking to each other with helmets on or tennis balls in their faces – they were not going to do it,” he said.

ILM eventually succeeded in developing technology which did not require fitting the actors with any devices.

After an unsettling first few minutes, the special effects work well, with Pacino also shedding multiple decades in some scenes.

De Niro’s first reaction to when he saw his younger digital self?

“I could extend my career another 30 years,” he joked.

Scorsese and De Niro started planning the film adaptation of Charles Brandt’s book I Heard You Paint Houses 12 years ago.

“Things got in the way,” Scorsese said. “We couldn’t get backing – there was no way – for years.”

De Niro added: “I’m just happy we all finally got to do it because it did take a long time. We were lucky to get people to put up the money.”

After several studios declined the project, it took Netflix’s deep pockets to get the green light for The Irishman – the nickname of Sheeran, whose account of real-life events forms the basis of the book and film. - AFP

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