Robert De Niro Turned Down Scorsese’s ‘The Departed’ and ‘Gangs of New York’

Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro have collaborated together on 10 films, but that number could have been much higher had De Niro said yes to the “Raging Bull” auteur more often.

Scorsese revealed that he approached De Niro to star in “The Departed” and “Gangs of New York” prior to De Niro appearing opposite Leonardo DiCaprio for the first time in “Killers of the Flower Moon,” debuting at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

“We talked to Bob about it, but he didn’t want to do it,” Scorsese recalled to Deadline of “The Departed.” “‘What about “The Departed”?’ ‘Nah, I don’t wanna do that.’ ‘OK.’ I didn’t work with Bob for 10 years until we did ‘Goodfellas’; we went off in different directions. Then we made another two, three films. And then, for another 19 years, we didn’t…So, with Bob, after ‘Casino’ we stopped for a while and I did ‘Kundun’ and ‘Bringing Out the Dead.’ And then ‘Gangs of New York.’ We always checked in, on that and everything else.”

He added of De Niro turning down the “Gangs of New York” casting, “That was just a check-in. Literally, he said, ‘What are you doing?’ ‘I’m doing this. You interested?’ ‘Nah.’ ‘OK.’ We always talked about that kind of thing, because he is the only one around who knows where I came from and who I am, from that period of time when we were 15 or 16 years old. He knows that part of New York. It was all instinct between us and his courage and his humility, in terms of how he’ll say, ‘If a scene plays on my back, fine, but if it plays better on the other person’s face, play that.’”

Scorsese continued, “He wanted me to do ‘Analyze This,’ and I said, ‘We already did it. It was “Goodfellas.”‘ I talked to him about other projects, and at one point he said, ‘You know the kind of stuff I like to do with you.’ I said, ‘OK.’ That became ‘The Irishman,’ and it took nine years. We were always looking.”

Scorsese noted, “Now, that was a certain period of time. Does he still think that way, 10 years later? Turns out he did! But is he the old Bob? No. You’ve got to see where they are.”

The “After Hours” director reflected on his ongoing partnerships with actors like DiCaprio, citing that he feels like a parental figure over the Oscar winner and compared him to De Niro.

“What happened is that I found that, because of the subject matter in many of the films, there seemed to be a comfort level [with Bob and I], not easy by the way at all, but a comfort level in knowing we could get to a place. What that place is, I may not be able to verbalize, but together we could probably find something,” Scorsese said of his longtime collaborator De Niro. “But that took also long periods of not working together, because, you know, people change. He still wanted to do certain things. ‘Casino’ really solidified it for me. That was the ultimate, in terms of that type of picture for him and me.”

Scorsese said of DiCaprio, “Leo then became that way too, and a lot of it happened on ‘The Aviator.’ There were some scenes he did with Cate Blanchett that left me stunned, I thought it was so beautiful. And he learned a lot as a person; he told me he did. Maybe he was a young kid, just growing. I have daughters. I don’t have sons, so maybe it’s like we’re stumbling along and it’s almost like parenting in a way. But, wow. And then we did ‘The Departed’ and he just blossomed.”

DiCaprio and De Niro both star in Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” based on David Grann’s non-fiction book capturing the Osage Nation serial murders during the early days of the FBI. DiCaprio and Scorsese are set to produce Grann’s upcoming book “The Wager” for Apple TV+.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *