Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro are teaming up again after two decades for the long-developing The Irishman, a Scorsese gangster film starring De Niro as real-life mob hitman Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran. To portray the many years of Sheeran’s life in crime, Scorsese plans on digitally de-aging De Niro.
The film will follow Frank Sheeran, who murdered 25 people and claimed to have been involved with union leader Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance in 1975. It’s been many years that this project has been in development of some kind, but one constant was that the director was enlisting Robert De Niro to star in an adaptation of Charles Brandt‘s novel I Heard You Paint Houses, written by Steve Zaillian (Schindler’s List).
In 2010, that title changed to The Irishman, and it was reported that the adaptation itself might be coming in two parts, followed by the news that Al Pacino and Joe Pesci could be joining the film in what would only be described as the most epic gangster movie ever.
To portray his younger years, they won’t be going down the different actor or prosthetics route, or at least that’s seems to be the plan according to producer Gaston Pavlovich (Silence), who tells Cinema Blend that they’ve already run some CGI tests to make De Niro look like he did over 40 years ago in The Godfather Part II:
“Well, it’s an extraordinary technology that we’ve been looking at. You don’t use prosthetics, make-up, they have acting and the technology is able to have them go through different time ages without the prosthetics. So we’ve seen some tests and it looks extraordinary. We were able to film Bob and just do a scene, and we saw it come down to when he was like 20, 40, 60, so we’re looking forward to that, from that point of view, for ‘The Irishman’ … Imagine seeing what De Niro looked like in ‘The Godfather 2’ days, that’s pretty much how you’re going to see him again.”
With such illustrious careers, De Niro and Pacino (who would most likely undergo the same de-aging process digitally) have a wealth of film footage to choose from for both reference and manipulation. They did both start when they were in their 20s. In the case of The Irishman, the use of this technology would allow us to see Sheeran and Hoffa in their younger years.
Michael Douglas and Robert Downey Jr. appeared decades younger in recent Marvel movies like Captain America: Civil War. Sir Anthony Hopkins appeared briefly as a de-aged version of his character Dr. Ford in Westworld. Paul Reubens went for a smoother, 1990s face in Netflix’s Pee-wee’s Big Holiday. And, perhaps most controversially, Lucasfilm and ILM’s revival of a certain character in Rogue One. The end result was unnerving: An uncanny valley of slightly twitchy video game realism, made all the crazier when you find out that they had a real-life actor performing the role on set; the VFX were applied over him, with some naysayers already insisting that it verged on the uncanny valley a little bit too much for their liking.
Scorsese and his special effects team still have quite a couple years to perfect the technology before The Irishman is released so here’s hoping their use in the technology is an improvement. Also set to appear are Boardwalk Empire‘s Bobby Cannavale, and Scorsese-staple Harvey Keitel.
The film is currently slated for release sometime in 2018.
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Source: Cinema Blend