Martin Scorsese: The Irishman director reveals what Goodfellas scene audiences hated at first screening

Scorsese changed the scene to stop people from walking out

Jacob Stolworthy
Friday 18 October 2019 10:30
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The Irishman - Netflix Official Teaser

Martin Scorsese has revealed why there were approximately 70 walkouts of the first ever Goodfellas test screening.

The director, whose new film The Irishman is released next month, explained that the ”angry” response from the test audience influenced one big change that made it into the final cut of the 1990 gangster classic.

In the original opening sequence, Joe Pesci’s character Tommy DeVito is shown violently stabbing Billy Batts (Frank Vincent) with a kitchen knife a total of seven times, which proved a big problem for audiences.

“When he stabbed Billy Batts in the trunk, after the first two [stabs], people started leaving” he told Entertainment Weekly. “And then he did it a third time and more people left. And then I asked [editor Thelma Schoonmaker], ‘How many more we got left?’ And she says: ‘Seven.’ So okay. We didn’t need them leaving this soon, okay? We see the knife, we get it.”

The finished film shows Pesci stabbing Batts four times with the last three occurring off-screen as Ray Liotta’s character watches on.

Going by Rotten Tomatoes, Scorsese’s The Irishman is his best reviewed film since 1976 drama Taxi Driver.

The new film, based on Charles Brandt’s book I Heard You Paint Houses, marks the ninth collaboration between the filmmaker and Robert De Niro.

Al Pacino and Joe Pesci also star in the mob drama that follows real-life Mafia hitman Frank Sheeran (De Niro) across several decades of his life and his experiences with labour union teamster Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino) and crime boss Russell Bufalino (Pesci).

The Irishman will be released in selected UK cinemas on 8 November, before arriving on Netflix from 27 November.

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