Friday, December 20, 2019

In Character: The Cast of The Irishman

As of this writing, I am currently on my fourth viewing of The Irishman. I love everything about this movie; it’s demanding, singularly paced, and expertly acted. To highlight many of the performers involved, I thought it’d be fun to dedicate an entire In Character post to them. Please note that because seemingly everyone is in The Irishman, not all of the actors are listed here.

Gary Basaraba
Role in The Irishman: Frank “Fitz” Fitzsimmons
Notable Roles: Fried Green Tomatoes, Brooklyn South, Charlotte’s Web, Mad Men, Suburbicon
Best Role: Basaraba is a great character actor who’s been delivering steady performances for decades, my favorite being his sarcastic yet empathic turn as Officer Ray in the criminally ignored show, Boomtown.

Paul Ben-Victor
Role in The Irishman: Jake Gottlieb
Notable Roles: True Romance, Entourage, John from Cincinnati, In Plain Sight, Vinyl
Best Role: Ben-Victor is one of those amazing character actors who pops up everywhere, but I’ve never liked him more than as ruthless drug lord, Vondas, in The Wire.

Louis Cancelmi
Role in The Irishman: Sally Bugs
Notable Roles: Gabi on the Roof in July, Boardwalk Empire, Billions, 21 Bridges
Best Role: Cancelmi (and his flawless cheekbones) is great in everything, but his strongest work was as a stifled FBI agent stationed at Langley in The Looming Tower (which is a really underrated miniseries, by the way).

Bobby Cannavale
Role in The Irishman: Skinny Razor
Notable Roles: The Station Agent, Win Win, Vinyl, Master of None, Homecoming
Best Role: I have never seen an even mediocre Cannavale performance, so this is a hard choice. Ultimately, I have to go with his psychopathic turn as Gyp Rosetti in Boardwalk Empire.

Robert De Niro
Role in The Irishman: Frank Sheeran
Notable Roles: Mean Streets, The Godfather: Part II, Taxi Driver, The Deer Hunter, Goodfellas
Best Role: Jake La Motta in Raging Bull. As good as acting gets.

Bo Dietl
Role in The Irishman: Joe Glimco
Notable Roles: Bad Lieutenant, One Tough Cop, Vinyl
Best Role: Bo Dietl used to work for the real Jordan Belfort, so I love watching Dietl chastise Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street: “Are we talking tonight or are you gonna get schwacked? The last time you took these fuckin’ pills you put your head in the fucking macaroni I had to pick it up!”

Lucy Gallina
Role in The Irishman: Peggy Sheeran
Notable Roles: Boardwalk Empire
Best Role: Peggy in The Irishman. Her curious eyes steal every scene she’s in.

Stephen Graham
Role in The Irishman: Tony Pro
Notable Roles: Snatch, This is England, Public Enemies, Boardwalk Empire, Taboo
Best Role: I was going to choose Graham’s uncanny work as Al Capone in Boardwalk Empire, but having watched The Irishman multiple times, I have to go with Tony Pro here. Graham goes toe-to-toe with Pacino and doesn’t flinch.

Paul Herman
Role in The Irishman: Whispers DiTullio
Notable Roles: Goodfellas, Casino, The Sopranos, Crazy Heart, Entourage
Best Role: Herman is great in everything, whether he’s a cranked coke dealer in Goodfellas (“You wanna see helicopters?!”), or a financial adviser in Entourage, Herman always brings a reliable energy to his work. But I think my current favorite Herman performance is as a hilariously degenerate gambler in Silver Linings Playbook.

Jake Hoffman
Role in The Irishman: Allen Dorfman
Notable Roles: Barney’s Version, Luck, The Wolf of Wall Street
Best Role: Hoffman, son of Dustin, has a fun turn as “Steeeeveeee Maaaaddeeen” in The Wolf of Wall Street, but I’m going to go with “that ball-bustin’ Dorfman” in The Irishman as his current best.

Jack Huston
Role in The Irishman: Bobby Kennedy
Notable Roles: Not Fade Away, Kill Your Darlings, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Ben-Hur
Best Role: It must be the loyal, disfigured, lethal Richard Harrow from Boardwalk Empire.

Marin Ireland
Role in The Irishman: Dolores Sheeran
Notable Roles: Mildred Pierce, Girls, The Slap, Hell or High Water, Sneaky Pete
Best Role: I love Ireland’s work in 28 Hotel Rooms. She and Chris Messina tapped into something unique there.

Role in The Irishman: Angelo Bruno
Notable Roles: Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Bugsy, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction
Best Role: Bad Lieutenant. It will always be Bad Lieutenant.

Stephanie Kurtzuba
Role in The Irishman: Irene Sheeran
Notable Roles: The Good Wife, The Leftovers, Annie, Waco
Best Role: Kimmie Belzer in The Wolf of Wall Street. She provides one of the rare tender moments in that film, and I’ve never forgotten it.

Domenick Lombardozzi
Role in The Irishman: Fat Tony Salerno
Notable Roles: Miami Vice, Entourage, Public Enemies, Boardwalk Empire, Ray Donovan
Best Role: I love where Lombardozzi’s career has gone, but I’m partial to his breakout turn as Herc, the perpetually two-steps-behind cop in The Wire.

J.C. MacKenzie
Role in The Irishman: Jimmy Neal
Notable Roles: Dark Angel, The Aviator, The Departed, The Wolf of Wall Street, Vinyl
Best Role: I love when MacKenzie pops up in a Scorsese film for a scene or two. His Jimmy Neal in The Irishman being a standing example.

Sebastian Maniscalco
Role in The Irishman: Crazy Joe Gallo
Notable Roles: Tag, Green Book
Best Role: Crazy Joe Gallo, no question. This performance makes you completely forget that Maniscalco is a great stand-up comedian.

Kathrine Narducci
Role in The Irishman: Carrie Bufalino
Notable Roles: A Bronx Tale, The Sopranos, Jersey Boys, Power
Best Role: Narducci’s ongoing cigarette smoking bit in The Irishman brings some much-needed levity to the film, and that scene with her and Pesci in the hallway is so damn haunting. “Don’t forget your shoes, Russell.”

Jim Norton
Role in The Irishman: Don Rickles
Notable Roles: Cop Out, Louie, Inside Amy Schumer, Power
Best Role: I love Norton’s cameo as Don Rickles in The Irishman (pictured), but I can’t deny his hilarious work as a version of himself on FX’s Louie.

Al Pacino
Role in The Irishman: Jimmy Hoffa
Notable Roles: The Godfather, Serpico, The Godfather: Part II, Scarface, Glengarry Glen Ross
Best Role: Take your pick, but for me, it’s always been Sonny from Dog Day Afternoon. The fear, the desperation, the clumsiness, the vulnerability – I’m undeniably drawn to all of it.

Aleksa Palladino
Role in The Irishman: Mary Sheeran
Notable Roles: Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, Boardwalk Empire, Halt and Catch Fire
Best Role: Judy from The Loudest Voice. I haven’t heard many people talking about this miniseries (perhaps Bombshell is stealing its thunder), but Palladino’s emotionless turn as Roger Ailes’ assistant was the best part of The Loudest Voice.

Anna Paquin
Role in The Irishman: Peggy Sheeran
Notable Roles: X-Men franchise, Finding Forrester, 25th Hour, True Blood, The Affair
Best Role: Either her Oscar-winning work in The Piano, which is surely one of the best child performances captured on film, or her tonally unique turn as Lisa in Margaret.

Role in The Irishman: Russell Bufalino
Notable Roles: Lethal Weapon franchise, Goodfellas, Home Alone, My Cousin Vinny, Casino
Best Role: I can’t lie, Pesci’s work as Russell Bufalino could very well be remembered as his best. But for now, I’m sticking with his profane performance in Raging Bull. But, really, this is Joe Pesci, so take your pick.

Jesse Plemons
Role in The Irishman: Chuckie O’Brien
Notable Roles: Friday Night Lights, The Master, Black Mass, Fargo, Other People, Game Night
Best Role: Plemons is superb in everything, so this isn’t easy. But I’ll go with good old psychopathic Todd in Breaking Bad. Fuckin’ Todd.

Dascha Polanco
Role in The Irishman: Nurse
Notable Roles: Joy, The Cobbler, Russian Doll, When They See Us
Best Role: Definitely Dayanara Diaz from Orange is the New Black.

Ray Romano
Role in The Irishman: Bill Bufalino
Notable Roles: Everybody Loves Raymond, Parenthood, Vinyl, The Big Sick, Get Shorty
Best Role: Everybody Loves Raymond may be the obvious choice here, but I haven’t seen an episode of it (I’ve never had luck with sitcoms). I’m genuinely going with Bill Bufalino here. I believed every note of Romano’s work in The Irishman.

John Scurti
Role in The Irishman: Bertram B. Beveridge
Notable Roles: The Ref, War of the Worlds, Luke Cage, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Best Role: Lou from Rescue Me. God, I loved old Lou.

Steven Van Zandt
Role in The Irishman: Jerry Vale
Notable Roles: Lilyhammer, The Christmas Chronicles
Best Role: Silvo from The Sopranos, no question.

Welker White
Role in The Irishman: Josephine Hoffa
Notable Roles: Goodfellas, Dead Poets Society, Chasing Amy, Law & Order, Eat Pray Love
Best Role: Goodfellas is a close choice here: “I need it, I got to have it. It’s my lucky hat. I never fly without it.” But her phone call with De Niro in The Irishman wins out. Devastating.


  1. I have yet to see The Irishman as I'm hoping to before the end of the year as I'm nearly finished with the third part of my seven-part MCU series and half of Shoah so far as it's my final Blind Spot for the year.

    I've seen a lot of these actors you've listed. I love Stephanie Kurtzuba in The Wolf of Wall Street, she was the lone woman in that gang yet was tougher than the rest of the boys as it's why I loved her in that film. Stephen Graham in Boardwalk Empire to me was the best portrayal of Al Capone that I've seen so far as he just brought a lot of humanity to the character. Graham, Jack Huston, and Bobby Cannavale were awesome in that show.

    1. I'll be interested to hear your take in The Irishman. And yeah man, making this list made me realize how stacked Boardwalk Empire was. It was so fun to see those actors in a full-on Scorsese setting via The Irishman. Graham is so incredible in this movie.

  2. There's so much here! I love all the Boardwalk Empire mentions. Those would be my favorites for Canavale and Huston as well. Richard Harrow is one of my favorite TV characters ever, I think.

    Love Anna Paquin and everything she does.

    I really need to see Dog Day Afternoon. I think I've watched The Godfather parts 1 and 2 10 times this year, I'm probably due for something else.

    1. Oh and YES John Scurti in Rescue Me! I loved that show, I was devastated that we lost Lou.

    2. I just rewatched Dog Day and that thing still hits. My favorite Pacino for sure. I don't want to spoil too much, but some of the topics discussed in that film were never even hinted at in movies back then. They really pushed the societal envelope, in all the best ways.

      And yay Rescue Me! That is such an interesting show to me, because I adore it immensely, but then right in the middle of the series, they deliver one of the weakest seasons of a great show that I've ever seen. Season 4. What the hell happened there?!

  3. Honestly I didn't even notice half of these people were in this movie :) I liked The Irishman but not as much as Scorsese's other mob films. I get what he was going for with the story, but the deaging CGI on De Niro really distracted me for most of the film. Ugh I wish I had the time to rewatch Boardwalk Empire

    1. I liked this movie a lot but agree that it isn't in the same league as Goodfellas or Casino. And I hear you on the de-aging stuff. The first time the FX appeared, I sighed aloud and said, "Okay, here we go." And about 20 minutes later, I was stunned when I realized I either didn't notice or care anymore about the FX. It won me over.

      Now Bombshell on the other hand. Wowzer. There's a brief scene featuring "Bill O'Reilly" and the facial FX are so poorly rendered that people in my theater started laughing. He looks like a hologram or something.

  4. What an incredible cast for an incredible movie. While some of the de-aging effects looked a bit dodgy at times, i still loved it. I have missed Joe Pesci so damn much and now he comes back with one of my favorite performances of the year. This movie also reminded me of how good Boardwalk Empire was. I really need to re-watch it again soon. Bobby Cannavale is one of televisions greatest villains in his season. My one big complaint about The Irishman tough is there was way too little of Harvey Keitel in it. He was great in the few scenes he had so i wanted more. Add another hour to the movie just for him.

    1. I would've LOVED more Keitel! But I kind of liked that he was one of the ultimate heavies of the movie. He comes in, asserts his power, then quietly leaves. Pesci was remarkable here, easily my favorite performance in the film. I'm Team Cliff Booth for the supporting actor Oscar this year, but it'll be great to see Pesci nominated again. And Cannavale in Boardwalk is an absolute beast.

  5. Boomtown was such a great series! My wife loves it and I got her the series collection so I could finally watch it after she raved about it for years. Such a great series and no one seems to have seen it. Such a great theme song too, that only Blue Bloods seems to attempt to match it.

    Nice that Pesci is working again! I really need to see this movie, so many actors I recognize are in it.

    1. I genuinely don't think I've met another online movie friend who has seen Boomtown! Network TV series aren't usually for me, but I remember watching that show live and being so taken with its structure and performances. I really thought Neal McDonough should've gotten some awards attention for that. So happy to hear you're a fan!

  6. Have you seen PADDLETON by any chance Alex? Romano really amazed me in that one.

    1. Yes! A very touching little film.

      I probably would have missed it as well if the guys over at Red Letter Media didn’t put in a good word about it here:

    2. Damn I'm going to have to check it out. Thanks for the reco!