Production designer Bob Shaw reveals, “We had 295 locations and we built 28 sets” for “The Irishman.” Upon first reading Steven Zaillian‘s script for Martin Scorsese‘s gangland epic, it was “quite clear how expansive the project was, and not only how many locations there were and how many things that had to be found, but often what a brief period of time we would spend in any of these given locations.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Shaw above.
The Netflix release tells the true story of Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro), a working class truck driver who became a hit man in league with Teamsters honcho Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) and Mafia bigwig Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci). Spanning the late 1940s through the early 2000s, the film was a daunting challenge for any designer, especially considering the number of sets needed for the three-and-a-half-hour saga. “We would find something and get it ready and put it into the appropriate period, and then it would be just a flash on the screen,” Shaw explains.
Having worked on “The Sopranos,” Shaw was no stranger to the Mafia. He was also no stranger to the area of Philadelphia the movie takes place in, since most of his family resided there. In fact, his distant relatives ran a lingerie shop near Bufalino’s curtains and drapes store that served as a front for his illegal activities. Needless to say, his family “really didn’t sell a lot of lingerie.” So “there were so many details that came to mind just reading the script the first time” that found their way into his designs.
Shaw won Emmys for his work on “Boardwalk Empire” and “Mad Men,” and he was nominated three other times for “The Sopranos.” He’s already earned Critics’ Choice and Art Directors Guild nominations for “The Irishman,” having previously contended at the guild for Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013) on the big screen and the programs “Too Big to Fail” and “Pan Am” on TV. He’s currently working on the “Sopranos” prequel film “The Many Saints of Newark” and Julian Fellowes‘s upcoming series “The Gilded Age.”
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