Everyone's talking about Martin Scorsese's The Irishman, Netflix's Oscar hopeful that reunites Robert De Niro and Al Pacino with Goodfellas star Joe Pesci for a three-and-a-half hour epic about a real-life Mafia assassin, Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran (De Niro), reflecting on a life full of regret and murder. They are also talking about how the $160 million production used ILM digital effects to de-age its starts to play younger versions of themselves as the film chronicles their exploits across several decades. One trick ILM didn't have was a very analog one: A posture coach.
“This guy, Gary, he showed me how I should go down the stairs,” De Niro explained to Empire in an exclusive interview. “I kind of hopped. Let myself fall down the stairs as opposed to carefully stepping down them. What’s the word? Sprightlier.”
Pacino, who is 79 (!), also had to find a new, "younger" way to ascend stairs in the role of infamous labor union chief Jimmy Hoffa.
“Hoffa was a very energetic fella!” the Oscar-winner said. “Somehow, I managed to do it with real alacrity […] During the take, it was powerful. I did think, ‘How did I manage to do that?’”
The effort by the legendary efforts to pull off this level of performance was not lost on the filmmakers witnessing it in real-time. Producer Jane Rosenthal recalled the feeling she had seeing De Niro, Pacino, and Pesci as their younger selves.
“There’s a moment early in the movie where they’re on the side of the road, these older guys," Rosenthal explained. "They turn around and say, ‘Look where we are,’ and you are instantly seeing them in their younger years together. The first time I saw it, I was an emotional wreck. It had that feeling of, ‘My God, we finally got to this point.’”
What You Can Learn
While we still don't know who Gary is, or his last name (Netflix did not respond to a request for comment by press time), it is fascinating to hear pros like De Niro, Pacino, and Scorsese employ such a professional in a commitment to executing the reality of the film.
Their attention to detail did not rely on the septuagenarian cast relying solely on muscle memory or digital effects, with their efforts that computers can only do so much and that analog solutions never get old (ironically) and are always reliable and effective means for delivering the best on-set results.
Rosenthal's anecdote from the set also underscores the importance (and value) of having producers on hand during physical production. Not just to help facilitate and problem-solve, but to also share in the collaborative experience -- and make one hell of a memory -- watching true living legends do their thing in a movie whose likes we may never see again.
The Irishman opens in select theaters November 1 before arriving on Netflix Nov. 27.