- Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman drops on Netflix this Wednesday.
- The mob film brings up the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa, played by Al Pacino.
- Who was Jimmy Hoffa, and is he still alive? Here’s everything to know.
Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, which premiered at the New York Film Festival in September and dropped on Neftlix Wednesday, will be the director’s most expensive film to date. The film follows Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro), a criminal who later in life confessed to the killing of Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), as well as other mob-affiliated persons. Part of Netflix’s hefty $ 160 million price tag entailed digitally Benjamin Button-ifying De Niro (76) and Pacino (79). (In some scenes, Pacino is playing Hoffa while the man was in his forties.)
The film has already proven controversial thanks to the account on which it’s based— Charles Brandt’s book I Heard You Paint Houses—which recounts Sheeran’s dubious confession to killing Hoffa, who disappeared in the 70s. But is Sheeran telling the truth about what happened to Hoffa? Let’s back up for a moment.
Who is Jimmy Hoffa?
A union organizer, Jimmy Hoffa worked his way from grassroots labor efforts to larger union positions. By the 1950s, Hoffa was running the largest union in the country, International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The union included truckers, which meant he had control over the country’s transportation routes and, therefore, influence over the national economy. Being head of the union was a powerful position. So powerful that Robert Kennedy led a congressional probe into the union’s activities, suspecting illegality.
Hoffa had allegedly partnered with organized crime in and outside Detroit in order to grow the union. His mob associations became the target of Kennedy’s probe; Kennedy was hell bent on exposing Hoffa. When he became Attorney General under his brother’s administration in 1961, Kennedy pressed hard. In 1964, Hoffa was sentenced to 13 years for fraud and jury tampering. He served seven, his sentence commuted by then-President Nixon in 1971.
Four years after he left prison, Hoffa went missing.
What happened to Jimmy Hoffa?
Though Hoffa was declared dead in 1982, seven years after his disappearance, no body has been found, leading to speculation on where he is buried, otherrumors, and, of course, conspiracy. The most popular theory among investigators, however, remains rather straight forward: upon release from prison, Hoffa tried to wrestle back control of the union from Anthony Provenzano (who took control during Hoffa’s incarceration), who partnered with the Detroit mob to have Hoffa killed. (The mob didn’t want Hoffa resuming control.) Pretty simple, right?
Who killed Jimmy Hoffa?
Most experts believe Sheeran did not murder Hoffa. By the above account, Sheeran had only been in the car with Hoffa. As the two had become friends over the years, Sheeran was recruited to calm Hoffa’s nerves as they drove to his execution. In this account, Salvatore Briguglio was the one who pulled the trigger.
Sheeran’s account of the murder, which not only put the gun in his hands but actually changed the site of the killing, doesn’t hold much water in the eyes of FBI agents, journalists, and investigators. Sheeran’s role in mob operation has been disputed, and some believe Sheeran was only a low-level thug and not someone hired to carry out assassinations. Other evidence, including blood tests done on the house in which Sheeran claimed to have killed Hoffa, further raise doubts on Sheeran’s account.
Nicholas Gage, a New York Times reporter during the time, said recently Sheeran’s account, made famous by the book upon which The Irishman is based, remains one of the most “fabricated mafia tale[s]” of all time.
Where is Hoffa now?
Conspiracies abound on where Jimmy Hoffa is buried. Sheeran claims a cleanup crew took over after the shooting. Recent theories suggest that Hoffa (whether killed by Sheeran or Briguglio) was stuffed into a drum after he was killed and then loaded onto a truck to New Jersey. If that’s the case, then the former New Jersey landfill, “Brother Moscato’s Dump,” may be Hoffa’s final resting site. Of course, no one knows for sure.