INT: Departed 1/2
Part 1 of 2
It really doesnt get much better than this!! Subsequent to my invitation and immediate acceptance to attend THE press conference of the year (as well as the fun red carpet, see that video HERE), I was ecstatic (and a little delirious) with the anticipation of meeting the genius director of such mega hit films as TAXI DRIVER, GOODFELLAS, MEAN STREETS, CASINO and many, many more. Based on the successful 2002 Hong Kong crime thriller INFERNAL AFFAIRS, Scorseses upcoming film THE DEPARTED is an adaptation of that script. No stranger to the gangster genre, Scorsese performs his magic once again behind the scenes but this time illuminating and entertaining the story of the Irish mob domination and infiltration in south Boston from the early 1970s on.
With a film this big and Scorseses name attached to it, you can bet the caliber of players will be pretty extraordinary and THAT it is! Some of Hollywoods ultimate megastars, Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen and Alec Baldwin joined forces to create yet another Marty classic. The best part of it all? I had the pleasure of meeting two more hotties that I added to my ever-growing list!
Matt Damon is refreshingly witty and charismatic with a megawatt smile. Having gained fame and acclaim for his film GOOD WILL HUNTING (co-written with best male friend Ben Affleck), he puts on another outstanding performance as bad cop Colin in this film!
Leonardo DiCaprio on the other hand is absolutely adorable! Ok, so I squirmed a little at the prospect of meeting him, but I he didnt let me down! Much taller than I anticipated, DiCaprio has an irresistible boyish charm. He is also incredibly talented and takes on the challenging role of Billy, a good cop assigned undercover in the Irish underworld.
Although disappointingly but not surprisingly absent at the press conference, Jack Nicholson deserves great recognition as well for captivating audiences once again with his entertaining performance as mob boss Frank Costello.
Check out what Martin Scorsese, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Vera Farmiga (the envy of many girls) and screenwriter Bill Monahan had to say when I had the great pleasure of sitting down with them recently to discuss their experiences and adventures in making this film.
Martin, why have your films become more Irish in the recent years and will you return to Italian-centric cinema?
Martin Scorsese (MS): Its an interesting question. Ive always felt a close affinity with the Irish, particularly coming out of New York City. Although by the time the Italians moved in, by the 1920s. 30s, most of the Irish had moved out of that neighborhood that they came from. It goes back to New York, stories about the way Irish helped create I e NY and America, the city itself. Dont forget I do have a strong love for Hollywood cinema and some of the greatest filmmakers have come out of Hollywood, films by Irishman John Ford an others.
You talk about a Ford film and you talk about the family structure, although how green was my valley was about Welsh miners, but still it was directed by an Irishman. It has warmth that we felt and we felt very close to the culture. We think the family structure of the Irish and the Italians felt that. Irish literature is very important to me and the poetry of the Irish is something thats extraordinary. The Irish sense of Catholicism is a very interesting contrast to the Italians sense of Catholicism and thats very interesting to me. So thats my personal reason and besides, the script is written by William Monahan.
Matt and Leo, can you talk about why you picked the character you did?
Matt Damon (MD): We actually did flip a coin. That was how we decided. No, in terms of the roles, I think Leo and I both thought they were these incredible roles, you know. Speaking for Leo, I think we would have been happy to play either one and we did it this way and were happy that thats the way it turned out because I cant imagine playing the other one but its really rare in a film of this budget to have character this interesting. Generally the bigger the budget, the less interesting the characters become and actually all of us had great things top play so thats a real credit to Bill Monahan and his script. To be able to have that much to do when you go to work everyday was really great. And then we also heard the director had done a good movie here or there.
Leonardo DiCaprio (LD): I agree with Matt 100% you know. These characters are 2 sides of the same coin in a lot of ways. They come from different backgrounds but they could have easily made the choices the other made, depending on the circumstances. It just sort of happened that way. I dont know, I suppose Marty and I got the script first and Matt was the next guy on board and it was ultimately Martys decision at the end of the day.
MD: I wanted to play Veras role.
Vera Farmiga (VF): I wanted to play Matts role.
LD: And I wanted to play Jacks role.
Martin, why did Hong Kong translate into Irish Boston?
MS: I didnt think of it as Hong Kong. I just thought of it as how Bill put together the script. Really, I liked the idea. Hong Kong cinema, once I saw John Woos THE KILLER, you cant go near that, you cant even begin as far as my skills as a filmmaker, you cant. Thats taking our film and their culture and mix everything up together, that was 1997, 1998. Then I saw another Hong Kong film in the 80s called King Hu. King Hu and The Touch of Zen and things like that. I saw and I said its a whole other thing going on there. We do what we do and if we influence their culture at all, it has come through John Woo and Tsui Hark.
I mean, the Hong Kong cinema of Wong-Kar Wai and Stanley Kwan, all of this is something that you cant, you have to appreciate as a filmmaker because you say ok, we see new ways of making narrative film. However, no matter even if I had a moment where I said to myself, gee maybe I can make a film like John Woo. The minute I get to design the shot or I get behind the camera with the cinematographer who happens to be Arthur C. Miller in this case, well many times I said my God Ive done this shot like five times already in two other movies, you know, but thats what I do.
Thats how it came out, but really what it comes down to is what I was responding to was ..Bill Monahan put down a way of life, a way of thinking, an attitude, a cultural look at the world, really a very, very enclosed society and thats what I responded to I think. Taking from the Hong Kong trilogy, Andrew Laus film you know, thats the device and its the plot. That idea, the concept of the two informers and being totally, whether I like it or not, drawn to the stories that have to do with trust and betrayal, I found that I kept being drawn back to the script and to the project. So, as I say it became something else.
Martin, I was wondering how the script developed on the shoot and if you had any changes for Jacks character?
MS: It evolved and it evolved over a long process, a very long process. Ever since Ive been making films, Ive loved talking about how the process has got to be the way they are between writers, myself and the actors, but I found over the years that it gets misunderstood maybe, and so it could be harmful to Bill or the people involved if you dont really have to be there. Its the old phrase; you really had to be there. Its a collaborative process theres no doubt, but the basis is what Bill did and he continued to do it when it was called upon and when it was called upon to evolve a character, it was usually with the actors and myself.
And thats how that worked and Jack Nicholson worked in a different way, but that again is kind of a private process. Its again, youd have to be part of the situation. We developed it as a character that was a little different than what Bill had put in there but basically we had decided that the date, the age, the power of this man and the appearance of his total coming apart with such power, so much power and yet hes falling apart and yet theres the danger of that. We went in that direction, supplemented by Bill and whoever else had an idea. This is the way I work. This is my process. The other actors can talk but we all worked together.
Leonardo, can you talk about your influences for developing your characters violence?
LD: I guess by watching Martin Scorsese movies, right? You know, well its not really familiar to me, that form of immediate violence, but thats what you do as an actor. If you draw upon anything in your real life, you go meet the people that have done these sorts of things and part of the process for me was going to Boston. I had never spent any time there. Sort of learning about the Boston subculture, meeting some of the real people who were around during the late 80s, sort of the whitey era, we may call it, but I really wanted to meet some guys from south Boston.
I met a guy in Los Angeles and spent a lot of time with him. He told me a lot of stories about the streets there and Bostons a really interesting place because everyone knows each others business. Its like a little microcosm there and everyone waves to each other on the street and they all have overlapping stories, but for me, we shot a lot of it in New York. We should have shot some of it in Boston. It was very important for me to meet some of the real characters and get to know then and hear some of their stories. You can read books and I read a few books but to be able to penetrate some of these guys and really get deep into what they were thinking was important.
Matt can you discuss going on a drug bust with the police and Leo please discuss anything that stands out from your adventures?
LD: Matt actually went on a, what was it, raiding a crack house was it? We had a great technical advisor named Tom Duffy who was there throughout the entire filmmaking process who knew the entire history of Boston and knew what the streets were like and the police gave us unbelievable advice. And he was there constantly but Matt went on those raids.
MD: Yeah, it was like, have you ever seen the move THE HARD WAY with Michael J. Fox? That was me. Hey guys, can I get a gun? Theyre like, absolutely not, shut up! I love sitting next to Marty wholl reference forty of the greatest films ever made and Ill say, have any of you guys seen THE HARD WAY? As Leo said, Tom Duffy was a huge resource for us and for me Leo got connected to a bunch of people who were around Whitey Bugler, but Duff was able to get me around a bunch of police. And it was really fascinating. And you know for me, I had a real advantage because Im from Boston, so I didnt have to learn an accent or do anything like that.
I got to get straight into investigating this sort of subculture of the state police and you know, what I knew of the state police was from the times that I got pulled over for speeding on the Pike. And so to get in there and really see what these guys do was great and any time you have access like that, its really the most amazing part of this job of acting because its your own time. And its months ahead of time and theres no production around you, you dont have to you know .once you get on a film set, the clock is ticking as Graham King can tell you. Every minute costs a lot of money, but with this research you can go at your own pace. So I spent a lot of time with these guys just sucking it in, not really having to have a goal but just sitting there and spending time, you know, meals, and you just start to pick stuff up.
For instance, this raid on the crack house. I mean, Im sure I was in no real danger. They brought twice as many cops as they usually do with one of those raids and I was in the back of the line so I had my bullet proof vest on standing there going, well what am I doing here? And I didnt go in until they cleared the house, but I got to see them do it and so I told Marty and Bill this is a good way to establish Colin rising up because it follows this kind of progression. He keeps getting promoted and so one of the ways of showing that was showing the extremely aggressive and violent world that hes in, hitting a house and what happens and how they do it.
And the guys that are in the shoot with me are the guys who were really in the house with me that night when it happened. Martys really insistent on, you know in a all of his films, theres an authenticity that you just cant fake and its because he uses a lot of real people and because his actors have access to these real people and get as much understanding of the people that theyre playing. I mean ultimately its a giant magic trick. Were just trying to be believable. And if youre taken out of the movie at all, then we havent done our job right. So theres all this legwork that goes into beforehand just so when we show up, hopefully the process is really smooth and the result is believable.
Scorsese and Monahan, I found the last shot of the film to be amusing. Where did it come from and what did you intend by it?
MS: Can I just ask a question first? Because I was wondering what you meant by it as well. Ive worked on it a lot, that last shot. Its an interesting thing. When I got to the end of the script, I didnt know who Bill or who even owned the script, or who the producers or the studio. I just knew the script. I took a long time reading it too. About three and a half hours and it was time to get to the plot point. Therere some plot issues and it had to do with the way the characters were interacting and the dialogue that Bill had in there.
The attitude that was in there and the stance against the world that they had, particularly not only the main characters but the parts played by Mark Walhberg and Alec Baldwin, at the end when I saw the shoot out in the elevator and what happened, and then when Colin goes home at the end and what happens to him there, I was pretty stunned by it. It was pretty truthful. I thought it was pretty strong. And then Bill had written the phrase saying, and then a strange thing happens, comma, a rat comes out and starts to eat the croissants. And then I said, thats really strange, thats really interesting. And then a rat comes out and its like a comment from a little, I dont know what you would call it.
It really isnt meant to be literal but its a comment from the filmmakers on the subject matter. However, when you try to, this is the nature of filmmaking, and then when you try to interpret, and then a strange thing happens, on film, one runs into difficulty because the rat comes in from the left, no, no suddenly it all looks too literal. Why isnt it poetic like he wrote it? And it took me a while to finally .we took a while on that shot. Ultimately its the nature of, its well without giving out the story, its whats in the beginning of the frame and then as the rat is revealed, its the image of the statehouse itself.
The gold dome, the sense of for me well a throwback of the old gangster genre films at the end of SCARFACE, the world is yours, which is a shot, Tony Montana is shot in the street, theres a shot, a shot of a sign in the movie that says the work is yours globe. It think LITTLE CAESAR is the same way so for me, or at then end of WHITE HEAT on top of the world. Well the top of the world to him was that Beacon Hill and in the sense the gold dome of the statehouse was it, near it, represents that. But it also represents that for me as the film developed a sense of paranoia and betrayal and one person never anybody. It kind of reflects the world now, the America that we know now, post September 11th. And so all these elements are in there but first on an entertainment level as a reference back to the old gangster genre.
MD: I was also going to say that its also like the end of THE HARD WAY Times Square and theyre running around a lot of neon.
Bill Monahan (BM): Well what I was thinking was that after such an intense bloody ending, we could go out with a little bit of a joke on the simplest level. Theres also the idea of the rat behind the wall of Colins supposedly perfect world. And it was made to work. It worked beautifully I think.
STAY TUNED FOR PART 2 OF THIS PRESS CONFERENCE TOMORROW!!
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