According to Deadline, before accepting taking on the role of Russell Bufalino, Joe Pesci refused multiple times to come out of retirement in order to appear in this film. Some sources say the actual number of refusals was fifty.
When asked during interview with Cinema Blend about how will the film handle the age difference between the actors and characters, Producer Gastón Pavlovich stated, "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 (Robert De Niro) and just do a scene, we saw it come down to when he was like twenty, forty, sixty, 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: Part II (1974) days, that's pretty much how you're going to see him again." The technology will be utilized for the other cast members in the film.
Initially set up at Paramount Pictures, who was planning to release it domestically, as well as Media Asia, who picked up Chinese distribution, and STX Entertainment, who took international rights. After Paramount Pictures lost confidence in the film's one hundred million dollar budget, in tandem with the departure of studio chief Brad Grey, it was put in turnaround, and Netflix acquired the rights.
Special effects titan Industrial Light and Magic is providing the work to de-age the actors. According to Al Pacino, there would be computers on the camera sides during production to track and follow the cast for the actors to work with. Pacino said that he'd be playing Hoffa at different ages as told by the crew at ages like 39 or 48. Pacino said when told that his performance was to be at that age, he'd refer to a memory around that time and try to physically and mentally perform as if he were that age.
As of May 15th, 2016, STX Entertainment bought the international distribution rights of the film. After this, the project was green-lit to start production. Scorsese pitched the project as far back as 2007.
During an interview with The Playlist, Martin Scorsese teased that this would be different from his other gangster films, saying "I think this is different, I think it is. I admit that there are, you know, Goodfellas (1990) and Casino (1995) have a certain style that I created for them, it's on the page in the script actually. Putting Goodfellas (1990) together was almost like an afterthought, at times he was kind of rushing, he felt I'd already done it because he'd played it all out in terms of the camera moves and the editing and that sort of thing. The style of the picture, the cuts, the freeze-frames, all of this was planned way in advance, but here, it's a little different. The people are also older in The Irishman (2018), it's certainly more about looking back, a retrospective, so to speak, of man's life, and the choices that he's had to make."
"I heard you paint houses" are the first words Jimmy Hoffa ever spoke to Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran. To paint a house is to kill a man in "mob speak" meaning the paint is the blood that splatters on the walls and floors in a mob hit.
In this film, Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran (Robert De Niro) has a couple of encounters with a guy named Dave Ferrie. Dave Ferrie was portrayed by Joe Pesci in JFK (1991). Pesci plays Pennsylvania mob boss Russell Bufalino in this film.
Sebastian Maniscalco was given the option of either flying out to New York City or send a tape from Los Angeles where he resides. Maniscalaco opted to buy his own ticket and fly out to audition and meet with them. The casting director saw him and said that he was looking good for the movie, particularly since Scorsese was a fan of the comedian's work. Maniscalaco said that actually killed his confidence for the audition and it went sour. They subsequently gave him notes and a second chance which he succeeded, although he was cast for a different character than the one he read for.
The relatively new production company, STX, secured international rights on the movie. They are a young studio focused on making mid-budget, adult-targeted, star-powered films, which include: The Gift (2015), The Boy (2016), and Hardcore Henry (2015).
Comedian Sebastian Maniscalco was originally envisoned for the part of Skinny Razor. Upon meeting Maniscalco, Scorsese saw a darker edge to the comedian and offered him a more sinister part as Crazy Joe Gallo. Maniscalco accepted the role and Bobby Cannevalle took the role of Skinny Razor.
According to an article in Iohud by Karen Roberts published on Friday, September 22, 2017, walking down Lafayette Avenue in Suffern on Thursday was like stepping back in time into the New York of the 1960s and 70s. The filming had closed a stretch of downtown Suffern on Lafayette between Chestnut and Orange Avenues between 11:a.m. and 3 p.m. The film crew had dressed the exteriors of store windows to look like the time period the story was set in. Crews had also been filming in Blauvelt and Ardsley on Wednesday and various other locations around the Lower Hudson Valley.
Frank Sheeran measured in at 6'4", almost 6" taller than the man portraying him, Robert De Niro. Some techniques like"forced perspective" and shoe lifts help maintain the illusion of Sheeran's hulking frame. Similar techniques were used in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994).
While filming The Irishman, Martin Scorsese turned seventy-five years old. To celebrate his seventy-fifth birthday he received a large birthday cake with a picture of his face on it. His cake was also lined with cupcakes.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
In 2003, while on his deathbed, Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran revealed that he killed Jimmy Hoffa, stating that it was really hard on him, because Hoffa was his good friend, but "it was business". This has yet to be confirmed as a fact by the authorities.
New Jersey native comedian Jim Norton is rumored to play the late great comedian Don Rickles. Rickles himself played a supporting role in Casino (1995), the previous collaboration between Scorsese, Pesci and De Niro.