Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” made its Netflix debut over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and with it came more backlash and defenses regarding Anna Paquin’s supporting role. The Oscar-winning actress stars in “The Irishman” as the adult version of Peggy Sheeran, daughter of Robert De Niro’s Frank Sheeran. The role is largely silent. Paquin speaks only seven lines of dialogue during the film’s three-and-a-half-hour runtime. While some moviegoers have found dramatic power in Peggy’s silence, others have criticized Scorsese for casting Paquin and not letting her speak.
In a recent interview with USA Today, De Niro stood up for his co-star and defended her nearly-silent role in “The Irishman.” De Niro said, “She was very powerful and that’s what it was. Maybe in other scenes there could’ve been some interaction between Frank and her possibly, but that’s how it was done. She’s terrific and it resonates.”
Paquin herself came forward on social media shortly after Netflix opened “The Irishman” in select theaters November 1 to stand by her casting. The actress reminded moviegoers that she auditioned for the role of Peggy with knowledge that it was a limited speaking role and that in no way did Scorsese order her not to speak in the film.
“Nope, nobody was doing any ‘ordering,’” Paquin wrote on Twitter. “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.”
Scorsese addressed the controversy in October when he said during a conversation with Spike Lee, “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…There’s something you can’t talk about. She knows it. She knows who she is. He knows she knows.”
Similar to Margot Robbie’s limited speaking role in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Paquin’s silence in “The Irishman” looms large over the entire picture. One of the movie’s biggest emotional gut punches arrives when Paquin’s Peggy silently judges her father for playing a fundamental role in Jimmy Hoffa’s death.
“The Irishman” is now streaming globally on Netflix.