Like New York, Hollywood is a town that never sleeps, and just a few days after the 91st Academy Awards winners were announced, Oscars 2020 speculation is already well under way.
And according to bookmakers, there’s an early favourite in the Best Picture betting in the shape of The Irishman, the latest offering from Martin Scorcese. The film, which has apparently been in the works for more than ten years, and which has had a troubled development, was teased during an ad break on US television during this year’s Academy Awards ceremony.
Based on a script adapted from the 2004 bestselling novel I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt, the film stars Robert DeNiro as Frank ‘The Irishman’ Sheeran, a hitman working for notorious union boss Jimmy Hoffa, who is ordered by another gangster to assassinate Hoffa.
It seems that the project has been a labour of love for the veteran film-maker, and is likely to air in the autumn of 2019 after being rescued by Netflix in 2017. The online streaming giant is reported to have invested around $100 million in the film, which in addition to the resources already spent on it could see the final cost exceeding $200 million. Of course, money is no guarantee of quality; after all, two of the three most expensive films ever made are Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, neither of which troubled the Oscars judges.
But the list of names associated with The Irishman is pretty impressive. Along with Scorcese and De Niro, who will be working together for the ninth time, the film features Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel and Anna Paquin. It will be the fourth time that De Niro and Pacino have appeared in the same film following The Godfather Part II (1974) Heat (1995) and A Righteous Kill (2008).
And just combining the Oscars pedigree of the films leading stars, it’s not hard to see why Paddy Power have made The Irishman the early 3/1 favourite for best picture in 2020. Pacino and De Niro, both now well into their 70s, have fifteen Academy Awards nominations between them. Pacino has been nominated eight times, though not since 1993, when he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in Glengarry Glenn Ross and won Best Actor for Scent of a Woman.
The De Niro and Scorsese double-act has been one of the most successful and enduring in the film industry. De Niro was first nominated for Best Actor for his role in Scorcese’s The Taxi Driver and eventually won it with another Scorcese film, Raging Bull (1981). He also won Best Supporting Actor for Godfather Part II. Scorcese has an impressive twelve nominations on his resume, the last of which came in 2013 for The Wolf of Wall Street, though his sole win came in 2006 with The Departed.
That’s a pretty impressive pedigree, and The Irishman clearly has a lot going for it, but there’s plenty of time for other contenders to supplant it as the bookies’ favourite, and 2019 will see its fair share of potential contenders. These include The Laundromat, based on the real life discovery of the Panama Papers, directed by Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh and stars Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas, while fans of political thrillers can back The Last Thing he Wanted, starring Anne Hathaway, Willem Dafoe and Ben Affleck at 6/1. Alternatively, if you think that Keanu Reeves’ Oscars moment has finally arrived, you can back John Wick: Chapter 3 at 150/1.