Netflix Pays $105 Million for New Scorsese Mob Flick

Netflix has expanded beyond its original business model as a rental service of prerecorded entertainment.

In addition to offering DVDs and streaming services for rent, it also has crossed over to the production side of the entertainment industry, producing and distributing its own television shows, documentaries and feature films, in addition to acquiring such programs from production companies.

The long-gestating film is due for a 2019 Netflix release
The Irishman: director, left, and  some of the best actors working in films today.

Late last month, IndieWire broke the news that Netflix had nabbed the rights to Martin Scorsese’s long-gestating gangster epic, The Irishman, the acclaimed director's ninth outing with Robert DeNiro. Also starring: Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, and Bobby Cannavale (who turned out a stellar performance as Boardwalk Empire's desperately needed villian, Gyp Rosetti.)

Netflix reportedly paid $105 million for global rights to the film, slated for a 2019 release on the streaming service.

De Niro, in addition to playing a role, has helped Scorsese in developing the film production.

Pesci is to play Russell Bufalino, the Sicilian-born former boss of the Northeastern Pennsylvania crime family. He ruled his organization from 1959 to 1989, and even though his crime family was not as powerful as say, the New York families in their glory days, Bufalino was nevertheless a significant force in the national Cosa Nostra.

Harvey Keitel will play Sicilian boss Angelo Bruno, the Philadelphia don blasted to death with a shotgun in 1980.

Bobby Cannavale will play Colombo wiseguy Crazy Joe Gallo. (The Irishman apparently made a deathbed confession in which he admitted to his killing, too.)

Acclaimed screenwriter Steven Zaillian wrote the script based on Charles Brandt's book I Heard You Paint Houses, in which Sheeran claimed he was involved in the murder of Jimmy Hoffa.

IndieWire characterized Netflix's move as a "sign of the ongoing power shift in Hollywood," something about which this blogger personally couldn't care less.

Netflix and Scorcese are "in the process of closing a deal to release the movie to its 93 million subscribers in 190 countries."

So there's still time for the deal to be called off. However, considering the fact that everything but Netflix's inclusion in the deal was announced years ago, and nothing has changed, it seems quite likely the project won't be sent into Hollywood's version of purgatory, aka "turnaround."

The Irishman has been "discussed" for nearly as long as I have been writing this blog.

Let's go to the videotape: In March 2011, this blog reported that De Niro confirmed that he will play Frank Sheeran in the Scorsese film, to be titled The Irishman and based on the book, which despite all the allegations hovering around it remains an engrossing read.

Click image to view on Amazon.

The movie will bring together some of the most respected actors to have ever portrayed brutal mobsters and associates -- primarily in previous Scorsese mob flicks, such as Goodfellas.

De Niro said, "It's about a guy who confessed that he killed Hoffa and also Joe Gallo over here on Hester Street. And so I'm going to play that character; Joe Pesci's gonna be in it and Al Pacino is going to be in it and Marty's going to direct it."

I Heard You Paint Houses is based on extensive interviews Brandt conducted with the elderly hitman in the years before his 2003 death. 

Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran, a Teamsters official and Mafia associate, claimed that under direct orders of godfather Russell Bufalino, he was tasked with carrying out the execution of a man he  viewed as a friend and mentor, James R. Hoffa, in addition to around 30 other wiseguys, including Joseph "Crazy Joe" Gallo.

To paint a house is Mafia code for killing someone, the paint representing the splattered blood.

"I heard you paint houses," were the first words Hoffa spoke to Sheeran, whom he allegedly hired to carry out hits, among other things.

Sheeran has been discredited in his claims regarding Hoffa. He sounds almost like the Ice Man, Richard Kuklinski, only Sheeran, who actually spent time with real wiseguys, is somewhat easier to believe. 

And yet, he didn't kill Hoffa.

The Mob's Most Mysterious Murder

On the morning of July 30, a man Hoffa considered a son, Charles O’Brien, picked up three of Provenzano’s henchmen at a Detroit-area airport and drove them to a house where he was staying, not far from the Machus Red Fox restaurant.

Sal Briguglio, his brother Gabriel, and another New Jersey Teamster official named Thomas Andretta were the three.

All were subsequently named as suspected assassins by the federal grand jury.

Hoffa expert/investigative journalist Dan Moldea initially suspected that  Sheeran was among the conspirators/witnesses to the Hoffa hit.

In fact, Moldea accused Sheeran of belonging to the cabal before Sheeran later made his controversial "deathbed confession" about his role as the shooter in the Hoffa slay.

In the afternoon, O’Brien picked Hoffa up at the restaurant and drove him to the house, where the three men were waiting for him.

It's alleged that Hoffa’s killers stuffed him into a 55-gallon drum, loaded him onto a truck in Detroit, and shipped him to an unknown destination. His remains were later squashed in a car-compacting machine. This was brought before a grand jury.

As for Sheeran, Moldea revised his initial theory:

The problem is that, in my opinion and among many in law enforcement, he was not the man who pulled the trigger—although I do believe that Sheeran, who has given numerous conflicting versions of events over the years, was responsible for luring Hoffa into the car that drove him to the crime scene. 
My candidate as Hoffa’s actual killer has been and continues to be Salvatore Briguglio, then the top lieutenant for New Jersey labor racketeer Tony Provenzano, who engineered the murder on behalf of Eastern Pennsylvania crime boss, Russell Bufalino--which is what I wrote in my book 36 years ago. 
Briguglio was gunned down on a New York street on March 21, 1978—a month after my fourth and final interview with him. Provenzano died in prison on December 12, 1988. Bufalino died a free man on February 25, 1994.

Does Sheeran's discredited claims matter in the case of the Scorsese flick? In this blogger's opinion, not one bit. (Anyone need this explained?)

The Sheeran film seems to have grown into a labor of love for Scorsese.

Paramount Pictures had been involved -- until its 12-year chairman Brad Grey departed the studio.

"Scorsese’s team put together another package," as IndieWire noted. "As someone close to the deal put it, “Scorsese’s movie is a risky deal, and Paramount is not in the position to take risks. This way, he can make the project he wants." (What, exactly, is the risk? I'd be surprised if it's the flawed source material. Perhaps it's the generally poor reception garnered by too many gangster flicks, such as the slew of shitty films made by William DeMeo -- who is, incredibly, playing Sammy the Bull Gravano and making as much of an issue as possible out of it. He is not a rat! William won't even talk to the Gravano family in researching the role.... That's a good boy, Willie...)

Netflix declined to comment on the deal.

Look who is back!

Pre-production of the film already has commenced, though when actual shooting starts is not yet known. Considering the late-2019 release date, Marty may be taking his time with this one.

Marty, please, take all the time you need!