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Cannes: Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’ Has Buyers Frustrated and Salivating (EXCLUSIVE)

Rights to Martin Scorsese’s big-budget period drama “The Irishman” could be made available in the next 24 hours, turbocharging a Cannes market that has been slow going over the first three days.

Mexican producer/financier Fabrica de Cine has offered to finance the $100 million production, but the film, which would star Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci, has to be taken out of turnaround from Paramount. As part of the deal, Paramount would retain domestic rights.

Vice Chairman Rob Moore is driving a hard bargain on the exact deal points, sources say. One knowledgeable individual said Fabrica is frustrated to the point of tearing its hair out, since negotiations have dragged on for over a month. The expectation was that the rights would be unraveled by the time that Cannes started this week.

Should the project be made available, there are a number of parties that have expressed interest in buying the international rights. On the studio side, Lionsgate, Universal, and STX Entertainment are among those circling the package.

There are also sales companies that are anxious to bid for the rights, among them IM Global, which has a relationship with Scorsese from their collaboration on his upcoming $50 million religious drama “Silence,” and Bloom, Alex Walton’s new shingle. The potential buyers are chomping at the bit, because there are few star-driven films of this size and stature available to buy.

The film is a mobster biopic set in the 1970s. De Niro, whose role is said to be the standout, is particularly interested in having the film get made. It would reunite him with Scorsese and Pesci for the first time since 1995’s “Casino” and would mark the director’s first collaboration with Pacino. “The Irishman” would use digital technology to make the actors age backwards, as in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” A script has been circulating for several years.

Some sources, however, question if this project will simply remain a festival “phantom,” tantalizingly out of reach, because of the difficulty of extricating the rights from Paramount.

A spokesperson for Paramount could not be reached for comment.

“The Irishman” is based on the Charles Brandt book “I Heard You Paint Houses,” which is the deathbed confession from mob hitman Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran about his role in the disappearance and death of Jimmy Hoffa. Steve Zaillian adapted the book for the screen.

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