The director reunited with Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci for the gangster epic that follows real-life Mafia hitman Frank Sheeran across several decades of his life. It also stars Al Pacino and Stephen Graham.
Despite the stellar creative team behind the movie, The Irishman spent years in development hell, as traditional studios balked at the budget required for the cutting edge de-ageing technology used in the film.
The Irishman's budget is said to have been more than $140m (£108m) and Scorsese said Netflix stepped in when no one else would.
He told The Hollywood Reporter: "The studios just weren't interested in The Irishman. What they'd make back on something like that, they figured wasn't enough, particularly because I had to do the CGI.
"De Niro and I hadn't made a picture since 1995, Casino, and over the years we wanted to make another film. And he comes up with this book that [screenwriter] Eric Roth gave him [I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt].
"Becomes extremely passionate and somewhat emotional about it. And I read the book and I said, 'This is what we'll do'. That was 2009. Got [writer] Steve Zaillian involved. Worked out the structure. Worked everything out. And could not get the financing.
"Then I got a call from [manager-producer] Rick Yorn, who said, 'Are you interested in Netflix?' And the main thing for me was creative freedom. The trade-off is that it's a streamer. I said, 'But it will be shown in theatres, right?"'
The Irishman had a limited theatrical run in November, allowing it to be eligible for the Oscars, before arriving on Netflix later that month.
On why he worked with Netflix, Scorsese said: "For me it was desperation."
Additional reporting by agencies.
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