Tom Fleischman Interview: ‘The Irishman’ sound mixer
From the beginning, sound mixer Tom Fleischman knew “The Irishman” was going to be “a quiet, restrained movie, and there weren’t going to be a lot of flashy moments.” But the lack of “big, huge sound sequences” didn’t mean it would be an easy movie to mix. Watch our exclusive video interview with Fleischman above.
Directed by Martin Scorsese, the Netflix release casts Robert De Niro as Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a truck driver-turned mob hitman pulled between the powerful forces of Mafia honcho Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and union bigwig Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). The film is “really about the intimacy of the scenes between the characters,” Fleischman reveals, so it was important to “keep the quality of their voices and the performances as pure as possible, without any distractions.”
Because of this, Fleischman’s soundscape was “very narrow and very focused.” There was even a big debate early on about “whether there was even going to be any score,” a rarity for a Scorsese film. But even with the addition of music, the main objective was amplifying “the purity of those performances and the relationships between the characters.”
Although he’s worked on quite a few intensive soundscapes (many of them for Scorsese), “The Irishman” was in many ways “quite a bit more challenging.” He explains, “when you have a quiet dialogue scene between two characters, in a quiet room with nothing going on,” it’s hard to resist the urge to add “activity offscreen that would distract from the intimacy of that scene.”
Fleischman’s work on “The Irishman” has already been recognized by the Cinema Audio Society, often a major predictor of the academy’s Best Sound Mixing nominees. He previously won an Oscar for Scorsese’s “Hugo” (2011) and also competed for “The Aviator” (2004), “Gangs of New York” (2001), “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991) and “Reds” (1981). He’s also a multi-Emmy victor for “Free Solo,” “History of the Eagles,” “Boardwalk Empire” and “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan.”