Warning: There are SPOILERS ahead for Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman.”
So if you’ve yet to see Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci in the 209-minute long gangster epic, then please bookmark this article, click off it, turn on Netflix, and sit back and enjoy the sublime piece of filmmaking and acting.
Then return here to read whether or not Frank Sheeran actually killed Jimmy Hoffa.
With about an hour of “The Irishman” left, Robert De Niro’s Frank Sheeran shoots Al Pacino’s Jimmy Hoffa, the man he has been working with for over 15 years, in the back of the head and kills him.
After Sheeran murders Hoffa, two other men arrive at the empty house and cremate his body, leaving no trace of him, and starting the mystery over his disappearance that would capture the attention of the world for decades.
In “The Irishman,” Sheeran was told to commit the murder by Joe Pesci’s Russell Bufalino, the head of the Pennsylvania-based Bufalino crime family. Bufalino had become concerned by Hoffa’s actions and comments as he sought to become a powerful union leader again after being released from prison.
This involved Hoffa criticising and attacking other candidates and disrespecting the heads of several crime families, who were taking money out of the union’s pension fund whenever they wanted, something that Hoffa wouldn’t allow. Meanwhile, Hoffa assumed he was untouchable because of his vast, incriminating knowledge on these figures.
But did Frank Sheeran actually kill Jimmy Hoffa in real life?
Sheeran originally made this confession in Charles Brandt’s 2004 book “I Heard You Paint Houses: Frank ‘The Irishman’ Sheeran and Closing the Case on Jimmy Hoffa,” insisting he shot Hoffa in a house in Detroit. When Michigan State Police investigated the home they did find blood, but they weren’t able to link it to Hoffa.
Dan Moldea, the author of “The Hoffa Wars,” insists Sheeran didn’t murder Hoffa, though. Moldea told the Daily Beast that he even warned De Niro about making “The Irishman,” shouting at the actor when he met him, “Bob, you’re being conned.”
Sheeran’s confession has also been roundly criticized by other authors, one of whom noted that he claimed to have been involved in the murder on three other occasions, but gave different stories each time.
Instead, Moldea believes New Jersey mobster Salvatore Briguglio committed the murder of Hoffa with the assistance of his brother Gabs and Thomas Andretta. This theory is backed up by Philip Moscato Jr, the son of New Jersey crime family boss Philip Moscato Sr.
The trio worked closely with Anthony Provenzano, the Vice President of a New Jersey Teamsters union who was having huge issues with Hoffa before his death. Provenzano is believed to have asked for Bufalino’s blessing before ordering the death of Hoffa. Salvataro Briguglio was murdered on March 21, 1978, on Mulberry St. in Little Italy, New York, while Provenzano died of heart failure aged 71 on Dec. 12, 1988.
Provenzano is played by Stephen Graham in “The Irishman,” while Briguglio is also in the movie, portrayed by Louis Cancelmi. In fact, Briguglio is actually in the front seat of the car, with Hoffa’s foster son Chuckie O’Brien, which takes Sheeran and Hoffa to the house where the murder was done.
If it actually unfolded that way is clearly very much up for debate. It’s widely agreed, though, that Sheeran was in Detroit on the day Hoffa disappeared, that his account of the events in the hours and minutes leading up to it are likely true, and he might have even had a small part to play in setting it up. Other than that, though, his role in actually murdering Hoffa has been greatly exaggerated … probably.