By Dan Strayer

23rd January 2020

The Irishman Cast And Where You’ve Seen Them Before

The star studded Irishman cast combines legendary stars with memorable role players
SOURCE: Screen Rant

The saying goes that a fish rots from the head. The Irishman cast, on the other hand, has the opposite effect. Led by an all-star cast of acclaimed actors and behind the camera standouts in film, all parties associated with The Irishman leave a gleam thanks in part to Martin Scorsese’s timeless direction.

The Irishman’s release to intrigued audiences was not without controversy. It premiered at the 57th New York Film Festival before a limited theatre release worldwide. Though still available in select theatres, Scorsese has now moved the film to stream worldwide on Netflix. It’s a move he has defended repeatedly.

Nostalgia for a different time

The 3+ hour film shines as an increasingly rare, one of a kind period piece set in the heart of the organised labour movement of the 1960s and 1970s America. It also comes with constant reminders of a bygone era.

Noticeable in the film are the highways, cars and road signs of the set design. Not to mention the interweaving historical events like the Bay of Pigs, the Assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the Watergate Conspiracy.

Runtime and other issues for the Irishman Cast

Many The Irishman cast members worked previously with director Martin Scorsese (center)
Source: UPI

The Irishman is not without its flaws: namely, the aforementioned runtime. At a minute shy of three and a half hours, The Irishman is uncommonly long for 2020 audiences. Such was the concern that drove a limited release.

It proved unfounded: speculation since reveals long-ticket lines at theatres easily suggest there was more box office to be had. Moreover, the film has the feel of a Greatest Hits Mafia Collection for understated reactions and pace.

The male-dominated cast of The Irishman is another consideration. Accordingly, female characters in the film are sidenotes to the story, with the exception of the running moral conscience portrayed by Anna Paquin as Sheeran’s daughter.

The audience response

Nevertheless, with five Golden Globe Award and 10 more Oscar nominations, critical acclaim is widespread. Filmmakers (like Quentin Tarantino and Bong Joon-Ho), writers (Richard Roeper and Peter Travers), actors (Bill Hader) and even American presidents (Barack Obama) laud The Irishman.

For audiences, it’s also a run down memory lane. Scorsese effectively gets the gang back together for that best hits playlist. It’s a bigger gang than you think, too: Scorsese frequently works repeatedly more than once with actors, whether it’s in film or television (for instance, the pilot episode of Boardwalk Empire). There’s range, and then there’s the range of The Irishman – in more ways than one.

And again, there’s the sentimentality the film brings across. So let’s keep the journey going.

Who makes up this rich cast both in front and behind the camera of real-life biopic The Irishman? How do they live in our memory prior to this epic? And who, exactly, are these acclaimed actors portraying?

First off, the famed director, Martin Scorsese.

Martin Scorsese

SOURCE: Empire Online

A knowledgeable football fan will know that Liverpool’s pursuit of the Premier League title would end a 30+ year drought for a legendary club.

So it was for director Martin Scorsese, whose overseen classic films like:

  • The Last Waltz;
  • Raging Bull;
  • The Last Temptation of Christ;
  • Goodfellas;
  • The Color of Money;
  • Gangs of New York;
  • The Aviator;
  • No Direction Home: Bob Dylan.

It’s a drama, humour and documentary canon that is the stuff of modern Hollywood legend.

Alas for Scorsese, there had never been any gong for Best Director at the Academy Awards for much of his early career. That is, until 2006 with the Boston-based bent cop drama The Departed. Since then, The Wolf of Wall Street and other classics have expanded his legend.

More about the Scorsese legend

Scorsese’s Goodfellas lives on in this film in many ways through The Irishman, with the return of Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Harvey Keitel and Co. Set mainly in Greater Philadelphia, De Niro’s World War II veteran Frank Sheeran rises in gangland to meet new friend Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), famed head of International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Of Irish descent, Sheeran forges an identity in the Italian descendant Bufalino crime family, namely Russell Bufalino.

In telling the story, The Irishman’s cast employs many of Scorsese’s traits:

  • Explanatory process montages.
  • Religious guilt.
  • Running narration of the central character (with brief interludes from other characters).
  • Small talk revolving around hobby-based bread breaking conversations (in this case, “I heard you paint houses”, an alternative title the film uses thanks to the source material of the book that inspired the film).

As the timeline of the film extends from the 1940s into the 1990s, de-ageing makeup for older cast members was also necessary. The necessity drove budget figures higher before eventually reach $140 million.

Now, on to the Irishman cast and the noteworthy historical figures they portray.

Joe Pesci

What He’s Known For

Harry the burglar from the Home Alone movies; David Ferry from JFK; Joey LaMotta in Raging Bull; and Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas.

Has He Worked With Scorsese Before?

Yes, and he’s done so frequently. Pesci earned major award nominations for Goodfellas, Raging Bull and Casino. The former saw him land some of American cinema’s more amusing scenes (one that is definitely NSFW).

Who is He Playing in The Irishman?

Russell Bufalino, a real-life leader of the Bufalino crime family in postwar Southeastern Pennsylvania. Compared to his turn as the volatile DeVito, Pesci’s portrayal of Russell is equally cold but much more controlled and patient. And while the humour is on display, Pesci delivers it with a subdued and mature grace that befits a leader.

Anything Else to Know?

Pesci is touring the awards circuit thanks to this performance. He has nominations for Best Supporting Actor in the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes, a Screen Actor’s Guild Award and the BAFTAs.

Robert de Niro

What He’s Known For

Where to start with this one? The Meet the Parents series (for director Jay Roach)? Nah, let’s go elsewhere, like:

  • The Godfather, Part II (an award-winning portrayal directed by Francis Ford Coppola).
  • The Deer Hunter (Michael Cimino).
  • The Untouchables (Brian de Palma).
  • Midnight Run (Martin Brest).
  • Heat (Michael Mann).

Has He Worked With Scorsese Before?

This will seem like a repeat of Pesci: Yes, frequently. He earned major award nominations for Goodfellas, Raging Bull (winning the Academy Award for Best Actor) and Casino. That’s not to mention Academy Award noms for Taxi Driver and Cape Fear.

Who is He Playing in The Irishman?

Frank Sheeran. The central character of the film, De Niro’s Sheeran is a tour de force. His emergence as a war veteran truck driver into the throes of Union teamsters leadership and mob enforcer keep De Niro in the storyline without swallowing up scenes or shrinking from them.

Anything Else to Know?

De Niro’s eyes are piercingly blue in the film, and come to dominate the screen at times for scrutinising longtime fans of the New York actor.

Al Pacino

What He’s Known For

Again: where to start with this one? Dick Tracy? Fun as that one was (and for the record, he got a Best Supporting Actor nod from the Academy as Big Boy Caprice), it’s probably a No. These fit the bill much better:

  • The Godfather series (yes, an award-winning portrayal directed by Francis Ford Coppola).
  • Serpico & Dog Day Afternoon (Sidney Lumet).
  • Scarface (Brian de Palma).
  • Scent of a Woman (Martin Brest).
  • Heat (Michael Mann).

Has He Worked With Scorsese Before?

No, he has not, which makes the collaboration on The Irishman all the more inviting.

Who is He Playing in The Irishman?

None other than Jimmy Hoffa, head of America’s premier union groups – the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) – from 1957 to 1971. Pacino’s earned a Best Supporting Actor nod for the role, playing a doomed Hoffa through the prism of De Niro’s Sheeran and their tragic but genuine friendship.

Anything Else to Know?

Although it is Pacino’s first film under Scorsese’s direction, it is his third film in total, with Heat (1995) and Righteous Kill (2009). And any recollection of these Hollywood heavyweights cannot ignore the memorable diner scene from Heat.

Ray Romano

What He’s Known For

Although the comedian has found a new life in subtle comic but dramatic roles, Romano will be forever beloved as TV’s Ray Barone in Everybody Loves Raymond. Additionally, his television career has seen him in Get Shorty and Men of a Certain Age. He’s also lent his voice to the Ice Age animated films.

Has He Worked With Scorsese Before?

Yes, on television. Romano had a part in the 2016 show Vinyl, a Scorsese production.

Who is He Playing in The Irishman?

William Buffalino, a lawyer to the Teamsters union who crossed paths regularly with Sheeran, Hoffa and his cousin Russell.

Anything Else to Know?

Romano is so beloved in acting and comedy circles that his nature and accent are often imitated, as seen here from Jon Hamm.

Harvey Keitel

What He’s Known For

Another gangster movie mainstay, Keitel first made waves in Mean Streets. You’ll recognise him as Winston Wolf from Pulp Fiction, a character he’s reprised for Direct Line commercials in the UK. Keitel has also been featured in Sister Act, Wise Guys, From Dusk ‘Til Dawn, Reservoir Dogs, Bugsy and Thelma & Louise.

Has He Worked With Scorsese Before?

Yes, and quite frequently at that. Keitel broke through in Scorsese’s gritty Mean Streets and has also appeared in Taxi Driver and The Last Temptation of Christ.

Who is He Playing in The Irishman?

Angelo Bruno, an infamous Philadelphia mob boss within the Bruno crime family known as The Gentle Don or The Docile Don.

Anything Else to Know?

Keitel has proven fairly versatile in working with modern and classic directors. His work has taken him from Scorsese to Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, Barry Levinson, Brian de Palma and Barry Sonnenfeld.

Anna Paquin

What She’s Known For

One of Hollywood’s child actress success stories, Paquin won an Oscar for The Piano in 1993 at the tender age of 11, and a Golden Globe starring in True Blood.

Has She Worked With Scorsese Before?

No, this is her first collaboration with Scorsese.

Who is She Playing in The Irishman?

Paquin plays Sheeran’s adult daughter Peggy, serving as the moral conscience of the show. Despite limited lines, Paquin’s reactions and disapproving nature of Frank’s actions dominate the scenes she’s in.

Anything Else to Know?

A successful child actress, you’ll most likely recall Paquin from Almost Famous and as Rogue in the X-Men franchise.

Bobby Cannavale

 

What He’s Known For

Cannavale first shot to recognition in Will & Grace, which earned him an Emmy Award. Other appearances include Mr. Robot, Vinyl and Boardwalk Empire, the latter of which earned him a second Emmy Award.

Has He Worked With Scorsese Before?

Yes, but strictly on television, with his roles in Vinyl and Boardwalk Empire.

Who is He Playing in The Irishman?

Cannavale portrays Bruno mob captain Felix “Skinny Razor” Ditullio. His introduction revolves around Sheeran’s early career, working as a driver for a meat truck. Without going too far into the plot, Skinny Razor had a love for steak, and a friendship was born.

Anything Else to Know?

The restaurant that Ditulio frequented and enjoyed his steak so much in still stands to this day.

Stephen Graham

What He’s Known For

The Kirkby native’s filmography includes Snatch, Pirates of the Caribbean, the fifth series of Line of Duty, and the This is England film series.

Has He Worked With Scorsese Before?

Yes, notably on both film and television. On the big screen, he was in Gangs of New York; more recently, Graham played one of history’s most notorious gangsters – Al Capone – on the Scorsese HBO project Boardwalk Empire.

Who is He Playing in The Irishman?

Graham’s character, Hoffa adversary and Teamsters leader “Tony Pro” Provenza, is an integral figure in the fate of Frank and Jimmy Hoffa.

Anything Else to Know?

Graham has been a staple of British cinema and television but he has shown that he can seamlessly cross over into American-based roles. And to bring us back to the football analogy we used earlier to describe Scorsese, Graham is a noted Liverpool FC supporter.

Jessie Plemons

What He’s Known For

His television work includes a supportive friend turned American footballer in Friday Night Lights and a calmly sadistic drug trafficker in Breaking Bad. Other credits include Vice, The Post, Bridge of Spies, Black Mass and the Breaking Bad Netflix film, El Camino.

Has He Worked With Scorsese Before?

No, this makes for a first-time collaboration.

Who is He Playing in The Irishman?

Plemons plays a close associate of Hoffa named Chuckie O’Brien.

Anything Else to Know?

A child actor who first stood out on the Lil Bow Wow basketball flick Like Mike, Plemons is another noteworthy child acting success story in The Irishman.

Domenick Lombardozzi

What He’s Known For

Make no mistake about it: Domenick Lombardozzi is Herc from The Wire. Other appearances in other films (Phone Booth, S.W.A.T., Miami Vice, The Family, and The Bridge of Spies) might distract you from thinking he is not Herc from The Wire. This is sacrilegious, and it must never be forgotten: Lombardozzi is Herc from The Wire.

Has He Worked With Scorsese Before?

No, not under Scorsese’s direction. However, Scorsese served as an executive producer for 2015’s The Wannabe, in which Lombardozzi portrayed a character named Mickey.

Who is He Playing in The Irishman?

This is the part where you will struggle to remember that Lombardozzi is Herc from the Wire. In this film, he portrays Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno, a Genovese crime family frontman from New York that Hoffa continually shuns. As the nickname suggests, Lombardozzi requires a significant amount of makeup and body alterations that bear nothing resembling Herc from The Wire. Nevertheless, I still urge you not to forget this.

Anything Else to Know?

The author is an incurable, unapologetic fan of The Wire. He’ll go to bat for The Irishman cast, but he will really go to bat for The Wire cast members. If you cannot set aside your binge-watching time for The Irishman, re-allocate that time to The Wire then: you will not be disappointed.

The author appreciates your patience: on to the rest of The Irishman cast.

Stephanie Kurtzuba

What She’s Known For

A theatre actress, you’ll likely have seen Kurtzuba in both The Wolf of Wall Street and the remake of Annie. Courtroom drama fans will know her as Olivia from The Good Wife.

Has She Worked With Scorsese Before?

The Wolf of Wall Street was a Scorsese film, and Kurtzuba portrayed Kimmie Belzer, the lone female stockbroker in Jordan Belfort’s office.

Who is She Playing in The Irishman?

Irene Sheeran, Frank’s second wife and a travelling companion for Frank and Russell running throughout the film and toward the climactic moment.

Anything Else to Know?

Kurtzuba is a regular guest actress in television police and legal dramas. She’s also one of the few actresses to cross the Law & Order and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit spectrum.

Sebastian Maniscalco

What He’s Known For

Maniscalco is a Chicagoland-born comedian and actor. His film credits also include the Academy Award-nominated Green Book. Since 2009, Maniscalco has released five different comedy specials featuring his standup work.

Has He Worked With Scorsese Before?

No, this is Maniscalco’s first role in a Scorsese production.

Who is He Playing in the Irishman

“Crazy” Joe Gallo, a flashy gangster within the Profaci crime family that rubs against Russell’s affairs.

Anything Else to Know?

Gallo’s life was fictionalised in two movies (The Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight and Crazy Joe). Controversially, Gallo’s life was romanticised in the Bob Dylan song Joey from his bestselling Desire album in 1976.

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