The Departed turns 10 today, JOE's tribute to a modern classic
JOE's Spoiler Series... The Departed.
Welcome to JOE's Spoiler Series, where we take you behind the scenes to some of motion picture's finest. This is your *SPOILER ALERT* warning, no more excuses now.
Ready? Then follow us as we find out all there is know about the legendary crime drama, The Departed.
Title: The Departed
Director: Martin Scorsese
Release Date: October 6, 2006
Worldwide Box Office: $289, 847, 354
Irish Certificate Rating: 16 (original rating)
Tag Line: "Cops or Criminals. When you're facing a loaded gun what's the difference?"
Plot's it all about?
“The first movie I have ever done with a plot.”
These are the words of The Departed director Martin Scorsese. When one delves a little deeper into the inner-workings of the 2006 smash hit, more gems are discovered en route.
It is the most foul-mouthed Oscar-winning motion picture of all-time – the word ‘f*ck’ is imaginatively used in increasingly varied ways a total of 237 times throughout this contemporary classic.
The Departed is an intense and complex crime thriller set in modern-day Boston. It is a film filled with an assortment of nefarious and anti-heroic characters, where all is not what it seems.
A remake of the 2002 Hong Kong movie Infernal Affairs, the foundations of The Departed’s success is unquestionably inspired by its stellar casting – much of which was alternatively arranged.
With the synopsis sorted, here is some killer trivia about this modern-day classic…
Martin Scorsese had his hands full during production
In 2003, Warner Bros. bought the rights to the remake for less than $2 million. The plan, therefore, was to film a low-budget movie with relatively unknown actors – akin to the 1973 classic Mean Streets, Scorsese’s breakthrough.
However, as buzz of the script circulated throughout Hollywood, many of the major players wanted a slice of the pie. The budget was then altered accordingly, along with the set production.
Although the film is set in Boston, the majority of the shooting occurred in New York City, where quite generous 15% tax credits for filmmaking exists.
The task was so time-consuming that the director and his team were still working on the movie just a week before its commercial release.
Allegedly, Scorsese wasn’t even aware that this was a remake until after he signed on to direct.
Regardless, it was worth the hassle – The Departed gave Scorsese his first ever Academy Award for Best Director, despite having eight nominations in his career to date.
Competition was fierce to land a part in this hot gig
The cast originally looked a lot different, with Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise initially sought to star. The intention was for the former to portray Sullivan – Matt Damon’s character. Pitt, though, felt he was too old to play the part and so instead concentrated on producing the movie with his production company, Plan B (co-owned by ex-wife Jennifer Aniston).
Once Damon secured one of the more coveted parts he set about working with the Massachusetts police force, joining them on raids in order to better understand his convoluted character.
Meanwhile, Scorsese’s best work buddy Robert De Niro was pencilled in for the role of Captain Queenan but dropped out to concentrate on directing The Good Shepard (Leo DiCaprio, incidentally, went the opposite way).
Martin Sheen, who was the last major star to sign on, took that vacated role just to work with Scorsese. Elsewhere, Alec Baldwin was another late arrival to the show after Mel Gibson rejected the opportunity to play Ellerby in order to direct Apocalypto.
Finally, for the one prominent female part in the movie – which is a combination of two characters from the Hong Kong original – Scorsese had planned to cast a star.
He seriously considered the likes of Hilary Swank and Kate Winslet (Titanic fans would have gushed) but instead followed his instinct by hiring a relative unknown. Vera Fermiga can attribute a fine career so far to this decision.
Jack Nicholson had to be convinced, though
Every cast member was ecstatic to be involved, but a three-time Oscar winner was less enthusiastic. Nicholson, on more than one occasion, refused the role of Frank Costello, who was loosely based on the real-life mobster 'Whitey' Bulger.
Executives were happy to try to convince De Niro to take his place, while both Scorsese and DiCaprio worked on Nicholson. Eventually, convinced by his peers, the Hollywood legend relented.
He was attracted to what he perceived to be a truly despicable character and the fact that he had, amazingly, never worked with Scorsese up until this point.
Once Nicholson was confirmed he brought with him his usual stamp of inimitable authority. For instance, it was The Shining star’s idea for his character to shower the prostitutes in cocaine and to attend the opera.
Most notably, though, was his tendency to improvise throughout the shoot. The most famous example is arguably the interrogation scene with DiCaprio’s Billy. Apparently, his younger colleague was caught completely off-guard when Nicholson brandished a gun in the exchange. The evidence is in DiCaprio’s face.
Clip via - Ahmet Serdar Soprano
However, the veteran was not unconditionally attached to this character. He was unable to bring himself to wear a Boston Red Sox hat – Costello’s rational choice of team. Instead, the LA Lakers fanatic settled on a Yankees cap.
Busy schedules gave Mark Wahlberg his shot and with it brought critical recognition for the former rapper
Ray Liotta was the first choice to spout lines like, “I’m the guy who does his job, you must be the other guy.” When the Goodfellas lead man reluctantly turned down the position due to prior commitments, the offer was turned over to Denis Leary. The comedian had similar reasons for his unavailability so, up next, was Ethan Hawke.
‘Marky Mark’ was only considered after none of the above options came to fruition. It turned out to be an inspired decision.
Clip via - habsplek14
Wahlberg took real life inspiration to produce a captivating performance as the vociferous cop Dignam. The Good Vibrations singer based his performance on the individuals who arrested him in his youth and his parents’ reaction to these regular episodes of law infringements.
Taking up a good portion of the hundreds of ‘f*cks’ on show, Wahlberg left a huge impression and was rewarded with his first Oscar nomination in the Best Supporting category.
What was the story with his hair though?
Ray Winstone and Jack Nicholson did not see eye-to-eye
Ray Winstone is a legend of the British screen, but his impact across the Atlantic has been nowhere near as impacting. Having said that, he hustled Scorsese to earn a part in this flick during a Sunday morning/slightly worse for wear hotel meeting.
He convinced the director that he could add serious character to the otherwise relatively vacant ‘Frenchy’ – Costello’s side kick.
Delighted to be offered the part and thrilled to work intimately with Nicholson, Winstone was left quite underwhelmed by the experience, as he stated in an interview last year;
“Me and Jack did not seem to get on too well. Maybe he was going through a funny time. We just did not click… on the film it works and all that, you know? I’ll probably meet him tomorrow and he’ll be as good as gold, you know? It happens sometimes, you know.”
In any case, although a surprising anecdote, the on-screen chemistry between the two was very apparent in what was a key relationship in the plot.
Song of the Movie: Gimme Shelter – The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones are a well known favourite of Scorsese’s and Gimme Shelter is his go-to tune. The director used it so memorably in the 1990 classic Goodfellas, as well as in Casino.
However, the song is perhaps most relevantly played in The Departed as the soundtrack to the first scene.
While those legendary opening chords of Gimme Shelter begin, Frank Costello casually narrates what he views as the growing Irish domination in American society in what is, undoubtedly, one of the coolest introductions in movie history.
Clip via - Voodoo Child