Love it or hate it, Martin Scorsese’s latest gangster epic, “The Irishman,” has got people talking. However, the latest talking point comes from the “hate it” camp, as the stepson of the real-life Chuckie O’Brien (the foster son of Jimmy Hoffa, played by Jesse Plemons in the film) publicly called out Scorsese’s film on Friday.
In an editorial published in The New York Times, O’Brien’s stepson Jack Goldsmith wrote about the “devastating” effect that over 44 years of news articles, books, and films — with “The Irishman” serving as the most recent example — has had on his 86-year-old stepfather. Acknowledging that O’Brien “was the most intimate associate of Jimmy Hoffa,” Goldsmith wrote about how the FBI’s investigation of O’Brien — based on circumstantial evidence — led to him being ostracized from the Teamsters union, as well as the loss of friends, and how the FBI’s refusal to make the information that exonerated him public meant that “Chuckie’s innocence in one of the most notorious crimes of the 20th Century remains mostly hidden, his guilt remains publicly presumed, his honor remains soiled.”
According to Goldsmith, “Chuckie worried that Scorsese’s film would give his supposed involvement in the Hoffa disappearance a reality in popular culture that the prior books, headlines and movies did not. It turned out to be worse than he feared.”
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While confirming that Scorsese got things right in terms of “surface truths” and it’s “‘true crime’ feel,” Goldsmith added, “But beyond these surface truths, and despite the “true crime” feel, the movie is high fiction.” And according to O’Brien, “The Irishman” was “One of the greatest fake movies I ever saw.” O’Brien went on to point out that no one knew for sure how or by whom Jimmy Hoffa was killed, only that it couldn’t have been by O’Brien’s hands.
But according to Goldsmith, one of the biggest slaps in the face to his stepfather — apart from the movie depicting him as a “dim jackass” — was “the movie’s portrayal of Mr. Sheeran’s closeness to Mr. Hoffa.”
“What Mr. Scorsese did, in effect, was to place Mr. Sheeran in Chuckie’s role in Mr. Hoffa’s life. It was Chuckie, not Mr. Sheeran, who for decades served as Mr. Hoffa’s ‘intimate companion, driver, bodyguard and special troubleshooter,’ as the labor journalist Victor Riesel noted in the 1960s. Chuckie expected to be ‘tagged with the disappearance’ in the movie, he told me. He did not expect Mr. Scorsese to appropriate his close relationship with Hoffa — the precious blood, sweat, tears and joy of a three-decade father-son relationship, the apex of Chuckie’s life — and give it to Mr. Sheeran for all the world to see and believe.”
In 2019, Goldsmith’s book “In Hoffa’s Shadow: A Stepfather, a Disappearance in Detroit, and My Search for the Truth” was published, in an attempt to piece together the truth of what happened to Hoffa and shine a light on how O’Brien’s life was turned upside down in the aftermath of his disappearance.