Cannes bidding war hots up for Martin Scorcese’s 'The Irishman'

Film-maker to reprise relationship with De Niro and direct for first time . . . Al Pacino

A bidding war for Martin Scorsese's upcoming true-crime story The Irishman has been afoot at the Cannes Film Festival market. Scorsese will direct his old pal Robert De Niro and – for the first time, astonishingly – Al Pacino in a period drama that has been on the boil for the guts of a decade.

De Niro is to play Frank Sheeran, an official of the Teamsters Union, who was accused of being linked to the Bufalino crime family. Before his death in 2003, Sheeran claimed to have killed the notorious Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa.

Steve Zaillian, writer of Scorsese's Gangs of New York, adapted the script from Charles Brandt's book I Heard You Paint Houses: Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran & Closing the Case on Jimmy Hoffa.

The Irishman was eventually sold to STX Entertainment for a record-breaking $50 million. Robert Simonds and Bill McGlashan launched STX just two years ago. Many thus saw the deal as an attempt to draw attention to a new force in the industry.


“Everybody was quite keen to get involved with it,” said David Kosse, president of STX’s international division. “It was intended as a business opportunity that fits within our plans. We weren’t making a statement. We were making a deal.” The film is scheduled to begin shooting in January 2017.


It wouldn't be Cannes without a protest. At the premiere for Kleber Mendonça Filho's Aquarius, a much-fancied Brazilian entrant to the main competition, the cast and crew halted at the entrance and held signs objecting to the impeachment of their country's president Dilma Rousseff.

The Cannes authorities seemed enormously relaxed about the situation. Thierry Frémaux, president of the event, stood calmly beside the film-makers and even expressed interest in a revolutionary T-shirt that one of the Aquarius team was wearing beneath his formal shirt.

Within, a banner was unfurled bearing the words: “Stop the Coup in Brazil”. The crowd erupted in applause. The impeachment of Ms Rousseff on charges of manipulating government accounts has infuriated many on Brazil’s left.

Mendonça Filho's film, starring Sonia Braga as an older woman holding out against developers seeking to buy her flat, received rave reviews and Ms Braga looks to be a contender for best actress.

Elsewhere, Kristen Stewart and Olivier Assayas, star and director of the divisive Personal Shopper, have been reacting to the intemperate booing that broke out following the film's press screening.

“Hey, everyone did not boo,” laughed Stewart. “When you come to Cannes, you’re prepared,” said Assayas. “You’re prepared for anything.”

Assayas need not despair. Five years ago Terrence Mallick's The Tree of Life was booed and went on to win the Palme d'Or.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist