In a sign of the ongoing power shift in Hollywood, Martin Scorsese’s $100-million gangster movie “The Irishman,” his ninth starring Robert De Niro, has been scooped up by Netflix, which is in the process of closing a deal to release the movie to its 93 million subscribers in 190 countries.
The movie was going to be backed by Paramount Pictures, but with its 12-year chairman Brad Grey heading out the door, Scorsese’s team put together another package. As someone close to the deal put it, “Scorsese’s movie is a risky deal, and Paramount is not in the position to take risks. This way, he can make the project he wants.”
We now live in a world where Netflix is in a better position than any major studio to make a Martin Scorsese-Robert DeNiro gangster movie. Netflix would not comment on the deal.
Steve Zaillian adapted “The Irishman” screenplay from Charles Brandt‘s book, “I Heard You Paint Houses,” which details the life of Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a mob hitman whose illustrious career is today best known for a supposed involvement in the death of Jimmy Hoffa. The movie was first announced in 2008.
Paramount hedged its bets by picking up North American rights while foreign sales company Mexico’s Fabrica de Cine (“Silence”) put the movie up for auction at Cannes. In a bidding war with Lionsgate, Fox and Universal, “The Irishman” sold for $50 million to rising studio STX Entertainment. That was the price, because Scorsese’s rambunctious Leonardo DiCaprio comedy, “The Wolf of Wall Street,” was a global hit ($392 million).
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Now, per their usual custom, Netflix is acquiring all world rights. That means STX is likely out, as is Media Asia, which picked up distribution rights for China. The movie has no official start date, but sources say it is aiming for 2019 release day-and-date with a limited Oscar-qualifying release.
Scorsese still has an overall feature deal with Paramount that runs through 2019. The studio released his last film, “Silence.”
In “The Irishman,” De Niro will be made to look 30 again by the effects masters at ILM, “Benjamin-Button”-style. His “Heat” co-star Al Pacino and other talent are still in negotiations. One possible boon for Scorsese: at Netflix, there will be no strictures on length.