Mark Wahlberg And Matt Damon Prepped For The Departed With A Real-Life Boston Police Raid

Martin Scorsese's "The Departed" is the definition of an "edge of your seat" thriller. For nearly three hours, viewers are constantly biting their nails wondering if Leonardo DiCaprio's Billy Costigan is going to have his cover as a plant deep within the Massachusetts Irish mob blown. Meanwhile, Matt Damon's Colin Sullivan is wondering the same thing, only he's been placed into the Massachusetts Police Force by the dangerous Irish crime boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). The two men expertly avoid each other's detection as they struggle to remain unexposed, but eventually things come, quite literally, to blows.

There are a lot of high-stakes police scenes in "The Departed," and Damon, along with co-star Mark Wahlberg, both portray officers of the law in very convincing ways. It wasn't just their acting skills that helped them bring their characters to life. The two men also prepared for their roles as members of the Massachusetts State Police's Special Investigations Unit in a very real way. They tagged along with a real police force during their daily activities, and Damon even got to experience an actual raid. 

First hand experience

There is scene early on in "The Departed" where Colin Sullivan (Damon) helps perform a raid on a house. He shouts at the residents to get on the ground as he points his gun menacingly in their direction, and even though the scene is brief, it's convincing. Sullivan's police skills look like the real deal, both to us as the viewers of the film, but also to his fellow officers who have no idea that he's actually a mole for the Irish mob. 

In an interview for Film Ink, Damon talked about how he prepared for this high-stakes scene with a real police force. "I didn't actually go in until they'd cleared the house, but I got to see them do it," he recalled, reminding everyone that he doesn't think he was ever in real danger. "They brought twice as many cops as they normally do on those raids, and I was in the back of the line with my bullet-proof vest on, standing there thinking 'What the hell? What am I doing here?'" Uhhhh ... You're doing research for a movie, Matt!

Getting to see the police in action was extremely beneficial for Damon, and he even got to film the actual scene with the real officers who he shadowed during the raid. "In all of Marty's films there's an authenticity that you just can't fake," Damon said. "It's because he uses a lot of real people and because his actors have access to these real people to get as much understanding of the people they're playing." It turns out being a convincing actor is not much different from being a mole. Either way you spin it, both require the ability to convincingly deceive. 

The benefits of research

Mark Wahlberg also got first hand experience with the Boston police force before starring as Seargent Sean Dignam in "The Departed." In the same interview with Film Ink, he talks about his experience. "My entire previous knowledge of the state police was limited to the times I'd been pulled over on the Pike for speeding," joked Wahlberg, who is from Boston, where the film takes place. "To get in there and really see what these guys do was great."

He goes on to discuss how the pressures of filming a movie leave little time for researching a role. "Once you get on a film set, the clock is ticking as every minute costs a lot of money," he explained. But if you have the time to perform research beforehand, the experience can be extremely beneficial. He stated, "Any time you get access like that, it just really helps with this type of acting because it's your own time – and it's months ahead of time – and there's no pressure on you." The act of immersing yourself into the world you are set to portray on film really helps in making things come to life on screen. Wahlberg said, "I spent a lot of time with these guys; just soaking it in. You just start to pick stuff up."