Martin Scorsese's 'The Irishman' to close the 2019 London Film Festival

Tom Butler
Senior Editor
Ray Romano, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in The Irishman (Credit: Netflix)

Netflix’s The Irishman will close the 63rd BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express on Sunday, 13 October in London, with Martin Scorsese and cast expected to attend.

Starring Robert De NiroAl PacinoJoe Pesci, The Irishman reunites Scorsese with his Gangs of New York screenwriter Steve Zaillian, who adapts from Charles Brandt’s novel I Heard You Paint Houses. It’s being billed as “a grand scale epic examining the influence of organised crime in post-war America”.

As well as the London screening, there will be simultaneous preview screenings of The Irishman taking place at cinemas across the UK, courtesy of the BFI.

Martin Scorsese, director said: “I’m extremely honoured to be having the International Premiere of The Irishman at the closing night of the BFI London Film Festival.

“This picture was many years in the making. It’s a project that Robert De Niro and I started talking about a long time ago, and we wanted to make it the way it needed to be made. It’s also a picture that all of us could only have made at this point in our lives. We’re all very excited to be bringing The Irishman to London.”

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The film has attracted a lot of early attention for a number of reason. Firstly, The Irishman marks the first time Scorsese has worked with Al Pacino. It also reunited the killer Goodfellas combo of Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, who was lured out of retirement for the film.

Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese at a Film Society of Lincoln Center tribute to Martin Scorsese, New York City, 4th May 1998. (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Secondly, the film will be utilising state of the art de-ageing VFX to take years off the actors, who will portray their characters in two time periods. And finally, any new work from Scorsese is worth celebrating, as the London Film Festival team notes.

Tricia Tuttle, BFI London Film Festival Director said: “What an immense cinephile thrill it is to close the 63rd BFI London Film Festival with the International Premiere of Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman.

“British Film Institute Fellow Scorsese is one of the true greats of cinema – as both a creator and a tireless champion of preservation and film history – and here he and his creative team have delivered an epic of breathtakingly audacious scale and complexity, exploring relationships of trust and betrayal, regret and remorselessness, which dominated a period of American history.

Director Martin Scorsese celebrates with his fellowship award at the British Academy of Film and Arts awards, 2012. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

“This is a major occasion for film lovers and I cannot wait to share this film with UK audiences.”

The festival could expect to receive some blowback from the U.K. film industry for the decision to host a Netflix film at one of its biggest gala events. Earlier this year, both Cineworld and Vue blasted the BAFTA Film Awards for honouring Roma, Alfonso Cuaron’s Netflix film, which received a very limited theatrical release.

Roma won four BAFTAs – Best Film, Director, Cinematography, and Film Not in the English Language – on Sunday, 10 February, with cinema chains frustrated that they weren’t given the opportunity to screen to film for customers.

Tim Richards – founder and CEO of European exhibitor Vue International – said that the British Academy “has not lived up to its usual high standards this year in choosing to endorse and promote a ‘made for TV’ film that audiences were unable to see on a big screen.”

“It is clear that Netflix made at best a token effort to screen Roma, screening it to less than 1% of the UK market solely because it wanted an award. How could Bafta let this happen?”

Cineworld then announced it would be withdrawing its support of the BAFTA Film Awards, citing ‘concerns regarding the eligibility requirements of the Film Award’.

The 63rd BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express takes place from Wednesday, 2 October-Sunday 13 October 2019. The full Festival programme will be announced on Thursday, 29 August 2019.

The Irishman will land in cinemas and Netflix this Autumn.