Martin Scorsese and film editor Thelma Schoonmaker “really stressed the idea of intimacy” in “The Irishman,” explains supervising sound editor and mixer Eugene Gearty. So in a way they “wanted to strip away what most of us [sound designers] do for a living.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Gearty above.
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The film was a passion project for Scorsese 12 years in the making, an epic story about how low-level truck driver Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) became an enforcer for Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) and mob boss Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci). It’s adapted from Charles Brandt‘s nonfiction book “I Heard You Paint Houses,” which posits that Sheeran was involved in Hoffa’s disappearance in the 1970s.
Although on paper it sounds similar to Scorsese’s “GoodFellas” (1990), “The Irishman” is more mournful and therefore quieter. “Sound wanted to get out of the way,” says Gearty. “It was all about the raw intimacy of these performances.”
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Gearty’s challenge, therefore, “was sort of a reverse idea” of everything he had learned. “You have to recalculate your whole idea of what sound is based on all the work we’ve done on many films, and Marty’s films in particular prior to this.” At the end of the day “it was all about simplicity” and making sure “the performances weren’t being overwhelmed by anything extraneous.”
Gearty took home an Oscar for Best Sound Editing for his work on another Scorsese film, “Hugo” (2011), and he was also nominated in that category for the director’s “Gangs of New York” (2002) as well as Ang Lee‘s “Life of Pi” (2012). For his work on TV, he won an Emmy for the Scorsese-directed pilot of “Boardwalk Empire” and was nominated for Spike Lee‘s documentary “4 Little Girls” (1997).
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