- Director Martin Scorsese reveals that Warner Bros. wanted to keep Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon’s characters alive in The Departed for potential franchise opportunities.
- The director recalls that an early test screening of the movie went over very well with audiences, but the WB executives were disappointed that there were so few opportunities for franchising.
- The deaths of DiCaprio and Damon’s characters were integral to the themes of The Departed and changing aspects of the story to create sequel opportunities may have taken away from the impact of the film.
The Departed director Martin Scorsese recalls how one test screening of the film killed any franchise hopes for Warner Bros. executives. Released in 2006, the film chronicles a dangerous game of cat and mouse between an undercover cop and mole in the police department. The Departed‘s cast includes heavy-hitters like Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, and Martin Sheen, with only one of the actors’ characters making it through the movie.
In a recent interview with GQ, Scorsese recalls being asked by Warner Bros. to keep both DiCaprio and Damon’s characters alive in the film, thus leaving the door open for a Departed sequel. “What they wanted was a franchise,” the director recalls. “It wasn’t about a moral issue of a person living or dying.” Scorsese, choosing to not heed these requests, then recalls one test screening of the movie that went over very well with audiences, but left the studio executives feeling a little cold. Read his comment below:
“And then the studio guys walked out and they were very sad, because they just didn’t want that movie. They wanted the franchise. Which means: I can’t work here any more.”
Would A Departed Franchise Have Worked?
Scorsese has never made a sequel to one of his own movies before. It’s clearly not where his interests lie, with each new Scorsese film tackling new characters in a new story that leaves everything on the table. It’s no wonder, then, that he was opposed to franchising The Departed, as keeping DiCaprio and Damon’s characters alive would mean sacrificing his vision of the story purely for business reasons. Clearly, then, if there was a Departed sequel, Scorsese wouldn’t be involved.
What’s more, the death of DiCaprio’s Billy remains one of the most memorable deaths in movie history. It’s utterly shocking, and it subverts audience expectations in a clever and yet heartbreaking way. Billy’s death is woven into the fabric of The Departed and its themes, speaking to the dangers of doing the right thing in a world that is ultimately cruel and unjust. The death of Damon’s Colin, too, is a crucial part of the story, with Wahlberg’s Dignam taking justice into his own hands in the film’s final moments.
There’s nothing inherently wrong about the idea of making a sequel to The Departed. Wahlberg even tried to get one focusing on Dignam off the ground, but Warner Bros. apparently weren’t sold on the pitch. Ultimately, The Departed didn’t – and doesn’t – need to be a franchise, but, if a sequel had moved forward, taking the “spiritual sequel” route and telling a new story with new characters in that same world may have been the best approach.