'The Irishman' VFX Supervisor Details De-Aging De Niro in New Episode of 'Behind the Screen'

The Irishman - Publicity Still 4- H 2019
Courtesy of Netflix

The Irishman’s VFX supervisor, Industrial Light & Magic's Pablo Helman, details the process developed to de-age Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci in Martin Scorsese's Netflix crime drama The Irishman, in a new episode of The Hollywood Reporter's Behind the Screen.

Recorded at ILM in San Francisco, Helman discussed the development of the camera rig used for filming, to enable the VFX team to capture the actors' performances for de-aging without asking the actors to wear tracking markers or work on a performance capture stage. "I got a call from Marty," Helman relates. "He said, 'I gotta tell you that if we do a test of something, we cannot use any kind of tracking markers.' ... We’re going to use Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci and they are completely method actors and they’re not going to go for anything."

He relates, "Now that we had a way to capture the performance with no markers and on set, then we had to have a way to decode all that information and make sense of it. The first thing that we did is develop a piece of software that would take the RGB information and would take a look at the light and textures and create geometry from it on a frame by frame basis."

Helman describes challenges from filming with a three-camera rig that weighed roughly 64 pounds ("we never said 'no' to the director or the DP; we never put any restrictions on movement") to changing De Niro's eye color to blue.

He also talks about collecting references of the actors at younger ages from films such as Casino, Goodfellas and Heat.

Helman is a two-time Oscar nominee for 2005’s War of the Worlds and Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones. His credits include Jarhead, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Scorsese’s Silence.

Hear it all below on Behind the Screen — and be sure to subscribe to the podcast to never miss an exciting episode.