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Matt Damon Talks About The Departed

Damon Teams Up with DiCaprio and Scorsese for The Departed


Matt Damon Talks About The Departed

Matt Damon stars in The Departed.

© Warner Bros Pictures
Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio star as moles inside opposing organizations in the Martin Scorsese crime drama, The Departed. Damon plays an informant inside the police force who feeds info back to mob boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). DiCaprio co-stars as a clean cop who infiltrates Costello’s gang. The tension picks up when each man must race to unmask the other before his own cover gets blown.

Signing on to The Departed: Damon joked, “Brad [Pitt, producer], Leo, and I were in a bathhouse together. I think the moment these things are born, it's an important [moment]. I have to say what happened… No, Brad came to me because his company had access and I first heard about it through Brad. It's like the dream of all dreams. ‘Hey, did you hear that Martin Scorsese is directing a movie about Boston?’ For me, [the answer] was, ‘Really?’ Then I got a copy of the script and loved it. 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 film.’ 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.’ It was a really easy yes for me.”

Two Sides of the Same Coin: Damon and DiCaprio play very similar characters, though on opposite sides of the law. Because they don't share much time on screen, the actors relied on William Monahan's script to make sure they were getting the tone of both characters right. “The script is really well-written and you don't really find… Leo and I read everything that comes around and you don't find characters that are this interesting and complex in movies where the budget is this high. The kind of rule of thumb is the bigger the budget, the more boring the character. A lot of this was already on the page and as long as Leo and I both did our work and got ready and got prepared and just played the scene without even thinking about that and just letting Marty go in and sort it out, it was bound to work well. There are bound to be similarities in the characters. They're the same guys; they're the same age, from the same neighborhood. They're both pretending to be people they're not. There's bound to be comparisons.

I think Leo [DiCaprio] 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. We did it this way and we're happy that that's the way it turned out because I can't imagine playing the other one now.”

The Research Process: Damon spent a lot of time with police officers and even went along on the bust of a crack house. Damon believes that being able to soak that in was instrumental in capturing this character. “”Tom Duffy was a huge resource for us and for me. Leo got connected to a bunch of people who were around Whitey Bulger, but Duff was able to get me around a bunch of police and it was really fascinating. For me, I had a real advantage because I'm from Boston, so I didn't have to learn an accent or do anything like that, I got to get straight to investigating this sort of subculture of State Police. 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.

Any time you get access like that, it's really the most amazing part of this job of acting because it's your own time and it's months ahead of time. There's no production around you. Once you get on a film set, the clock is ticking as [producer] Graham King can tell you. Every minute costs a lot of money. But with 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. Most of that stuff ends up [useful].”

Damon continued, “For instance, this raid on the crack house. I mean, I'm sure I was in no real danger. They brought twice as many cops as they usually do with one of those raids. I was in the back of the line. I had my bullet-proof vest on standing there going, ‘Well, what am I doing here?’ I didn't go in until they cleared the house, but I got to see them do it. I told Marty and Bill, ‘You know, 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 he's in. You know, hitting a house and what happens and how they do it. The guys that are in the shot with me are the guys who were really in the house with me that night when it happened. Marty's really insistent on [that]. In all of his film's there an authenticity that you just can't fake and it's 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 they're playing."

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