The Departed -- A remake of the 2002 Hong Kong-- cinema dirty-cop classic Infernal Affairs--marks the third collaboration between Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio but the first between Scorsese and his friend of 30 years, Jack Nicholson. And Matt Damon takes the role of the bad guy--a rarity for him. During The Departed's New York City premiere, all four sat down for the most obscenity-redacted conversation in the history of TIME.
JACK NICHOLSON: [To Damon] Well, you finally get to play a mean ol' son of a bitch! Welcome to the club.
MATT DAMON: I had to. It's where all the good roles are.
NICHOLSON: Well, that's right. You had to change things up, be a swine. [DiCaprio arrives] Leo, my boy.
LEONARDO DICAPRIO: Hey, guys. Great to see everybody.
TIME: If I can interrupt for ...
MARTIN SCORSESE: Try!
TIME: Well ...
SCORSESE: This is going to be a little interview or something, right? Because I get very nervous about interviews.
DAMON: I didn't know they gave Man of the Year to four people.
DICAPRIO: Just remember how great sarcasm translates into print.
SCORSESE: My first 10 years in the business, everything I said was one of those you-have-to-be-there things. Then I learned to be direct in print. Not sure it helped. Anyway, ask something.
TIME: Jack, you've known Martin for years. What surprised you the most about him as a director when you finally worked with him?
NICHOLSON: Here's what was good for me: I gave him a part, and he made it a performance. We've talked about movies forever, so getting moviemaking down to shorthand while we were working was a kick. I've actually known all these fellas a while--though we've rarely talked about anything but work. And we like one another too. Sarcasm is better than that answer, incidentally. [Laughter]
DAMON: My surprise, not to blow smoke, was how good a writer Jack is. [Nicholson rewrote some of his dialogue.]
NICHOLSON: I just thought my guy was written a little too classy.
SCORSESE: Jack has great ideas. Crazy ideas.
DAMON: Like the bar scene.
SCORSESE: It's when Jack's trying to figure out if Leo is a rat. And by the fourth take it was really nice, and Jack asked me, "What do you think I should do?" I said, "Anything you want. We've got a free day tomorrow."
NICHOLSON: All Marty had to say was "free day."
SCORSESE: So we shoot the scene, and all of a sudden you hear a thunk. And I'm thinking, I better say cut. And, thank God, I didn't. Jack picks up a gun and points it at Leo, and he didn't know at that point that there was a gun there. So what you see from Leo is real. I love that.
NICHOLSON: But the prop man told him, goddammit!
DICAPRIO: He said, "All I know is Jack has a handgun, a bottle of whiskey and a fire extinguisher."
TIME: Why a fire extinguisher?
NICHOLSON: I was going to set the table on fire with bourbon out of my mouth, but I forgot they didn't give me real bourbon.
DICAPRIO: [Laughing] It's hard to light Diet Coke.
NICHOLSON: That's the moment you see me get out of character. I'm f___ing furious with my lighter, trying to light colored water on fire. You ever try to light water on fire?