How twisted was the dead scene that Jack Nicholson wrote for “The Departed”?
Jack Nicholson’s character was insane, but was he that insane?
One of the most insidious villains in recent theatrical memory is Jack Nicholson’s Frank Costello from The departed. He’s not just a gang boss, he’s a psychopath who walks around with a severed hand in a pocket and tortures his victims before having them killed. Nicholson is known for loving to go his own way on set and really transforming what’s on the page into something he can own.
In a recent episode of “WTF” podcast with Marc Maron had Maron left Co-star Matt Damon to talk about his career. Damon mentioned a scene in the film that Nicholson wanted to rewrite to get it so twisted that it wouldn’t make the final cut.
Damon said to Marron, “The scene was an eighth page long. It read: ‘Costello shoots a man who kneels in the swamp.’ That’s all it said Jack was so excited and said [to me], ‘Wait till you hear what I did.’ He says, ‘Well, it was an eighth page’ and he says, ‘I’ve seen this before, so I made a woman out of it … and I have Ray [Winstone] in the scene with me. ‘”
[Nicholson] Says, “We’re going to stay in the same shot, I’m not going to add time or money to the schedule. But I shoot her in the back of the head and she falls over. Now you could end the scene there, but if the camera keeps rolling I’ll turn.” to Ray and say, ‘Gosh, she got weird.’ That’s a very dark line. It suggests I’ve done this before. There’s a possibility that people will fall. Now you could end the scene there, but if you keep the camera rolling, Ray reveals an ax, he is holding back behind his. He’s going to chop it up. So Ray starts stepping forward … Now you could end the scene there, but if you let the camera roll I’ll say, ‘Wait, I think I do wants to fuck her again. ‘ That is a very sinister line. ”
Damon’s reaction says it all.
“I’m like ‘Jesus’.”
Damon said Nicholson’s notes didn’t stop there.
[Nicholson continued], “You could end the scene there, but if you keep the camera rolling Ray looks at me and after a long pause I say, ‘Ahhhhh!’ As if I had him. Now you could run the camera, Ray says to me, ‘Francis, you should really see someone.’ ”
That’s one hell of a way to describe an insert scene. On the one hand, it’s really fun to see how Nicholson loves a role so much that he wants to get so immersed in the character and deliver a breakthrough performance. On the other hand, it’s easy to see where the clay consistency might hit a line.
Do you think Scorsese was right to leave the scene as it is? Let us know in the comments.