Director Martin Scorsese said he had tried for years, but ultimately failed, to get the funding to make the gangster film. Then Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos stepped in.
“They actually backed the film and financed it, they were creatively attuned to us, there was no interference,” Scorsese said at a press event on Friday for the film’s premier.
The film comes with an all-star cast that includes Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci and a price tag of more than $150 million, making it Scorsese’s most expensive production ever. A large share of that budget was spent on technology to make De Niro look younger. DeNiro plays mob hitman Frank Sheeran and the film follows his career over several decades.
“It’s a costly experiment,” Scorsese said of the technology. “And Ted and everyone at Netflix said they’ll go with it.”
The debut of “The Irishman” is a big moment for the streaming company.
Netflix has had acclaimed hits like “Roma,” which won multiple Oscars last year, and popular hits like “Bird Box.” But “The Irishman” could be both an Oscar hopeful and a hit with viewers.
It’s also a crucial moment for Netflix for another reason: Disney and Apple are gearing up to release their own streaming services full of exclusive content.
“The Irishman” made news last month when Netflix announced that it would skip a traditional wide theatrical release.
Netflix and theater owners have been at odds for years as both sides try to find a middle ground on how to cater to consumers’ changing viewing habits. Scorsese pushed for “a robust national theatrical release” for “The Irishman,” according to the New York Times.
The film opens in theaters on November 1 and on Netflix on November 27.