Joe Pesci is one of the greatest actors of his generation, but it’s been years since the 76-year-old appeared in a film. That’s about to change with the new Martin Scorsese mafia movie The Irishman, which teams Pesci with fellow mob movie legends Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. And as it turns out, goading Pesci out of his comfy retirement was no easy feat.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, both De Niro and Scorsese revealed some of what it took to get Pesci back in the game, and it sure sounds like a lot of work. As in, they had to ask him 40 times before he agreed to appear in the film, with De Niro doing most of the convincing. “A lot of what I was saying was, ‘Come on, who knows if we’re ever going to have this chance again?'” De Niro said. “Let’s just do it. And he loves Marty and greatly respects him and knows that if he’s in Marty’s hands, it’s going to be okay.”
According to Scorsese, it wasn’t until Netflix agreed to finance the movie — whose ballooning budget was hitting some roadblocks at original studio Paramount — that Pesci finally relented in his resistance to stepping back in front of the camera. “When Netflix got into the picture — because then we had the backing,” Scorsese said of when Pesci’s tune changed. “It’s not even about the money or about being compensated and appreciated for your value. It’s about the physicality of [making a film] where nobody’s giving you anything. At a certain age and physicality for the actors, it may not be worth it.”
Thankfully, whatever magic it took to get Pesci to act again worked. And judging from the reviews, we ought to be very glad it did. The Irishman arrives on Netflix on Nov. 27.