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Robert De Niro
Born: August 17, 1943
New York City, New York, USA
Frank 'The Irishman' Sheeran
Born: October 25, 1920
Birthplace: Camden, New Jersey, USA
Death: December 14, 2003, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Born: April 25, 1940
Manhattan, New York, USA
Born: February 14, 1913
Birthplace: Brazil, Indiana, USA
Death: July 30, 1975, Bloomfield Township, Michigan, USA (disappeared, presumed dead)
Born: February 9, 1943
Newark, New Jersey, USA
Born: September 25, 1903
Birthplace: Montedoro, Province of Caltanissetta, Sicily
Death: February 25, 1994, Kingston, Pennsylvania, USA (natural causes)
Born: April 2, 1988
Dallas, Texas, USA
Birthplace: Kansas City, Missouri, USA
Hoffa's Unofficial Foster Son
Born: July 8, 1973
Arlington Heights, Illinois, USA
Joseph 'Crazy Joe' Gallo
Born: April 7, 1929
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, USA
Death: April 7, 1972, Manhattan, New York, USA (murdered by gunshot)
Born: August 3, 1973
Liverpool, Merseyside, England, UK
Anthony 'Tony Pro' Provenzano
Born: May 7, 1917
Birthplace: Manhattan, New York, USA
Death: December 12, 1988 (heart failure)
Born: May 13, 1939
Brooklyn, New York, USA
Angelo 'the Gentle Don' Bruno
Born: May 21, 1910
Birthplace: Villalba, Sicily, Italy
Death: March 21, 1980, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA (murdered by shotgun)
Born: May 3, 1970
Union City, New Jersey, USA
Felix 'Skinny Razor' DiTullio
Born: August 3, 1907
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Death: April 1966
Born: December 21, 1957
Queens, New York, USA
Born: April 13, 1918
Birthplace: Pittston, Pennsylvania, USA
Death: May 12, 1990, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA (leukemia)
Teamsters Lawyer and Cousin of Russell Bufalino
Born: September 1, 1964
Born: March 21, 1918
Birthplace: Rossford, Ohio, USA
Death: September 12, 1980, Detroit, Michigan, USA
Born: March 16, 1959
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Born: August 7, 1908
Birthplace: Jeannette, Pennsylvania, USA
Death: May 6, 1981, San Diego, California, USA (lung cancer)
Yes. According to The Irishman true story, Frank Sheeran did claim responsibility for the 1975 death of former Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa. Prior to passing away from cancer, Sheeran told his story to Charles Brandt, who detailed it in his 2004 non-fiction book I Heard You Paint Houses. The bestselling book became the basis for the Frank Sheeran movie directed by Martin Scorsese.
Aside from the slicked-back hair and bit of excess weight, De Niro, who is 5' 10", does not bear much resemblance to the 6 ft 4 in Irishman Frank Sheeran. However, it's worth noting that while De Niro is known as an American-Italian actor, he is also of Irish descent on his father's side.
Per Sheeran's claims, he was part of numerous massacres and summary executions of German prisoners of war during his lengthy 411 days of combat. He described some of these in Charles Brandt's book I Heard You Paint Houses. Sheeran said that if a German soldier surrendered after killing one of his close friends, he would often "send him to hell, too." He said that other G.I.s demonstrated similar behavior.
In one instance, his unit came upon a German military mule train transporting food and water up the Harz Mountains. After allowing the female cooks to flee, he and his fellow soldiers "ate what we wanted and soiled the rest with our waste." According to Sheeran, they then handed the Wehrmacht mule drivers shovels and instructed them to dig their own graves, after which they executed and buried them. He commented that by that point, "[I] had no hesitation in doing what I had to do." This ability to take another person's life without pause undoubtedly paved the way for his role as a self-proclaimed hitman.
Sheeran told Brandt that the orders he received from his unit commanders in the army weren't any different than the orders he was later given by crime bosses. "It was just like when an officer would tell you to take a couple of German prisoners back behind the line and for you to 'hurry back'. You did what you had to do." -I Heard You Paint Houses
After being discharged from the army in October 1945, a day shy of his 25th birthday, Frank Sheeran became a truck driver. To earn extra money, he committed crimes on the side. According to Sheeran, he worked as a hired enforcer and hitman. His criminal endeavors caught the attention of Mafia bosses Russell Bufalino and Angelo Bruno. Bufalino, who was the head of the Bufalino crime family, took Sheeran under his wing and became his mentor. It was Bufalino who hooked Sheeran up with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters president, Jimmy Hoffa, who oversaw the union whose members included truckers like Sheeran. The two became close friends, with Hoffa utilizing Sheeran for muscle and according to Sheeran, murder, both of uncooperative union members and enemies in rival unions. -I Heard You Paint Houses
The Irishman true story confirms that the book title "I Heard You Paint Houses" refers to killing someone. The "paint" is the blood that splatters on the floor and the walls. Like in the movie, these were also allegedly the first words that Jimmy Hoffa spoke to Frank Sheeran via a phone call. They connected by way of their common acquaintance, mob boss Russell Bufalino. Sheeran also supposedly mentioned the "paint splatters" during his confession to Hoffa's murder.
It might easily be assumed that this colorful analogy is part of well-known mob lingo. However, it's not. In fact, there seems to be no record of the phrase, "I heard you paint houses," being uttered anywhere except Charles Brandt's book. As a result, one has to wonder if it was ever actually said at all. Brandt reasons that mobsters in Bufalino's crime family in northeastern Pennsylvania "have their own lingo." Ultimately, it was literary agent Frank Weimann who chose to use the phrase for the book's title. -Slate
Frank's parents were strict Roman Catholics. His father had spent five years studying for the priesthood and his mother attended Mass every morning. Frank is said to have been well-behaved up until his time serving in WWII. According to Frank, his 411 days in combat changed him. Prior to his death, he had embraced religion again and expressed remorse for his crimes. He wanted to die with a clear conscience. Author Charles Brandt says that Frank received Communion from a priest shortly before he died. -ClickOnDetroit
Yes. Authorities found the 1975 burgundy Mercury Marquis that a witness saw Hoffa riding in with unidentified men on the afternoon of his disappearance. The car was owned by Anthony Giacalone's son Joey and was being used by Hoffa's protégé Chuckie O'Brien (portrayed by Jesse Plemons in the movie). Search dogs picked up Hoffa's scent on the backseat of the car, but no other evidence could be matched to Hoffa. That is until 2001, when a hair found in the car was DNA tested and proved to be Jimmy Hoffa's.
The most logical reason that Frank Sheeran would confess on his deathbed that he killed Jimmy Hoffa was that Sheeran was broke and wanted to leave some money to his family. It's obvious that turning his life story into a book would sell much better if he was the one who pulled the trigger. Charles Brandt's book went on to become a New York Times Bestseller, and the author sold the movie rights to filmmaker Martin Scorsese. It's also important to note that Sheeran had previously said that he didn't kill Jimmy Hoffa. In 1995, he told the Philadelphia Daily News, "I did not kill Hoffa and I had nothing to do with it." In 2001, he said that Sal Briguglio was the killer (Al Profit).
The main reason for The Irishman's ballooning budget was the special effects needed to make Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci look up to 30 years younger for various scenes in the film. Industrial Light & Magic handled the de-aging. Netflix picked up the movie after Mexican financier Fábrica de Cine backed out due to the escalating budget. The Irishman is the most expensive film to date of director Martin Scorsese's career.
The movie was based on Charles Brandt's book I Heard You Paint Houses, which has itself faced a considerable amount of scrutiny. Certain claims that Brandt makes in the book have since been contested or proven false. This includes Brandt stating that the author of The Teamsters, Steven Brill, told fellow mob author Dan Moldea that he had recorded Frank Sheeran confessing to the murder of Jimmy Hoffa. In response to the book's assertion, Brill told Slate, "Total bulls**t. I would love to have had that. But I never talked to him."
New York Times journalist Selwyn Raab, author of a book about the attorney who represented Jimmy Hoffa, points out that there are 14 people who have claimed responsibility for Hoffa's death. Because no one was ever found guilty, anyone can claim responsibility. Thus, while Sheeran's claim is more believable than some, it is certainly not unique. Author Dan Moldea, who wrote 1978's The Hoffa Wars, has spent more than 40 years investigating the Teamsters, including unearthing everything he could about Hoffa's disappearance. He says that Frank Sheeran "was definitely involved, but he confessed to a murder he didn't commit." Moldea expressed anger that his research, including interviews with over 1,000 people, was overlooked by Hollywood for a book that was based almost entirely on the word of one man, who was a convicted felon.
Skeptics of Sheeran's claim, and there are many, argue that it's difficult to believe given the other somewhat outlandish claims he made, which include delivering a bag of three rifles to a pilot to be used in the 1963 Kennedy assassination, playing a role in the provisioning of the anti-Fidel Castro forces who took part in the Bay of Pigs invasion (he said he delivered weapons to CIA agent E. Howard Hunt, who a decade later would become one of the Watergate burglars), and delivering $500,000 in cash to Attorney General John Mitchell (a bribe for President Richard Nixon to pardon Hoffa). Such claims make Sheeran seem more like Forrest Gump than a realistic mob enforcer (in reality, he has been described by some as a well-known drunk). Oh, and then there was the letter that Sheeran forged, which he said was from Jimmy Hoffa. The discovery of the forgery led at least one publisher to back out of a deal to publish Brandt's book I Heard You Paint Houses, which became the basis for the movie. Brandt finally got his book published on the third try.
After coming forward with his confession, Frank Sheeran was interviewed by Maria Shriver for NBC-TV's Washington Bureau, but the interview never aired, reportedly because Sheeran was caught in too many lies (The Hoffa Wars). The claims in Brandt's book have been rejected by those who are arguably more knowledgeable and those who are closer to the case. The overwhelming majority of the book rests on claims made by Sheeran himself, who can hardly be seen as credible. Brandt and his publisher have challenged critics of the book, calling their critiques "borderline libel" and asking them for proof that Sheeran didn't kill Jimmy Hoffa and Joey Gallo. It's a ridiculous request given that Brandt's book doesn't provide any proof that Frank Sheeran ever killed anyone, including Hoffa and Gallo. Therefore, the burden of proof remains with Brandt.
The only person who ever accused Frank Sheeran of killing anybody, including Jimmy Hoffa, Joey Gallo, and 25 to 30 other people, is Frank Sheeran himself (Slate). Mobsters don't have a history of getting away with repeated crimes for very long. They often get arrested multiple times or end up dead. Some stories are just too good to be true. Enter director Martin Scorsese, who appears to be more concerned with making a memorable movie than one that gets at the true story. Arguably, maybe that's to our benefit, but it's certainly not history's gain.
Watch clips of the real Frank Sheeran discussing his role in Jimmy Hoffa's disappearance. Then further expand your knowledge of the true story behind The Irishman by watching mob boss Russell Bufalino testifying about his relationships with Jimmy Hoffa and Frank Sheeran.