THE DEPARTED Press Conference with Vera Farmiga, Matt Damon, Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Graham King, and William Monahan.
Are the three actors here familiar with the Hong Kong film or the names Tony Leung and Andrew Lau?
DiCaprio: Yeah, I mean we all watched it. And we all enjoyed the film but I think we had to separate ourselves from it to a certain extent. Certainly, the construct and the skeleton of the story is pretty much, well, it's very similar in this version, but it's dealing with an entirely different underworld. It's dealing with Irish-Americans in Boston and we watched it very early on but we also had to forget a lot of those elements because we knew that we had to invent an entirely different film.
Damon: Yeah, I just echo what Leo said. I loved the Hong Kong film. I thought it was fantastic. And I loved those Hong Kong actors. But it's such a different culture, Boston is different even from any city here in America so, it's a very specific, with the structure was used from the Hong Kong version and then, but the world that Bill built around it was very specific to Boston.
Farmiga: For me, I didn't see the film and I only saw it after my work was complete. I hear that it's a compilation of three female characters, which would have been altogether confusing for me, and I think Madeline was going to be used in an entirely different way in this script to really illustrate the differences and the similarities of these two characters, so I just read from the script.
Could Matt and Leo talk about working opposite Jack Nicholson in this film?
Damon: We have a lot of Jack stories. The first day I worked with him, he had been working with Leo for about a week, and so I had the week off and I came back, and it's Sunday night and I'm looking over the script and I get a phonecall. Hi, Matt? Marty. Hi. The director. I love that he always says Marty the Director. I said, “Yeah, I know who you are.” He said, “Well, a funny thing has happened, Jack had some ideas for your scene tomorrow.” We were shooting a scene in a movie theatre. And he goes, “Ok, I'll just get to it. Jack's going to wear a dildo.”And so I thought, uh, ok, so I'll see you at seven? So we went in the next day and rehearsed it, you know, and Jack's idea was like, “Here's the deal, I'm gonna come in, I'm gonna sit there, in the overcoat, and I'm gonna pull out the big dildo and we're gonna laugh.”And I thought, ok, that's a really good way to get into the scene, you know, they have to meet there and so, and Jack really brought this incredible new element, this new layer to that character. Kind of obscene. No, really, but I mean in a way that felt authentic. It felt, like these guys really would sublimate sex into violence and violence into sex, and it really is how a lot of those things did occur. I don't know how much research he did or how much he just intuited or what his process was exactly, but I found him really committed to making the thing as believable and pushing the envelope as much as he could. He really did. I mean, I'm sure there's a lot of stuff that I'm sure didn't make the final version because as he said, I want to keep giving too much in all of these scenes and then let Marty figure out, the level that's right for his film and that was just really impressive just to see how much he was thinking about it, how much work he was putting it into it, and how obscene he was willing to be in order to be again believable. I said to Martin as this was happening, I'd shot for about a month, but I'd spent months in all the police stuff and Vera and I hadn't worked together yet except for one quick scene when we first meet. And I said, if he's introducing this sexual element into this, then it's fair game in the script and we have to reference it from Colin's standpoint. So what would the effect be on Colin from this figure whose this loomed over in his entire life and who knows what's happened between them and so we got into all these conversations and then with Vera we started rehearsing this stuff and basically what we came down to what I said to Marty was that okay we're in this macho world, and everyone's beating each other up. And everyone's knocking each other over the head with glasses and pushing each other through walls and Jack's, his sexual dynamo, I want to lose every fight I'm in and I don't want my dick to work. I want to take an aggressive run in the other direction.
Scorsese: Because you can see it in the final touches as Jack's leaving the mark on Matt's shoulder and you can see it on the expression in his face. He sort of recoils from us. That's interesting so we started following that up.
Damon: And then that scene with Alec Baldin where he says, we're at the golf course, where he says, “a woman sees a ring on a guy's finger and she knows he's got a certain amount of money and his cock works”, and so we just thought the line, “you know, my cock works”, and he looks at me and he goes, “all the time”, and then Alec goes, that's good. So we just started to talk about that and it really did seem to thematically fit with what Jack was doing and it became and it just kind of deepened the whole thing. Yeah, it was the obscene phone call too. I mean, Bill always had that. Bill had him threatening me while she was watching me, but the language that Jack and Jack really said, “look if we're gonna do this, let's really do this.”And the way he talks to me about her while she's right there, it's really obscene, there's no other, and so, you know, and real, by the way, and real, and again that's with Martin that's the root of all of it. That authenticity.
DiCaprio: Well, as far as Jack was concerned, we kind of expected the unexpected. You know. We knew that if he was going to come, to have Jack Nicholson join up with Martin Scorsese and play a gangster is something that I think a lot of movie fans have been waiting for. For me, there were a number of different scenes where I had no idea what was going to happen. One scene in particular, the prop guy sort of, we did the scene one way, and I remember Jack speaking to Marty because he said he didn't feel that he was intimidating enough, it was one of the table scenes, yeah, it was one of the most memorable moments of my life as far as being an actor is concerned. I remember coming into the scene one way and then I came in the next day and the prop guy told me, “well, he's got a, be careful he's got a fire extinguisher, a gun, some matches, and a bottle of whiskey.” Ok. So, you know, some things are in the film that he did that day and some things aren't. But for me, as an actor, it wasn't necessarily, I'm afraid, you know, we're all professional actors and we're all playing roles, but for me playing this character of this guy that has to relay to the audience this constant 24 hour panic attack that I'm going through for my life, surrounded by people that would literally blow my head off if I gave them any indication of who I was, coupled with the fact that I'm sitting across the table from a homicidal maniac that will maybe light me on fire. But it gives you I don't want to say as an actor a sense of fear, but as a character a whole new dynamic. And it completely altered and shifted the scene in a completely different direction and I think we all knew that if he came on board that he would have to sort of grab the reins with this character and let him be freeform and we all were completely sort of ready for that every day that we walked up on the set. You know, he had a short run, he filmed his scenes and then he left, but those were some of the most intense moments of the film for me certainly and as a human being as a person, there were some memories that I will never forget.
DiCaprio, what is it about Scorsese as a director and a person that attracts you to his films?
DiCaprio: Well, I'm a fan of his work, number one. I remember, well, truth is I suppose for me anyway that it all started wanting to work with him doing This Boy's Life with Robert DeNiro and getting sort of familiar with Robert DeNiro's work and obviously that means Martin Scorsese's work as well. So I became a fan of his work at a very early age. If you asked me who I wanted to work with starting out in the business, it would have been this guy right here, and I got fortunate enough to work with him on Gangs of New York in 2000. And I think just from there, we, I don't have an exciting term for it other than we have a good time working together and we have similar tastes as far as the films we like. He certainly has broadened my spectrum as far as films that are out there in the history of cinema and the importance of cinema. And it really brought me to different levels as an actor. I look at him as a mentor.
Marty, Vera has a unique position in this cast of men. What drew you to her? And then I want all of you to talk about that dynamic.
Scorsese: Ellen Lewis, our casting director, mentioned Vera to me and then I saw a clip of a film she did called Down to the Bone, and I said I can't tell anything from a clip because often these clips are sent you it looks like the images from the guys around 1968-1969 when they landed on the moon. The reception was better there. Somehow I said, I can't see their faces and I said I really should see the whole film and I took it it looked like an interesting film so I had a very good experience watching that film. And then I heard about the process of how they worked on that film or that series of films that they're working on up there in upstate New York and it really reminded me of the early days of Estelle Gettys working in New York, 1958, 1959, 1960, making independent working, rewriting, revising, whatever, with actors, with the people, with the real people behind it, and I thought this was interesting for a person to pursue and then you gotta put yourself on tape. Right? You put yourself on tape during the earlier scenes with Colin and I liked that and the next thing we do is we come in and meet and that, I think you read with Leo and I was sold. I like Vera's attitude. I wanted someone to come in and enrich the part with Bill, with the actors, whatever, and again that's part of the process. It comes just as Matt announcing stuff, just giving you an idea of how you get from there to there, that was just one day. But it's just one day. So each day on a good day there were five or six of those things happening. And so this also, you know, the worlds that I depict in these films that Bill wrote, it's male-driven, the action is male-driven, so usually the female characters are the dangers and I don't know if it's not, but I feel ok, so, and I've taken it down the line to the very, very last minute of working on this film so that I could get it right within the circumstances and everything we tried for the past year, the female characters always seem to be adjuncts in a way to the main plotlines and developing the characters in the picture with Bill and the actors, we wanted someone like Vera who was able to come in and tell them what to do or Bill or any of you guys.
Damon: Well yeah, I think Marty's right about a male-driven film and where the female lead is often doing things that, you know, it's like when you're a young character actor and you have to do things that make no sense so that the lead of the film can look better, but if you hire a great actor or a great actress to take a role, they can make everything work and in our rehearsing it, it really made sense. I mean our relationship got a lot deeper and it made a lot more sense thematically because now you've got a guy who's got sexual issues with this woman who, of course, she's a shrink, of course he's gonna go to her and of course he's gonna be with her because if he's got issues in his neighborhood, I mean, he's, everyone's going to know about it and so he seeks her out and she of course would stay with him and tough it out because of what she does. Her first instinct is to try to help him, I mean, granted, a lot of these scenes would then happen off camera, but our relationship works and makes sense because it makes sense why, and then it makes sense why she would be susceptible to Billy's attentions because she is unfulfilled in certain ways. And so now the film is going in all these new directions, so we felt like we caught a lucky break when Jack introduced this element because it really gave us a lot to play with and a lot to work on and it was real.
Farmiga: It truly was a collaborative process. I entered into this being prepared to meet megawatts of talent and you expect there to be a certain chasm between you and there wasn't. These guys were so nurturing and encouraging and inventive. We spent a lot of time the four of us, Bill, Marty, Matt and I, and the process working with Marty is he really brings you to bring your own tumults and your own idiosyncrasies and it's a real workshopping and there was a point where we decided well, do we want to make her more unbalanced in the film or do we want her as duplicitous as the rest of them? And I had met with a woman by the name of Debra Glasner who is a police psychiatrist of the LAPD, who happens to be a woman, and she's a cop psychologist and I gave her the script and she looked at and goes, oh, dear, no, she's doing everything wrong. No way would she sleep with a client. And that's the moment that my character became really interesting to me. And we started it from there. Talking about whether this is a woman who is good at her job. But it was a true collaboration, I mean we had a lot to do with improvising and discarding and bringing things back.
Matt and Leo, how did you come to appear in this film? Did you discuss the similarities and differences of your roles? How did Brad Pitt get involved?
Damon: Brad, Leo, and I were in a bathhouse together. I think the moment these things are born, it's an important, I have to say what happened. No, Brad came to me because his company had access and I first heard about it through Brad. And it's like the dream of all dreams. “Hey, did you hear that Martin Scorsese is directing a movie about Boston?” For me, that was it, really? So and then I got a copy of the script and loved it and when I came back to New York, I met with Marty. But I think I had already agreed to do it. Most of these things are contingent on a meeting, on both sides, well we should meet and discuss the films. I wasn't even trying to be cool about it, “I'm in, so if he needs to meet with me, I'll go meet him wherever he wants.” So it was a really easy yes for me.
DiCaprio: Well, no, I never had an initial conversation with Brad and I had received the script and it was really, you know, Bill Monahan's work here, this tightly-woven, highly complex ensemble piece, this gangster thriller, it's very, very rare I must say in this business where a script lands on your lap ready to go. And this was one of those rare occurrences. There was a certain amount of work, character development, taking things out, changing dialogue, but to have the construct of the story there and really complex characters there, duplicitous characters, information, disinformation, plot twists, you know, all leading to a satisfying ending is something that you hardly ever get to in this business. So I know I got the script around when Marty got the script and we just talked to each other and it was one of those things that we really didn't need to discuss. He really wanted to do it. I really wanted to do it. And for a lack of a better term, the rest is history.
THE DEPARTED opens on October 6, 2006
Click here for photos - http://www.blackfilm.com/20060113/features/thedeparted.shtml
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