Martin Scorsese’s recently released Netflix movie The Irishman tells the story of the murder of labor union leader Frank Hoffa as seen through the eyes of mobster Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran.
Spoilers below! Don’t read below if you don’t want to know some of the main plot points from The Irishman.
The movie is very loosely based on the true-life disappearance of Hoffa in 1975; however, most disagree with the movie’s basic premise that Sheeran was the murderer.
In the movie, the character of Sheeran, played by Robert De Niro, confesses to the murder of Hoffa. The movie documents Sheeran’s supposed rise through the mafia ranks, and we watch as Sheeran becomes Hoffa’s bodyguard and eventual killer.
Frank Sheeran was a real person, a World War II veteran, who rose to a position as hitman and confidant to the Bufalino crime family in Pennsylvania. The real Frank Sheeran also confessed to Hoffa’s murder; however, the FBI has remained very skeptical of these claims. He was never arrested or charged for the crime.
Former FBI agent John Tamm has stated: “Frank Sheeran was a full-time criminal, but I don’t know of anybody he personally ever killed.” Frank Sheeran, as it turns out, has a bit of a history of telling tall tales when it comes to the mafia; numerous investigators, journalists, and FBI agents have dismissed his claims.
It is certainly true that Jimmy Hoffa did disappear in Michigan in 1975; it is alleged that he had connections to the mafia, with Sheeran’s employers, the Bufalino family, being one of those connections. He was also known to have angered mob bosses with his attempts to regain control over the Teamsters labor union.
Police remain unsure of who killed Hoffa; a standard theory is that mobster Anthony Provenzano had him murdered with the help of the Detroit mob. Provenzano had taken over the Teamsters union at the time and therefore had a motive to get rid of Hoffa.
Scorcese has essentially taken Sheeran’s claims and made a movie out of them. These claims, along with the movie’s storyline, should definitely be taken with a pinch of salt.
The Irishman is streaming now on Netflix.