Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’ Could Be Headed for a Legal Battle over Netflix Deal

     February 24, 2017

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A couple days ago, we learned that Martin Scorsese’s next film, The Irishman, had been picked up for distribution by Netflix. The film is based on the true story of Frank Sheeran, a Teamsters official with ties to the Bufalino crime family who confessed to the murder of Jimmy Hoffa before his death in 2003. Schindler’s List scribe and The Night Of creator Steven Zaillian penned the script, and the film has been percolating for a few years now as Scorsese intends to use CG technology to de-age De Niro and cover large swaths of Sheeran’s life. Netflix paid $100 million for the project, and now Variety reports that the budget is ballooning to $125 to do the necessary VFX work to digitally de-age De Niro.

However, the project might have just hit another snag. Variety also reports that distributor STX is less than pleased with the deal and is considering legal action against Mexican producer Gaston Pavlovich’s pending deal with Netflix. STX purchased all non-U.S. distribution rights last year at Cannes for $50 million, but now their position is in doubt with Pavlovich trying to create a worldwide deal with Netflix.

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Image via Paramount Pictures

When reached for comment, STX issued the following statement: ““As a policy, STX does not comment on rumors or matters related to litigation.”

This has left foreign distributors who had planned to partner with STX on The Irishman scratching their heads. “It’s like you selling me an apartment and then saying someone else is going to move in,” said Stefano Massenzi of Italy’s Lucky Red, which purchased “The Irishman” for Italy.

For Pavlovich’s part, it looks like he was scrambling to make a deal after Paramount dropped The Irishman and following the poor box office for Silence, which Pavlovich also produced through his Fabrica de Cine banner. The film cost millions to make and promote, but ultimately only earned just $7 million in the U.S. and only one Oscar nomination.  Additionally, that film was also embroiled in legal battles, specifically that Scorsese had delayed making the film and breached previous agreements that he would make Silence his next movie. The lawsuit was settled in January 2014.

It will be interesting to see if The Irishman can avoid legal woes. Right now, it seems like Pavlovich moved too hastily to sell rights that weren’t his to sell. That puts the project in a tenuous position. If the Netflix deal doesn’t go through, then The Irishman is still going to need a U.S. distributor, and it’s going to need one that can afford the big VFX budget the movie requires.

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