Jimmy Hoffa has been played on screen by the likes of Jack Nicholson and Al Pacino; expand that to include Hoffa-inspired characters and you can add Sylvester Stallone to the list. He’s been the subject of memoirs by people who knew him and books that have speculated about his death. And the way his career dovetailed with the histories of both organized crime and organized labor in the United States helps explain why Hoffa’s life remains fascinating to so many people in 2023.
In a recent article for CrimeReads, Jesse Pasternack took on the challenge of quantifying Hoffa’s enduring appeal. That includes contrasting the two most memorable cinematic takes on Hoffa, from directors Martin Scorsese (in The Irishman) and Danny DeVito (in Hoffa). “Scorsese’s Hoffa is a man with whom you’d like to have a beer. DeVito’s Hoffa is a man who you’d want to salute,” Pasternack writes.
Hoffa could be a contradictory and paradoxical figure; one of the ways Pasternack reveals this is by revisiting Hoffa’s autobiography, which “[feels] like the most unlikeable and arrogant representation of him out of the three considered here.”
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There’s also the mystery of Hoffa’s disappearance, which certainly doesn’t hurt his enduring presence in the nation’s psyche. Searches for his remains have persisted through the years, with NPR reporting on the phenomenon in 2013. Last year, the FBI searched for Hoffa in Jersey City, to no avail; the mysteries continue, but the legend endures.
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