Martin Scorsese's 'The Irishman' leaves viewers divided as Anna Paquin utters only six words during the entire film
Anna Paquin plays Peggy Sheeran, the daughter of Robert DeNiro's character, Frank 'The Irishman' Sheeran. She has less than 10 minutes on-screen time in the three and a half-hour-long film.
After Martin Scorsese's passion project 'The Irishman' premiered at the New York Film Festival in September 27, 2019, it was hailed as the 'greatest mob movie ever' and a showcase of the auteur's craft. It also starred actors who have defined the gangster genre like Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci.
However, the director has decided that the male-dominated genre does not need its actresses to talk if 'The Irishman' is his gold standard in filmmaking. The film's female lead, Anna Paquin, plays Peggy Sheeran, the daughter of Robert DeNiro's character, Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran. She has less than 10 minutes on-screen time in the three and a half-hour long film and six words of dialogue. She mostly functions as a mute figure on the sidelines, passing silent judgment on DeNiro's 'Frank Sheeran' character.
Since the film's limited theatrical release on November 1, fans of the 'X-Men' actress have quickly taken to social media to criticize the director's decision to "silence" Paquin. One fan, Stephen Kropa, asked for the "rogue cut of the irishman so anna paquin can talk!", taking a dig at Scorsese's anti-superhero franchise stance. "Rogue" is Anna Paquin's mutant character in the 'X-Men' franchise. Rebecca Laurence, Editor of BBC Culture, the BBC’s international arts and culture site, wrote: "Anna Paquin is such a great actress, I was waiting for her to speak more than a line and... it didn’t happen."
However, others who have watched the film are raving about the use of the silent Paquin as the moral heart of the film who can barely contain her judgment against her father when she looks at him. During the UK premiere of the film at the 63rd BFI London Film Festival in October 2018, Paquin had spoken to the 'Daily Mail' about her role. "I think a lot can be said without words," she had said. "I think sometimes a look is worth a thousand words and the internalized judgment that she has passed on her father is not something that she would be able to verbalize, not at that stage of her life. She’d need 20 years of therapy to be able to explain to him why he was a problematic parent. But it was really interesting, it was a bit of a challenge but one that was incredibly exciting for me."
Martin Scorsese spoke to Spike Lee on 'The Director's Cut' podcast about Paquin's small role, stating that he and screenwriter Steven Zaillian decided not to expand her character. "I kept asking Steve Zaillian if we could layer her in the story. I decided that she doesn’t have to say anything." He discussed the scene where Peggy Sheeran witnesses Frank Sheeran crush a man's hand. "You see your father do something like that, I’m sorry… You see him crush the guy’s hand like that… other kids maybe, but this kid couldn’t take it. She looks at him. She knows he’s up to something... Anna ultimately was amazing in the 'looks'. She has one line in the film. There’s something you can’t talk about. She knows it. She knows who he is. He knows she knows."
The Irishman had a limited theatrical release on November 1 and will be released on Netflix on November 27, 2019.