Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’ Coming Together Quickly: Could This Be The Hottest Title At Cannes?

By Anita Busch, Ali Jaafar, Nancy Tartaglione

EXCLUSIVE: A legendary wise-guy reunion is in the offing and it could become the hottest international sales title at Cannes if a deal makes in time. Martin Scorsese’s long-gestating The Irishmanwhich may bring together Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci (among others) in one film — is coming together very quickly and could be made available to international buyers if Paramount, which currently controls the project, finishes a deal to sell international rights off to Fabrica de Cine in time before the Cannes market kicks off May 11. Fabrica is the production banner of deep-pocketed Mexican financier Gaston Pavlovich, who also financed Scorsese’s passion project Silence.

Sources tell Deadline that Paramount is in final negotiations to sell the rights to Fabrica in a similar deal structure that was put in place for Silence. In that scenario, Fabrica sold the rights to AI Film which then employed IM Global to handle international sales at Cannes. However, it’s still very much up in the air as to who may be the international agent on The Irishman.

Fabrica will most likely offer those rights to either a sales agent or direct to international distributors. It won’t come cheap, though: The Irishman has a budget believed to be in the $100M range. That’s a big ask, even with a heavy-hitting talent lineup said to include De Niro, Pacino and Pesci, although we’re told no deals are yet done. Chances of a deal getting done in time to have the project available for Cannes are currently pegged at 50-50 according to sources Deadline has spoken to with knowledge of the negotiations.

There will be no shortage of suitors for Fabrica to speak to once they close the Paramount deal, but they will need to be made an offer they can’t refuse if they’re going to hit the numbers they need to make this a reality. There are believed to be a number of heavy-hitter international sales companies in the mix salivating for the opportunity to sell this. It is possible, we understand, that the final outcome could mean a major title is in the offing for buyers in Cannes, regardless of when it comes available.

Paramount is handling domestic distribution (Scorsese’s Sikelia Productions about a year ago extended its overall feature deal with the studio).

The Irishman is based on the Charles Brandt book I Heard You Paint Houses which is the deathbed story from mob hitman Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran about the disappearance and death of Jimmy Hoffa. Steve Zaillian adapted the book for the screen.

Sheeran was a member of the Bufalino crime family out of Pennsylvania and became a confidante of Hoffa. According to Sheeran’s story, Hoffa was driven to a house near the Red Fox restaurant (where he was last seen) and shot twice in the back of the head in the hallway, then cremated in a mob-connected funeral home. Floor planks where Hoffa would have hit the floor were pulled up and tested for DNA more than 10 years ago. Of the two good samples, the FBI could confirm nothing solid: one was inconclusive and the other only could reveal that it was a male. The rest is lore.

The name of the book comes from the first thing Hoffa reportedly said to Sheeran: “I heard you paint houses,” which means when blood is splattered all over the floor and walls (“painting the house”) after a hit.

Scorsese’s next film is Silence which stars Liam Neeson, Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield and is based on a novel of the same name by Shusaku Endo. The drama is about 17th Century Jesuit priests who are persecuted when they travel to Japan and try to teach their faith.

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