Departed, The (2006): Scorsese-DiCaprio Oscar Winner

One of the best parts of producing a Scorsese film is casting. Marty has a way of picking the most amazing actors for each role, and this film was no exception, having Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin.
Producer Graham King

“The Departed,” the gritty crime drama from the brilliant director Martin Scorsese, is set in South Boston, where the Massachusetts State police Department is waging an all-out war to take down the city’s cop organized crime ring. The key is to end the reign of powerful mob boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) from the inside.

The story centers on the complicated, complex, and morally ambiguous lives of two copes: Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) and Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio).

Smart and unabashedly ambitious, Colin appears to be on the fast track of Massachusetts State Police Department’s Elite Special Investigations Unit, whose prime target is powerful mob boss Costello. In contrast, Billy Costigan is street-smart, tough, and suffers from a violent temper that has cost him his badge and eventually lands him back on the rough streets of South Boston, where he is recruited into Costello’s ranks.

Collaborating for the third time with Scorsese, after “Gangs of New York” and “The Aviator,” DiCaprio stars as Billy Costigan, a promising cadet at the Massachusetts State Police Academy, who is selected for a dangerous undercover assignment, before he has even had a chance to pin on a badge.

Different gangster film

“As much as it is a gangster movie, ‘The Departed,’ is unlike anything Marty has ever done. It deals with a very different set of circumstancesnot just that it involves the Irish underworld, but also the fact that it deals with the police force and the corruption there, as well. It is also set in a completely different environment, being Boston, not New York City and Little Italy. Although, as we went on, we saw it more as a story of American and the corruption of certain systems in our country as a whole.”

Script’s Allure

The actor says that the role represented more than an opportunity to work again with Scorsese: “I read the scrip and immediately wanted to be part of it. I just couldn’t put it down, and said ‘yes’ without any deliberation or hesitation. I thought it was a really intense story with multi-faceted and very compelling characters.

Character Motivation

Billy Costigan came up from the streets of Boston, and DiCaprio remarks that his character’s motivation to become a police officer is rooted in his desire to escape his upbringing: Billy comes from an underworld background and has all the chips stacked against him in a lot of ways. I think he joins the police because he has no other options, and he wants to do things differently than his family did.”

“Ironically, he is asked to go undercover and pretend to be the very thing he was determined not to become. At the heart of it, I think Billy is ultimately trying to redeem himself and not just be a product of his environment, but he ends up deep in a situation that is extremely dangerous and deceitful. There are moments when he could so easily be caughtall the arrows are pointing in his direction as the ‘rat,’ and everything begins to cave in around him.”

Dicaprio Vs. Matt Damon

Mat Damon’s character and mine are two sides of the same coin, even coming from the same neighborhood. Colin chose one path and my character chose another, but their lives are fatefully intertwined. They are linked in ways they themselves could never understand. The film becomes this really intriguing chess game of information and misinformation.

DiCaprio on Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicholson is a force of nature. He can be very unpredictable when he’s on camera, so you have to learn to roll with the punches. I mean there were moments during filming that I didn’t know what was going to happen next. I was never sure which side of Frank Costello Jack Nicholson was going to be playing on any particular day. That can be very exciting for an actor to play against, because it really keeps you on your toes all the time.

Film’s Only Woman

The one main character in ‘The Departed’ who is neither a cop nor a criminal is also the only woman. Vera Farmiga plays Madolyn, a psychiatrist who specializes in dealing with troubled people on both sides of the law. In a twist of fate, Madolyn becomes another unwitting link between Colin, the man she is seeing romantically, and Billy, the man she starts out seeing professionally.

For DiCaprio, “Farmiga’s Madolyn is the only emotional connection Billy has. She is the one person Billy can confide in, although in a very limited way, because he can’t reveal anything about himself or what he’s doing. As his counselor, Madolyn tries to help him initially, but then a stronger personal bind develops between them.

Technical Consultant Tom Duffy

Daffy had served three decades with the Mass. State Police, a significant portion of which was spent in the Special Investigation Unit (SIU), targeting organized crime, including the Irish mob. Duffy’s background and experience made him an invaluable resource for the filmmakers as well as the cast.

Says DiCaprio: “Although my character spends most of the movie acting more like a criminal than a cop, I was nevertheless able to profit from Dufffy’s years of undercover experience. The whole idea of what it is to be a cop in that circumstance, and the mindset I had to get into, would not have been as authentic without Duffy. He was a tremendous help throughout the entire shoot.

Immersing in the Local Culture

In preparing to play a native Bostonian, I knew the importance of immersing myself in the local culture. I definitely felt that I needed to go to Boston and walk around and get a feeling for the people. Everyone there was extremely supportive and tried to help me as much as they could. There was someone I hung out with, who took me down to the old neighborhoods and also helped me with the accent. It really helped me get into the character.

Scorsese on Leonardo DiCaprio

As an actor, I knew Leo would convey the conflict of a young man who has gotten himself into a bad situation and then wonders what the hell he is doing there. You can see it in his face; you can see it in his eyes. That’s one of the reasons I like working with Leo; he knows how to express emotional impact without saying a word. It just emanates from him. He is quite extraordinary to watch.”