Will the de-ag­ing ef­fects in The Ir­ish­man hold up?

Why cast a younger ac­tor in The Ir­ish­man when you can just de-age Robert De Niro?

Edmonton Sun - - NEWS - SONIA RAO

Five months ago, direc­tor Martin Scors­ese ap­peared on the in­die stu­dio A24’s pod­cast op­po­site Bri­tish film­maker Joanna Hogg and told her he was con­cerned.

In the midst of chat­ting about their shared re­gard for shoot­ing in the 35mm for­mat, he said that while he shot much of his gang­ster film The Ir­ish­man that way, there was also “a great deal of CGI” be­cause the decadess­pan­ning plot called for the “youthi­fi­ca­tion” of stars Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Al Pa­cino.

“We’re so used to watch­ing them as the older faces,” Scors­ese said, ex­plain­ing his con­cern. “When we put them all to­gether, it cuts back and forth ... Now, it’s real. Now, I’m see­ing it. Now, cer­tain shots need more work on the eyes, need more work on why these ex­actly-the-same eyes from the plate shot, but the wrin­kles and things have changed. Does it change the eyes at all? If that’s the case, what was in the eyes that I liked? Was it in­ten­sity? Was it grav­i­tas? Was it threat?”

Hogg re­sponded, “It’s quite com­pli­cated.”

And so it is. We fi­nally got a closer look at those com­pli­cated eyes in a re­cent trailer that dropped dur­ing De Niro’s ap­pear­ance on The Tonight Show Star­ring Jimmy Fal­lon. The Net­flix film, based on the 2004 book I Heard You Paint Houses, jumps through the life of Frank “The Ir­ish­man” Sheeran (De Niro) as he re­counts the hit jobs he says he car­ried out for the Bu­falino crime fam­ily.

This means we see him as a 20-some­thing, as an el­derly man and as ev­ery­thing in be­tween. We also en­counter char­ac­ters played by Pesci (Rus­sell Bu­falino); Pa­cino (Jimmy Hoffa, whose as­sas­si­na­tion Sheeran and Bu­falino plot); Ray Ro­mano; Bobby Can­navale; Jesse Ple­mons; and Anna Paquin.

Other than its re­mark­able length — af­ter ev­ery­one balked at the 210-minute run­time, Scors­ese trimmed it to a mere 209 — and cast of Os­car win­ners, The Ir­ish­man has at­tracted the most at­ten­tion for the CGI that so wor­ried its direc­tor.

While on The Tonight Show, De Niro joked that the de-ag­ing process “took a lot of work,” but that he was happy “be­cause maybe it’ll ex­tend my ca­reer for an­other 30 years.”

We, too, are happy, be­cause if you have even a shred of a rea­son to de-age some of Hol­ly­wood’s most es­teemed ac­tors, you should def­i­nitely do it.

The world has be­come a high-speed Tilt-a-whirl and, in cer­tain con­texts, it’s best to lean into the chaos.

Scors­ese seems to get this, as does Ang Lee, whose up­com­ing movie Gemini Man fea­tures Will Smith play­ing an as­sas­sin who must fight a younger clone of him­self.

Lee didn’t take the easy route of sim­ply cast­ing Smith’s rap­per-ac­tor son Jaden in the role, be­cause, well, when does he ever take the easy route? (Case in point, Gemini Man also em­ploys the same, po­lar­iz­ing high frame rate that Lee used in 2016’s Billy Lynn’s Long Half­time Walk.)

Per­haps they took a cue from David Fincher’s 2008 film The Cu­ri­ous Case of Ben­jamin But­ton, which cen­tred on a man (Brad Pitt) who ages in re­verse and scooped up three Os­cars — for best art di­rec­tion, makeup and visual ef­fects.

While the past few months have re­minded us of how lovely it can be to see Pitt in his nor­mal form, there is an ar­gu­ment to be made in favour of see­ing him trans­form from an el­derly man tech­ni­cally the age and size of a child, to a child the age (but not size?) of an el­derly man.

There have been less am­bi­tious de-ag­ing ef­forts, of course, in­clud­ing a scene from Cap­tain Amer­ica: Civil War in which Robert Downey Jr. plays a teenage Tony Stark — a no­table visual ef­fects job that Fal­lon ref­er­enced in the De Niro in­ter­view.

There have been also slightly ter­ri­fy­ing en­tries into the canon, such as the re­cent It: Chap­ter Two’s de­ci­sion to dig­i­tally al­ter Finn Wolfhard’s face be­cause he grew up too much in the few years be­tween the orig­i­nal film, re­leased in 2017, and its se­quel.

You win some, you lose some.

It’s un­clear where the de-ag­ing in The Ir­ish­man will rank in terms of its be­liev­abil­ity, as the ef­fects fea­tured in the trailer seem to have im­proved upon what was in the ini­tial teaser. Re­gard­less, Scors­ese can rest easy know­ing that his film’s CGI faces will never be as hor­rific as the half-hu­man, half-vam­pire baby Re­nes­mee in the fi­nal in­stal­ment of the Twi­light saga (which, mind you, was al­ready a re­place­ment for a scary an­i­ma­tronic baby the cast and crew deemed “Chuck­esme”).

We still have night­mares.


Thanks to “a great deal of CGI,” Robert Deniro and Joe Pesci look youth­ful again in this scene from Martin Scors­ese’s gang­ster film, The Ir­ish­man.

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