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Martin Scorsese on the one actor that remained "unreachable"

Martin Scorsese is one of cinema’s most prolific and well-respected directors. With huge successes such as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, The Age of Innocence and Shutter Island under his belt, Scorsese’s films have helped to shape the current landscape of cinema, as well as propelling certain actors to great heights. Most commonly associated with Scorsese is Robert De Niro, who has starred in nine feature films by the director, with many of these considered some of the greatest films of all time.

If you were to ask someone if Al Pacino has ever been in a Scorsese picture, they’d probably say yes. The actor is close friends with De Niro and many other Scorsese collaborators such as Harvey Keitel, and often stars alongside them. However, Pacino did not star alongside his friends under the direction of Scorsese until 2019. His Scorsese debut saw him play Jimmy Hoffa in the 209 minute epic The Irishman, which follows De Niro as a hitman who becomes involves with a mobster played by Joe Pesci (who came out of retirement to play the role) and his crime family. Pacino’s role as the powerful International Brotherhood of Teamsters leader earned him a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the Academy Awards.

In an interview with Scorsese at AFI Festival in 2019, the director detailed his experience of working with Pacino. He said: “I’d been wanting to work with Al for years. Francis Coppola introduced me to him in 1970. Then he’s in ‘Godfather’ one and two, and he’s in the stratosphere. For me, Al was always something unreachable. We even tried to make a film in the 1980s but couldn’t get the financing for it. I said, ‘What’s he like to work with?’ Bob [De Niro] said, ‘Oh, he’s great. You’ll see.’”

Furthermore, Scorsese discusses the joys of getting to direct Pacino and De Niro, “What you see in the film is their relationship as actors, as friends, over the past 40, 45 years. There’s something magical that happens there.” The pair have famously been close friends since they first met in their mid-20s. On meeting De Niro, Pacino once said, “I remember the meeting very clearly. Unbelievably, I saw this guy, I thought, Wow, he’s got such charisma. He wasn’t doing anything. He was just walking. Remember? You know, he was Bob. But you felt something from him.”

The result of the Hollywood veterans working together is something special. Featuring countless acting greats, The Irishman is likely the last time the stars will all work together – at least on such an epic scale. Not only was The Irishman Scorsese’s longest film, but it was also his most expensive, partly due to the extensive use of digital de-ageing effects used that required a three-camera rig set-up.

Therefore, it is only apt that Scorsese was finally able to get Pacino to star in one of his films, alongside some of cinema’s most iconic stars.