The Real Reason Joe Pesci Came Out Of Retirement To Act Again
Considering all the fame and fortune and fans who followed his work, it came as somewhat of a shock when Joe Pesci announced in 1999 that he was retiring from acting to pursue a music career. Twenty years later, Pesci has come out of retirement to act again, and we know the real reason why.
Pesci is reuniting with several of his longtime collaborators for his first major film role post-retirement in a movie that's already generating Oscar buzz.
In 2017, Deadline reported that Pesci would re-team with his Goodfellas director Martin Scorsese for The Irishman, which also stars Pesci's frequent co-star Robert De Niro. A biographical crime drama based on the book I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt, The Irishman focuses on the famous labor union leader and alleged mob hitman Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran, played in the film by De Niro. Pesci is set to play American mafioso Russell Bufalino, the leader of the Bufalino crime family to whom Sheeran was believed to have connections. Following Sheeran in his old age as he reflects on the crimes that defined his career in the Mafia, The Irishman also stars Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa, a fellow union leader and President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters who disappeared in 1975 and was declared legally dead in 1982. Before his death in 2003, Sheeran claimed that he was the man who killed his old friend Hoffa.
After Paramount Pictures dropped the project, Netflix acquired distribution rights to The Irishman, which is scheduled to hit the streaming service in late 2019. That's around the time that The Irishman will also see a theatrical launch to meet the requirements for Academy Awards eligibility.
Considering the talent involved, one could argue that coming out of retirement to star in The Irishman was a no-brainer for Pesci. Reuniting with Scorsese, De Niro, and Pacino for a movie that could very well earn several Academy Awards? Pesci would be foolish to turn that down to stay out of the public eye.
But that's actually what happened, at least according to past reports. According to Deadline, Pesci didn't immediately jump on the chance to step back into the limelight for The Irishman. Pesci is said to have repeatedly turned down the offer, with some sources stating that he said no about 50 times.
This stubbornness could have been a combination of a reluctance to come out of retirement and a past bad experience with getting lined up to play a mobster in a movie. Pesci was reportedly promised the role of real-life Gambino crime family capo Angelo Ruggiero in director Kevin Connolly's Gotti, and put on 30 pounds for the part, which he never actually landed. He wound up suing the producers for $3 million, and settled out of court in 2013. And if you think that's funny…
It evidently took persistence and convincing to get Pesci to sign on for The Irishman and officially come out of retirement to act again, but it sounds like the tipping point came when Pesci got the full scope of the project and the opportunities it could afford him. Knowing he would reunite with Scorsese was one thing, and learning that he'd be joined by a glittering cast was another. Still, we suspect that when Pesci got a taste of the intense true-life story, he realized how good The Irishman would be and ultimately said yes.
It was always going to take a fantastic gig to bring Pesci out of retirement, and the role of Russell Bufalino in The Irishman seems to be a winner. See Pesci make his triumphant return to acting when The Irishman rolls out in late 2019.
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