Robert De Niro says Netflix has to release his movie ‘The Irishman’ in theaters

Robert De Niro speaks with Deadline Hollywood's Dade Hayes at NAB Show New York. (Ben Munson/FierceVideo)

NEW YORK—Robert De Niro gave a glowing review of working with Netflix on Martin Scorcese’s upcoming film “The Irishman” but said that the streaming service has to release it in theaters.

The film—which co-stars De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci—is due out in 2019. It’s one of many films, most of which will only be released on the streaming platform, that Netflix currently has in production. But De Niro said this film—which he clarified will be called “I Heard You Paint Houses,” same as the name of the book on which it’s based—needs to be in theaters.

“With this movie, you have to do it. I think [Netflix] just has to find a way, if not already, on how to release it theatrically and then, at one point, it goes out the other way. I mean, that’s the fair way to do it,” De Niro said. “You need that kind of presentation. It helps. It’s the way the film should be presented.”

De Niro’s insistence that “The Irishman” get a theatrical release—along with reports that Scorsese demanded a theatrical release as part of the production deal—underscores a Netflix strategy in which most of its movies don’t get put in theaters. And the ones that do will sometimes only be in theaters for the short amount of time it takes to qualify for awards.

But recently Netflix has been planning more expanded theatrical runs for its films including “22 July” along with time in the theaters for “Private Life,” “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” and “The Other Side of the Wind.”

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Despite some uncertainty around the release plans for “The Irishman,” De Niro said that working with Netflix was a good experience.

“It’s been very good, and a movie like ‘Paint Houses’ or ‘The Irishman’ would not have been done in the way it needed to be done if it wasn’t for Netflix,” De Niro said. “Because we needed the money.”

De Niro said the film is a “very ambitious project” that will contain scenes where he will appear much younger than he is today. He said it takes a lot of time and money to get it right and that Netflix is trying to make those visual effects as state-of-the-art as they can be.

“I’m happy because that will extend my career another 30 years,” De Niro joked.