27/12/2019 09:49 GMT

Stephen Graham Recalls Mortifying First Meeting With Irishman Co-Star Joe Pesci: 'Awkward Is Not The Word'

It wasn't exactly best foot forward for the Line Of Duty star on the set of the epic Netflix drama.

The Irishman actor Stephen Graham has admitted he didn’t exactly get off to the best start with co-star Joe Pesci.

Stephen has certainly had an eventful 2019, appearing in successful shows like Line Of Duty, The Virtues and the BBC’s new adaptation of A Christmas Carol, as well as appearing in Netflix’s latest epic, The Irishman.

Directed by Martin Scorsese and starring some true heavyweights from the gangster film genre, and has been met with near-universal critical acclaim.

However, speaking to Graham Norton on his upcoming New Year’s Eve special, Stephen admitted that he had a rather mortifying experience the first time he met Joe, known for his roles in Goodfellas, Casino and Lethal Weapon.

PA Wire/PA Images
Stephen Graham on the Graham Norton Show

First, Stephen recalled the “surreal” experience of meeting Robert De Niro, saying: “He is one of my heroes, someone I had grown up with. I was extremely nervous, as you can imagine, but he was lovely and very nice.

“I was only supposed to be there for 20 minutes and I was there for two hours. The meeting went well!”

Less smooth was his first encounter with Joe Pesci, though, with Stephen admitting: “Awkward is not the word.

“It was the first couple of days of filming, and I was told that he wanted to see me. He asked, ‘Where are you from?’ I said, ‘I’m from England, Liverpool’ and he went, ‘You’re not Italian?’ I apologised for it and he was like, ‘Okay, you’d better do this right,’ to which I said, ‘I’ll do my best.’”

Jean Baptiste Lacroix via Getty Images
Joe Pesci at the premiere of The Irishman

Stephen noted that Joe then told him he “wanted his role” in the film, adding: “I was like, ‘But your part’s massive, you’ve got loads to do.’ And he said, ’I knew Tony [Provenzano, Stephen’s character] so make sure you do a good job.’ The meeting really couldn’t have got any worse!

“A few days later he came up to me and said, ’You’re doing really well, come and have some dinner. But then he said, ’Why are you talking like that? Why don’t you talk as your character so I can understand you?’”

The Irishman debuted on Netflix earlier this year, winning rave reviews but also raising eyebrows with its three-and-a-half hour runtime.

At the upcoming Golden Globes, the film has been nominated for five awards, including Best Drama Film and Best Supporting Actor for both Joe Pesci and Al Pacino.

Tune into The Graham Norton Show on New Year’s Eve at 10.20pm on BBC One.