These days, it’s far more likely to see Jack Nicholson sitting courtside at a Lakers game than onscreen. The 84-year-old acting icon has not appeared in a movie since James L. Brooks’s 2010 rom-com How Do You Know.
His last high-octane performance, however, came with Martin Scorsese’s bruising Oscar-winning crime thriller The Departed, a remake of the 2002 Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs that opened in theaters 15 years ago, on Oct. 6, 2006.
While the film centered on a twisty cat-and-mouse game between Leonardo DiCaprio’s undercover cop who infiltrates an Irish organized crime family in South Boston and Matt Damon’s mob plant in the Massachusetts State Police Department, they were arguably upstaged by supporting players Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg (who scored the Best Picture winner’s only acting nomination).
In a 2014 Role Recall interview with Yahoo Entertainment, Wahlberg talked about how special it was to collaborate with his friend Nicholson, who played mob leader Frank Costello. “It was a lot of fun working in Boston [and] a lot of fun working with Jack, even though we only had that one scene together,” said the Boston native (watch above, with The Departed beginning at 2:58), who played the renegade cop Sean Dignam. “We had played golf together and had been buddies for a while.”
As for the long persistent rumor that Nicholson, who is known to follow the New York Yankees almost as devoutly as the Lakers, refused to wear a Red Sox hat in the film, Wahlberg all but confirmed it.
“Jack can do whatever Jack wants,” Wahlberg laughed. “He’s Jack, baby.”
Wahlberg also loved Dignam, who owns the movie’s climactic comeuppance when he shoots Damon’s Colin Sullivan in his own apartment after Sullivan has seemingly gotten away with taking out DiCaprio’s Billy Costigan, not to mention a couple of other headshot victims.
“Just playing that not-giving-a-s*** kind of guy and steamrolling everybody,” Wahlberg recalled. “You know, with Marty, he kind of encouraged me to do my thing.
“He was the kind of character who didn’t like anybody. And he only avenged Leo’s character’s death just because it was the right thing to do. Because he didn’t like him, either.”