A Kickstarter campaign started by a Brooklyn-based film director/editor to digitally remove a “painfully on-the-nose metaphor” from the end of Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning film “The Departed” was quashed by Warner Bros. Entertainment over copyright infringement claims.
In “The Departed,” there’s a lot of talk about rats. Leonardo DiCaprio plays one, as a Boston cop who infiltrates the mob in order to bring down its fearsome boss, played by Jack Nicholson. Matt Damon, as a member of Nicholson’s gang who insinuates himself into the Boston police force, plays another one. Each side knows they’ve been infiltrated, and each side is determined to purge itself of its rat. The rat talk becomes literal in the film’s final shot, when (spoiler alert) an actual rat scurries across a balcony. That shot has become a sticking point for many of the film’s critics and fans. Some are not bothered by it, since they say the film wasn’t exactly subtle to begin with. William Monahan, who wrote the script for “The Departed,” says the purpose of the rat’s appearance was akin to the clown coming out at the end of a blood-soaked Jacobean drama, to take the edge off all the mayhem the audience had just witnessed. “I tell ya,” he told The Associated Press, “people would leave the theater feeling a lot different if it wasn’t for that rat.”
Adam Sacks disagreed, and decided to do something about it.
In his Kickstarter campaign, “Digitally Erase the Rat from the End of ‘The Departed,’” Sacks bemoaned the film’s “cheesy ending,” and offered to fix it by paying a professional editor to remove the rat from 50 Blu-Ray copies of the film. Sacks would then print the new digital file onto 35mm film, in honor of Scorsese’s passion for film preservation and restoration.
Sacks had managed to raise close to $5000 for the project by Feb. 21, but four days later Warner Bros. lowered the boom.
On the Twitter account associated with his campaign, Sacks wrote, “Warner Bros. Entertainment has decided that my Kickstarter … infringes on their intellectual copyright, just because I was going to fix the ending. In order to comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), Kickstarter had no choice but to take down my project.” He considered fighting back, “but I checked my bank account, and I have far less money than Warner Brothers made off A Star Is Born in its 21st week in theaters alone (700,000 dollars. Very impressive!).”
Looking on the bright side, Sacks concluded, “[M]aybe all this online controversy about the rat will convince Warner Brothers to release a 4k Blu-Ray of The Departed. And maybe, just maybe, they will include an alternate rat-less ending. I’m fairly confident it would make them at least an additional 4,000 dollars.”
“The Departed,” based on the Hong Kong film “Infernal Affairs,” was released in 2006 and won four Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.