In the GQ article, Scorsese details a particular low point while making “The Departed” — one that feels like an eerily prescient example of just how much studios would go on to flood the marketplace with nothing but franchise-friendly pictures. By the end of the film, the undercover operatives on two opposing sides, Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), end up violently killed through a series of double-crosses and shocking turns. Such a dark climax certainly fit with what Scorsese was going for, but not quite with the dreams of studio executives. Why? Because they wanted either Damon or DiCaprio’s characters to live to fight another day and in another movie down the line.
Scorsese recalls a test screening that left everybody happy — except for those pesky bean counters. “What they wanted was a franchise. It wasn’t about a moral issue of a person living or dying,” he said, adding:
“And then the studio guys walked out [of the test screening] and they were very sad, because they just didn’t want that movie. They wanted the franchise. Which means: I can’t work here any more.”
You know what? If I were an acclaimed, visionary filmmaker and money-grubbing studios had historically given me nothing but grief over every non-IP project I tried to sneak into a system that’s increasingly hostile to that very idea … I’d probably feel pretty cynical about the state of things these days, too. It’s no wonder he’s come to feel completely alienated from the industry which he made his home for so long, but that’s why it’s even more crucial to appreciate and support upcoming movies like “Killers of the Flower Moon.” Sometimes, we don’t know how good we had it until it’s gone.