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Anna Paquin Shuts Down Critics of Her ‘Irishman’ Role and Lack of Dialogue

The Oscar-winning actress says she's "incredibly proud" to be a cast member in Scorsese's acclaimed Netflix gangster drama.

Anna Paquin in The Irishman

Anna Paquin in “The Irishman”

Netflix/screenshot

Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” features groundbreaking de-aging visual effects and a long-awaited reunion between the filmmaker and his “Goodfellas” actors Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, but one of the biggest talking point among critics since the film’s November 1 theatrical release has been the lack of dialogue given to Anna Paquin. The Oscar-winning actress stars in “The Irishman” as the adult version of Peggy Sheeran, daughter of De Niro’s Frank Sheeran.

As written by “The Irishman” screenwriter Steven Zaillian, the adult Peggy Sheeran is a mostly silent presence throughout the second half of the film. Some have taken Peggy’s lack of dialogue as further proof that Scorsese has long undervalued his female characters, while others have found the power in what Peggy’s limited speaking role is trying to achieve. Through her haunting stares, Peggy becomes a silent judge to her father’s crimes and the way Paquin carries herself speaks volumes to the truths she’s come to figure out about about him. A recent Daily Mail article about the outrage over Paquin only getting six lines of dialogue in “The Irishman” prompted the actress to respond directly to the controversy on social media.

“Nope, nobody was doing any ‘ordering,'” Paquin wrote, responding to one theory that she was ordered by the director not to speak in the film. “I auditioned for the privilege of joining the incredible cast of ‘The Irishman’ and I’m incredibly proud to get to be a part of this film.”

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Scorsese himself weighed in on the dialogue controversy during a conversation with Spike Lee at the DGA Theater in NYC last month. “I kept asking Steve Zaillian if we can layer her in the story,” the director said. “I decided that she doesn’t have to say anything. You see your father do something like that, I’m sorry. … You see him crush the guy’s hand like that, other kids maybe, but this kid couldn’t take it. She looks at him. She knows he’s up to something and Lucy was great, but Anna ultimately was amazing in the looks.”

“She has one line in the film,” Scorsese added. “There’s something you can’t talk about. She knows it. She knows who she is. He knows she knows. Even when she’s sitting there and the police are talking about Joey Gallo being [murdered.] ‘A lone gunman walked in…’ and you see she’s looking at him.”

The controversy around Paquin’s role in “The Irishman” is not too different from the headlines over the summer regarding Margot Robbie’s limited speaking role as Sharon Tate in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” “The Irishman” is now playing in select theaters and hits Netflix streaming November 27.

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