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Martin Scorsese told an audience at the British Film Institute in London on Feb. 22 that watching a movie at home wasn’t the “best way.” How ironic then that the day before, news surfaced that the helmer was closing a deal with theater owners’ nemesis Netflix to fund his new film, The Irishman.
The terms may have been too sweet to resist in the wake of the ultra-expensive period piece leaving Paramount after Scorsese ally Brad Grey’s departure from the studio. The streaming giant has agreed to pay $120 million for worldwide rights to the picture, expected to cost between $120 million and $150 million. The Irishman will use expensive technology to make its three stars — Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci — appear at ages 30, 50 and 70 to tell the real-life story of Frank Sheeran, a Teamsters official who confessed to killing Jimmy Hoffa.
Before shooting gets underway, Scorsese and his reps (led by WME’s Ari Emanuel and manager Rick Yorn) will have to untangle a series of foreign-sales deals that were put in place before Netflix’s involvement. In 2016, STX Entertainment made a splashy $50 million deal for international rights with Mexican financier Gaston Pavlovich, one of the producers of Scorsese’s last picture, Silence. STX in turn sold various rights to foreign distributors. Now STX likely will have to move aside or make a legal claim.
It wouldn’t be the first time Netflix has swooped in to outspend its rivals: It did much the same with Dee Rees’ Mudbound, paying a festival-high $12.5 million at Sundance in January.
Sources say Scorsese is optimistic and has written to Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos personally to assure him everything can be resolved.
This story first appeared in the March 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.