Martin Scorsese Needed Leonardo DiCaprio To Sell Jack Nicholson On The Departed

Martin Scorsese's "The Departed" is another entry in his long list of excellent films. 

You would assume a filmmaker like him, who has worked with some of the greatest actors of his time, would have no trouble attracting actors to his projects. That's why it's surprising that, when first approached to star in "The Departed," legendary actor Jack Nicholson, of "The Shining" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" fame, turned Scorsese down.

Scorsese was likely not used to this kind of rejection. Take Leonardo DiCaprio, for example, one of the stars of "The Departed," who said working with Scorsese was something of a dream. "At a very early age, if you were to ask me who I wanted to work with at 16 years old, starting out in the business, it would be [Scorsese]," DiCaprio said in an interview with The Cinema Source. He later talked about how much he enjoyed working with the legendary auteur. "I don't have an exciting term for it, other than we have a good time working together," he said. "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 really brought me to different levels as an actor. I look to him as a mentor."

It's no surprise that the actor would later help his mentor get Nicholson on board for "The Departed."

Greatness likes company

Even before being rejected by Nicholson, Scorsese worried about how much success "The Departed" could achieve. With Nicholson out of the picture, Scorsese's vision was in a bit of jeopardy. So the director called on DiCaprio to help him convince the veteran performer to join the film.

According to Nicholson in a 2007 interview with Variety, it was the "Titanic" star's involvement that got him to agree to join the film. "I guess you can say I was attracted to the company," he said. Upon joining the film, Nicholson was very happy with his experience working with Scorsese, just as DiCaprio was.

"Marty is very free with his ideas and very receptive to yours. We built this character layer by layer, until we had something that fit inside a great genre film, but also pushed the envelope until the movie becomes almost operatic."

Together, the two legends built the character Frank Costello, who steals multiple scenes in the film. There are few actors who can replicate the screen presence of Nicholson, and he brought that to "The Departed" in spades. So, along with some very interesting props, Nicholson brought all of his unique skills to the movie, allowing it to reach the potential of Scorsese's vision. 

Ultimately, "The Departed" was yet another success story in Scorsese's unassailable filmography.