Usually I’m the one chasing down movies, but this time they were chasing me. I’d been through two tough films — well, they’re all tough, but these were marked by constant fighting with the producers and studio — and I was drained. I wasn’t playing hard to get; I just didn’t know if I could do it. But I liked the script by Bill Monahan, the cast was coming together; and maybe a gangster picture was just what I needed. I listened to the pitch by the young producer, Brad Grey, and agreed to direct “The Departed.”
Over the next month, red flags started to appear. The usual stuff — problems with scheduling, the budget, etc. — and I didn’t want to step into that maelstrom. I walked away. Then another meeting was set up. We went over the budget and schedule. It all seemed reasonable, and I was ready to sign when almost like an “oh, by the way,” I was told I had to agree to bring the picture in at no longer than 2 hours, 20 minutes. All the friction I’d had the three years prior came flooding back. I politely told the room I understood, but I wasn’t willing to make a movie under the shadow that the studio could arbitrarily dictate taking time out of the film. I just didn’t want to make movies that way anymore. I was sorry, but I wouldn’t do it.
In the silence that followed, Brad gracefully sent the others out of the room. Then he asked me to tell him what my past problems had been. When I finished, Brad didn’t seem to be in any hurry to comment. He thought for a while and finally spoke. “Those things, those other people you’re talking about … I’m not them.” He was quiet, confident, commanding. I believed him. But I had to ask, “You want me to sign the contract agreeing to deliver the movie at 2:20?” “Yes, Marty, and I promise you this: The movie will run as long as it plays.” I trusted him. I signed.
I trusted him. That’s a more unusual commodity than you might expect. Trust isn’t the equivalent of having faith. A big component of faith is hope. Trust is when you know, which is why trust has to be earned. With Brad it was instant. Maybe it was because Brad possessed that rarest of qualities for a producer — he was my height. Or maybe it was something more. The trust came first, and then for the next 10 years as our relationship grew, my leap of trust was rewarded. It took me a while to realize that what I was responding to was Brad’s trust in me. He didn’t just support me — he protected me. Brad Grey made a home for me at Paramount. We made “Shutter Island” together. He distributed “No Direction Home,” “Shine a Light,” “Hugo,” “Wolf of Wall Street” and “Silence.” That would have been enough for me to love him. But there’s more. Brad had the sui generis intellectual and artistic drive and curiosity to need to see how things turned out. I’m sure there was a business aspect to that too — there always is — but when Brad committed to a movie it was because at the end there was a movie … and he wanted to see that movie.
There was never a peep from Brad about the running time of “The Departed.” Never a reminder that I was contractually required to stay within 2:20. It played. It won the Oscar for best picture. It ran 2 hours, 31 minutes.
If we’re very lucky we get one Brad Grey in our life. I’m so grateful to have had mine.
Martin Scorsese worked with the “Departed” producer in 2006. The movie won four Oscars, including picture and director.