Martin Scorsese says Warner Bros. asked him to spare one of “The Departed” leads so they could franchise it

Martin Scorsese says Warner Bros. asked him to spare one of “The Departed” leads so they could franchise it

Martin Scorsese has some qualms with Hollywood's addiction to franchises.

During an interview with GQ, Scorsese got candid about the many struggles of studio filmmaking — including the fact that Warner Bros. was once so invested in the idea of a sequel to The Departed that they purportedly asked him to alter the ending in order to keep one of the two leads alive.

"What they wanted was a franchise," Scorsese said. "It wasn't about a moral issue of a person living or dying."

The Departed — which premiered in 2006, became a commercial success, and won Scorsese his first Best Director trophy — stars Matt Damon as a mole for the Irish mob and Leonardo DiCaprio as an undercover officer. Both are hellbent on uncovering the other's identity and (spoiler alert) after a series of twisty and violent events, the film ends with both leads dead.

Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio in 'The Departed'
Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio in 'The Departed'

Warner Bros./Courtesy Everett Collection Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio in 'The Departed'

Scorsese recalled that while the audiences leaving the initial test screenings were ecstatic, people from the studio were "very sad, because they just didn't want that movie."

He explained, "They wanted the franchise. Which means: I can't work here any more."

While the director went on to make Shutter Island with Paramount, he describes it as his "last studio film." Since then, he has sought independent funding for his pictures, though Paramount still distributes them theatrically.

Scorsese, who has certainly not been shy when it comes to giving his opinion on Hollywood's obsession with franchise filmmaking, added, "The danger there is what it's doing to our culture, because there are going to be generations now that think movies are only those — that's what movies are."

His strategy? "We have to then fight back stronger. And it's got to come from the grassroots level. It's gotta come from the filmmakers themselves." Citing the Safdie Brothers and Christopher Nolan as prime examples, he encouraged other artists to follow their lead. "Go reinvent. Don't complain about it. But it's true, because we've got to save cinema."

He added, "I do think that the manufactured content isn't really cinema."

The filmmaker, who has previously made headlines for likening Marvel movies to theme parks, explained, "It's almost like AI making a film. And that doesn't mean that you don't have incredible directors and special effects people doing beautiful artwork. But what does it mean? What do these films — what will it give you? Aside from a kind of consummation of something and then eliminating it from your mind, your whole body, you know?"

Mark Wahlberg in 2006's 'The Departed'
Mark Wahlberg in 2006's 'The Departed'

Andrew Cooper/Warner Bros. Mark Wahlberg in 2006's 'The Departed'

As for the possibility of a sequel to The Departed, don't hold your breath. Mark Wahlberg, who starred in the film as Sean Dignam, previously spoke about pitching the studio on a sequel with screenwriter William "Bill" Monahan. Their idea would have hopefully featured Robert De Niro and Brad Pitt, but it never panned out.

"Let's just say the pitch didn't go very well," the actor recalled in 2022. "[Bill] didn't really have anything fleshed out, but he's the kind of guy you just trust to go and write something. And so when we were working on the script for Cocaine Cowboys and American Desperado, [I] said, 'Bill, just go write.' They like to have things well thought out and planned."

Back in 2011, Monahan told /Film that his idea was for the film to be set "before, during, and after the action of the first film," featuring events that take place during the original film but were never shown. But even then, he was doubtful it would actually happen.

"Even if everybody didn't come back, which they could in the film as I've configured it, it would be a hell of a paycheck for somebody to write," Monahan said. "The film would have to be absolutely superb."

Want more movie news? Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free newsletter to get the latest trailers, celebrity interviews, film reviews, and more.

Related content: