- Warner Bros. wanted a different ending for The Departed to set up a sequel, but it would have ruined the film’s harrowing and natural conclusion.
- Despite requests from the studio, director Martin Scorsese refused to change the ending and stuck to his vision for the film.
- A potential sequel, focusing on Mark Wahlberg’s character, was pitched but ultimately did not go well and luckily never materialized.
The Departed is one of Martin Scorsese’s best movies of the 21st century partly thanks to its shocking ending, but one studio demand would have totally ruined the film if the director had listened. The 2006 crime movie is an exciting cat-and-mouse thriller about an undercover cop and a gangster working for the FBI, and they’re both trying to uncover who each other is. The film famously ends with almost every major character getting killed. Scorsese won his first — and so far only — Academy Award for Best Director for the film, and it won the coveted Oscar for Best Picture, too.
However, according to Scorsese, Warner Bros. wanted the Departed ending changed after being disappointed during a test screening. The filmmaker commented, “And then the studio guys walked out, and they were very sad because they just didn’t want that movie. They wanted the franchise. Which means: I can’t work here anymore.” While Warner Bros. didn’t get the franchise it wanted, the studio might not have gotten the Academy Award for Best Picture without the current harrowing finale, and a less brutal ending would have made the movie so much worse.
Warner Bros’ The Departed Demand Would Have Ruined The Movie’s Ending
It’s hard to believe that a studio would make demands on Martin Scorsese, as the celebrated filmmaker had been considered one of the greats long before 2006. Nevertheless, Warner Bros. still made requests, not that Scorsese listened. The studio wanted not only Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio), the undercover cop, to survive but also wanted Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), the gangster who infiltrated the FBI, to survive, too. The idea was to leave the door open for a sequel, but that wouldn’t have been possible with both main characters killed off. Yet, having them survive wouldn’t make any sense either.
If both characters survived, the story wouldn’t have unfolded naturally, and as Scorsese put it, in the eyes of the studio, “It wasn’t about a moral issue of a person living or dying.” The Departed ending is almost farcical in the way every character is brutally murdered, but every character has also been on edge for months and emotions are running wild, and when those characters have a hair trigger, there’s only one possible outcome. The movie depicts how grueling and stressful it is to be undercover, on either side, and with that in mind, there was only one way The Departed could end.
Like so many of Scorsese’s movies, The Departed is essentially about how crime doesn’t pay, but it also tells a fable about how the good guys don’t always win. If both Billy and Colin survived, the message wouldn’t have worked. While The Departed is an American remake of Infernal Affairs, which has a number of sequels, Scorsese told a very different story with his remake. Additionally, the movie is literally called The Departed, and one of the most talked-about Easter eggs in movies is the several “X”s that can secretly be found right before a character’s death, which renders any idea of a sequel moot.
The Departed 2 Nearly Happened Anyway
While the main characters were killed in The Departed, one character survived; Staff Sergeant Dignam (Mark Wahlberg). He was suspended with pay after blaming Sullivan for the death of Captain Charlie Queenan (Martin Sheen). The next time Dignam appears is in the last scene when he shoots Sullivan in the head after learning that he worked for Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). Warner Bros. tried to make a sequel with Dignam as the lead, and The Departed 2 was pitched by Wahlberg and The Departed screenwriter William Monahan. Not much has been revealed about The Departed 2, but Wahlberg opened up about the pitch and how he was simply accompanying Monahan.
The actor commented, “I went into a meeting with Bill Monahan at Warner Bros. to pitch the sequel to The Departed; he wanted me to go with him. This was after it had won Best Picture, it was a big success and all that. Let’s just say the pitch didn’t go very well.” Wahlberg mentioned that a Departed prequel was being talked about, too. However, it’s for the best that a Wahlberg-centric sequel never happened. While The Departed‘s screenwriter was attached to the project, Martin Scorsese wouldn’t have been involved in the sequel, and it likely wouldn’t have been anywhere near as positively received as the original.