Remake of the Hong Kong thriller “Infernal Affairs” (2002) directed by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak, “The Departed” is the film that finally awarded Martin Scorsese the Oscar for best director. Ditto for the novelist William Monahan who won the one for the best adaptation. The film has since become a classic, with crisp set stories. Back on the day when Nicholson went wild, for a good cause …
Infiltrators, an essential masterpiece
Signed Martin Scorsese, Infiltrators landed in 2006 on the cinema planet. On board, a breathtaking casting. The film takes us to Boston, where a merciless struggle pits the police against the Irish underworld. To end the reign of godfather Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), the police infiltrate his gang with “a blue” from the slums, Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio). His role ? Gain the trust of the aging thug. At the same time, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) enters the police force within the Special Investigations Unit, charged with eliminating Costello.
Gold Colin works as a “submarine” and informs Costello of the operations taking place against him. Risking at any time of being unmasked, Billy and Colin are forced to lead a double life. Both gradually lose their bearings and their identity. Traps and counter-offensives follow one another until the day when each camp realizes it is harboring a mole. A race against time begins between the two men. A single prime objective: to discover the identity of the other on pain of leaving his skin there …
The art of improvising for heightened realism
Known for his ease of improvisation, the actor of Shining used his talent to destabilize his playing partner. Arched eyebrows and icy eyes on the program, Jack Nicholson was fully in his character. The Irishman having grasped that a mole had infiltrated his ranks, he raved about rodents before freewheel to the delight of spectators. The challenge was to psychologically abuse the character played by Leonardo DiCaprio.
As Costigan tries to keep his head up by forcing the Mafia boss to ask him his question clearly, insisting that he is not the suspected rat, the second goes into improvisation. Costello pulls a gun from under the table and is quick to point it at DiCaprio’s frightened face. Unpredictable, Nicholson was able to shake the actor Titanic and thus offer Scorsese the most natural reaction possible. Caught by surprise, DiCaprio experienced an unforgettable high-tension confrontation !
An extraordinary partner
Leonardo DiCaprio, who like Matt Damon had never before worked with the inevitable Joker of Tim Burton, confided in our colleagues of the Telegraph :
He is a force of nature and we must prepare to take the rights. There were times during filming when I had no idea what was going to happen. If you hire Jack Nicholson to play an Irish mob boss in a genre film directed by Martin Scorsese, he is obviously going to take the role. This implies arriving on the set every day as one throws oneself into the void. With him, improvisation is constant.
The essential actor did not believe in saying so. After a first take of the famous confrontation scene between Costigan and Costello on the presence of a mole, Nicholson confided in Scorsese… According to him, DiCaprio was not afraid of him enough. He had to be scarier in order to stick more to his role of ruthless mafia. Leonardo DiCaprio continues:
When I disembarked that day, Jack was completely messed up. He was muttering under his breath and the guy who managed the props told me he had a fire extinguisher, a bottle of whiskey, some matches and a gun somewhere. So I sat at the table not knowing what to expect and he set it on fire after spilling whiskey all over the place and stuck a gun in my face (…) it completely changed the dynamic of the scene, and that’s what it does. He really makes you better and he makes you react as an actor.
An extraordinary performance then! And you, do you have in mind other outstanding improvisations by Jack Nicholson? To your comments!