Robert De Niro has been one of Hollywood’s most recognizable faces for over 50 years. Some of the most recognizable films ever made, like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas, resulted from his work with legendary director Martin Scorsese. Robert De Niro turned down one film that would have reunited him with Scorsese and could have won him an Oscar.
What made Robert De Niro say “no” to The Departed
Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, and Mark Wahlberg starred in Martin Scorsese’s 2006 film The Departed. The crime drama won four Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. Vanity Fair claims that De Niro was offered a role in The Departed but declined it to focus on directing his own film, The Good Shepherd.
De Niro spent much time and energy on The Good Shepherd because it was a personal project. The film, in which Matt Damon starred, chronicled the formative years of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Since De Niro has always been curious about the inner workings of government, he was eager to learn more about the origins of the CIA and its effect on American foreign policy. De Niro was eager to direct The Good Shepherd because it was so different from the roles he’d been playing in recent years.
However, the CIA did not appreciate The Good Shepherd because they believed it portrayed their organization badly. The organization even made a website dedicated to debunking some of the film’s claims. The CIA was especially offended by Damon’s portrayal of the morally compromised and willing to betray his country for personal gain character Edward Wilson.
Some praised Robert De Niro‘s direction and Damon’s performance, while others criticized the film’s slow pace and lack of action in reviews and at the box office. Despite a $90 million budget, The Good Shepherd only made $59 million at the box office worldwide.
Robert De Niro Made Some Right Choices
It’s not uncommon for actors to turn down roles in films, even if directors offer them they have a close working relationship. De Niro has turned down roles in Scorsese films before, including the lead in 1985’s After Hours and the villain in 1991’s Cape Fear, both of which went to other actors.
The Good Shepherd was met with lukewarm reviews from audiences and critics alike, in contrast to the universal acclaim that The Departed eventually received. While some applauded the film’s meticulousness and De Niro’s direction, others complained that it lacked energy and direction.
By declining The Departed, De Niro could follow his dream of becoming a director and make a film that was deeply meaningful to him. Even though the CIA didn’t like it, De Niro can look back on The Good Shepherd and be proud of what he accomplished as an actor.
While he passed on collaborating with Scorsese on The Departed, the two ended up working together again in 2019’s The Irishman.
Source: Vanity Fair