This is why Scorsese made The Irishman instead of Frankie Machine
While the Oscar-nominated crime epic The Irishman initially began development in the ’80s due to interest from director Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street), star Robert De Niro was originally developing an adaptation of the Don Winslow crime novel The Winter of Frankie Machine, which fell apart when the actor became more interested in the former project. Now the bestselling author has opened up about the failed adaptation and why the blame falls on screenwriter Eric Roth, who wrote the 2006 spy thriller The Good Shepherd, on which De Niro was directing. (Via Deadline)
In a piece entitled “I Blame Eric Roth: Frankie, Bobby, Marty, Eric and Me,” Winslow describes the past in which a few weeks after publishing Frankie Machine, Scorsese and De Niro were expressing interest in the adaptation and how he “couldn’t believe” that “Marty and Bobby” were fast tracking his novel, with Brian Koppelman and David Levien (Billions) signing on to pen the screenplay.
“One day my phone rang at home and I answered it to hear, “May I speak with Don Winslow, please? This is Robert De Niro,'” Winslow recalled. “Thinking it was one of my friends jerking my chain, I said, ‘Yeah, and this is Tinker Bell.’ Uhhh, it was Robert De Niro. One of the greatest actors in the history of film – Vito Corleone, Travis Bickle, Jake La Motta, Lefty Rosenthal – was calling me at home. We had a great conversation, he said how much he loved the book, the character of Frankie, he asked a lot of smart questions.”
Though he had to cut the call short due to his work volunteering to direct a play at the local high school, Winslow and De Niro ended the call on great terms and “was shocked and dismayed” when the kids in the play only knew the two-time Oscar winner for his performance in Meet the Parents. Having seen the project moving forward, including phone calls with Koppelman and Levien in which he was “answering their questions” and “kicking around ideas” and even received a finished script, shooting was looking close to starting as locations were being scouted before Roth entered the picture.
While Winslow assures that he likes Roth, stating that he thinks “Munich is one of the best films ever made,” he blames the Oscar winner for the derailment of his adaptation on the fact that he gave De Niro a copy of the non-fiction book You Paint Houses, Don’t You? for research into the role of Frankie Machine, but that because De Niro and Scorsese found more interest in that story, they decided to abandon Winslow’s.
That project would turn into the Netflix epic The Irishman, which was nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor, though was ultimately shut out. While Winslow has received calls from friends and Koppelman and Levien in the time since the project fell apart, something he’s “always appreciated,” he has not heard from De Niro or Scorsese, but assures that he has “no hard feelings” towards the two and would be happy to receive a call from them.
“For my part, I have to confess that I haven’t brought myself to see The Irishman yet,” Winslow wrote. “I should, I will, I understand that it’s very good. Of course it is, the director and the star are two of the very best. I’ll always be proud – sincerely – that you were at one time interested in a book of mine.”
Winslow goes on to write directly to Roth, saying that he “strikes me as a good guy,” but that when offering research to an actor in the future that he should choose something along the lines of The Encyclopedia Britannica, a Wikileaks article or a doctoral dissertation, “something really dull” or “utterly un-filmable.”