Martin Scorsese Says WB Execs Were ‘Very Sad’ He Refused to Make ‘The Departed’ a Franchise, Spent His Own $500K to Finish ‘Aviator’ After Studios Cut Funding: ‘Extremely Mean’

Martin Scorsese revealed in an interview with GQ magazine that Warner Bros. wished to turn his Oscar winner “The Departed” into a franchise, much to his disagreement. The movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a Massachusetts State Police officer and Matt Damon as a Boston gang member who go undercover to infiltrate each other’s organizations. “The Departed” ends with the memorable deaths of both characters, but Warner Bros. allegedly wanted to keep one character alive so that a sequel could get made.

“What they wanted was a franchise. It wasn’t about a moral issue of a person living or dying,” Scorsese said, noting that test screening audiences loved his version of the film where both characters died. “And then the studio guys walked out [of the same 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 anymore.”

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“The Departed” was the third film in a row where Scorsese ended up thinking he could no longer work in Hollywood. The first was “Gangs of New York,” in which he battled now-convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein over the final cut of the movie. Weinstein was a producer on the project and wanted Scorsese to cut out around an hours-length of material from the theatrical release.

“I realized that I couldn’t work if I had to make films that way ever again,” Scorsese told GQ. “If that was the only way that I was able to be allowed to make films, then I’d have to stop. Because the results weren’t satisfying. It was at times extremely difficult, and I wouldn’t survive it. I’d be dead. And so I decided it was over, really.”

Weinstein’s Miramax Films ended up co-producing Scorsese’s next project, “The Aviator,” to which Scorsese was “against; there was a meeting, and I was forced into that position. I’d already been, uh, made pregnant, as they said. And there’s no way you’re getting out of it. But the shoot went well, the editing went well until the last couple of weeks of editing. And they came in and did some things that I felt were extremely mean.”

Per GQ magazine: “Warner Bros. and Miramax cut off funding for the film, he says; Scorsese ultimately finished it with $500,000 from his own pocket.”

While “The Departed” was a third headache in a row for Scorsese, it did end up being a monster hit with critics and audiences. It grossed nearly $300 million worldwide and won Scorsese best picture and best director honors at the Academy Award, his first and only Oscar for directing.

“I always liked being nominated at the Academy….[but] ‘Raging Bull,’ when I didn’t get the Oscar, I understood that that wasn’t my lot in life,” Scorsese told GQ. “But I always said this: Just be quiet and make the movies. You can’t make a movie for an award. Sure, I would’ve liked it, but like, so what? I mean, I had to go on and make pictures. I don’t live—you have to live in a community that is really an industry. You have to be part of the industry in such a way…. I don’t know if I think like them. I just mind my own business here.”

Scorsese’s latest directorial effort, “Killers of the Flower Moon,” opens in theaters Oct. 20 from Apple and Paramount.

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