The Irishman Script Teardown - Featured - StudioBinder

The Irishman was directed by Martin Scorsese and stars Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel. It marks one of the first major films produced by streaming behemoth, Netflix, and is likely to at least be nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture of the Year.

We’re going to give you some analysis on The Irishman script as well as touching on the characters, quotes, and structure so that you can better understand why The Irishman screenplay works so well.

The Irishman Script

Click to view and download the entire The Irishman script PDF below.

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WHO WROTE THE Irishman SCRIPT?

Written by Steven Zaillian

Steven Zaillian was born in Fresno, CA. He graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in Cinema. His first major film was an adaptation of the book The Falcon and the Snowman, but he later went on to write and direct Searching for Bobby Fischer and All the King’s Men. His screenwriting work includes a number of significant award winning scripts including Mission: Impossible, Clear and Present Danger, Gangs of New York, Moneyball, American Gangster, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Hannibal, and Schindler’s List.

The Irishman PLOT

Story beats in The Irishman script

If you haven't seen the movie yet, you can watch The Irishman on NetflixThe Irishman script is very different from the actual finished film, and the film is already three and a half hours long. 

While the story structure of The Irishman screenplay is pretty standard, it’s important to note that the story beats often land on later pages than they would if the script were shorter. 

Here is the story structure for The Irishman screenplay:

Script Teardown

Script Structure of The Irishman

Exposition

We meet Frank and he explains how everything was tied to Bufalino’s wedding in Detroit. Then we get to see how Frank fought in WW2, and how he was a union driver who would sometimes steal shipments from the truck. 

Inciting Incident

The Inciting Incident in The Irishman script occurs when Frank’s truck breaks down and he’s helped by Russel Bufalino. This sets off years of friendship and serves as the catalyst for the entire chain of events. 

Plot Point One

The Irishman screenplay has plot point one arrive around the time that Frank has quit his job and gone to work for Skinny. Frank has officially moved away from the “civilian world” and into organized crime.

Rising Action

Frank has to kill Whispers for the gang. Frank begins collecting money for Russel and Skinny. This is also where Frank is officially introduced to Jimmy Hoffa, which may mark the end of plot point one, but definitely not the halfway mark. 

Midpoint

The Irishman screenplay’s midpoint is where Frank becomes the president of Local 107, and JFK is assassinated in Dallas. Jimmy is sent to prison for fraud and Jury tampering. He and Tony Provenzano fight with each other in prison. 

Plot Point Two

The Irishman script then shows how Frank was asked by Russel to kill Joey Gallo. While Jimmy is in prison, the pension fund is being lent out to questionable folks. Jimmy is pardoned by Nixon and attempts to regain control of the union, but finds himself in a battle with the mob. We catch up to the drive from Philly to Detroit. 

Build Up

The Irishman script builds up as Frank and Russel near Detroit, and it becomes clear that Jimmy will be killed by the mob in some way or another. Later, it becomes clear that Frank is the one who must kill Jimmy. They drive to Port Clinton so Frank can catch an airplane to Detroit. 

Climax

The Irishman screenplay hits the climax when Frank meets with Sally and Chuckie to go and scoop up Jimmy. Frank escorts Jimmy into the house and shoots him behind the ear two times. They cremate Jimmy’s body. 

Finale
The Irishman script wraps up with everyone in jail or being killed for something, basically showing how being in organized crime always catches up to you.  

The Irishman Script Takeaway #1

The Irishman quotes

The Irishman quotes come from a place of authenticity. The Irishman script was adapted from the book, I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt. The funny thing is that in Steven Zaillian’s script, there is no mention of “Painting Houses”. This was either something in the book that had been left out of the script that then found its way back into the film likely due to Martin Scorsese

The book does a great job of telling Frank Sheeran’s story, and you get the added benefit of learning the connections between organized crime, politicians, and the worker’s unions.

This level of authenticity paves the way for some great and natural quotes from The Irishman, but the screenwriter still has to strategize so that they can write scenes that end with those great quotes rather than allowing them to be lost in the middle of the scenes. They will pack so much more of a punch if you can stamp your scene with a punctuation. 

The Irishman Whispers Scene

Here are some of The Irishman quotes:

I heard you paint houses.

You always charge a guy with a gun! With a knife, you run away.

You might be demonstrating a failure to show appreciation.

Whaddaya wanna know? You wanna know if I did it or not?

If they can whack a President, they can whack a president of a union. You know it and I know it.

If I said it once, I said it a thousand times, I don't care they're Irish. I don't care they're Catholic. If there's one person you can't trust in this life, it's millionaires' kids.

Nowadays, young people, they don't know who Jimmy Hoffa was. They don't have a clue. I mean, maybe they know that he disappeared or something, but that's about it. But back then, there wasn't nobody in this country who didn't know who Jimmy Hoffa was.

I thought maybe he owned the gas station. 'Cause he owned something, you could tell. Yeah, it turns out he owned the whole road.

Whenever anybody says they're a little concerned, they're very concerned. And when they say they're more than a little concerned, they're desperate.

When someone has to go, no one ever says, “he has to go.” They tell you to do it by not telling you not to. Or at most they say “it’s what it is.”

The Irishman Script Takeaway #2

The Irishman characters

The Irishman characters can be difficult to keep track of once you get down to the second and third tiers, but the high level characters are all easily identifiable and memorable due to their historical significance and the strong writing, directing, and performances.

The film is based around Frank “The Irishman” Sheerhan, a name he earned by being a reliable force within the Italian organized crime families. Jimmy Hoffa, who is already a famous public figure, is also Irish in heritage but had a much more complicated relationship with the Italian crime families. There is Russel Bufalino, who is Frank’s mentor and good friend, and he eventually introduces Frank to Jimmy as well as giving the order for Frank to dispatch Jimmy Hoffa.

The Irishman: Phone Call Scene

Another important character in the film is Angelo Bruno, and he is one of the other Philadelphia crime leaders who shares a special bond with Russel and Frank, symbolized by a gold coin ring. 

Apart from attempting to be historically accurate, you understand how these characters are all connected inside a similar world but each is able to maintain their own variation and specificity. This is due to well written character motivations which drive their specific voices.

The Irishman Script Takeaway #3

The Irishman opening scene

Taking place in a nursing home, the opening scene is a noteworthy diversion from the breakneck cadence of Scorsese's previous work.

This starts on the page, and is perfectly underlined by Scorsese choice of a long take. Watch StudioBinder's Irishman Opening Scene Breakdown below, where you can see how the scene translates from page to picture: 

Irishman Opening Scene Breakdown  •  Subscribe on Youtube

The choice of setting the story in a nursing home perfectly sets the tone for a contemplative, memoir-like story, narrated by Frank himself.

We are introduced to Frank in the nursing home as he sits alone in the nursing home. Ostensibly, he is waiting out the clock until a natural death. Shortly thereafter, he narrates to the viewer, breaking the fourth wall. Immediately, we understand, as viewers, that we're about to embark on an epic that will span a lifetime of pain.

The Irishman Script Takeaway #4

The Irishman ending

The Irishman ending is pretty great. Martin Scorsese has unfairly caught some heat in the past about violence in his films. Scorsese has always told stories where to violent characters in his films almost always reap what they sow, and this film is no different.

Just like with Goodfellas or Casino or Wolf of Wall Street, the immoral characters going through life always have to look back and live with their decisions at the end of their story. The ending of The Irishman has a great moment where you learn where each character met their end, whether it came from a conviction, a medical condition brought on by their unhealthy lifestyle, or by simply being murdered.

The Irishman: Ending Scene

The Irishman ending mainly focuses on Frank’s inability to ever reconcile with his children, and how one of his biggest regrets was killing his good friend Jimmy Hoffa.

Scorsese mafia movies often present a certain level of romance with regard to the code of honor and general sense of community within the world of organized crime, but he makes sure to contrast those ideas  ideas by showing how each character ends up somewhere they’d rather not be, like in prison, in a hospital bed, or in a ditch.

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The Irishman is an impeccable tale of life, regrets, betrayal and friendship. If you want to read more great scripts, we have Goodfellas, Joker and No Country for Old Men in our screenplay database. Great screenwriters read lots of scripts. Get started today!

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