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‘Departed’ showing hosts real McCoys
Police converge on Worcester theater
By Lee Hammel TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
WORCESTER— Tough language, blood-sprayed violence in South Boston streets, intra-police rivalries and layer upon layer of innuendo all compete in Martin Scorsese’s new movie, “The Departed.”
It’s hard to know where you could find a starker dose of realism — unless, of course, you looked away from the screen and into the seats Friday night at Showcase Cinemas North.
“The Departed” shows Jack Nicholson portraying a character similar to South Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, while Alec Baldwin and Martin Sheen play state police who pursue the mobster.
But only feet away from the screen at the private showing Friday sat the state police troopers and Drug Enforcement Administration agent who actually arrested Bulger cohort Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi in January 1995.
There, too, was Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Wyshak, the lead prosecutor in the Bulger case, and retired Boston Police Capt. Brendan Bradley, who investigated murders allegedly committed by Whitey Bulger.
Anyone who was paying attention would also have noticed that the governor in Scorsese’s movie was sitting in the theater, and is in fact retired state police Maj. Thomas B. Duffy, a Worcester resident who was among those who arrested Mr. Flemmi.
And two of the state police shown busting a drug house in the movie were Massachusetts State Police lieutenants Frank Hughes and Dan Risteen of the Gang Unit, based in Danvers.
The voice in the movie calling for a helicopter and an ambulance belongs in real life to the appropriately named Sgt. Rick Hunter of the state police Fugitive Unit. He was also in the audience.
With the movie premiering Sept. 26 in New York and Oct. 3 in Boston, Friday’s showing in Worcester was a chance for 300 state police, FBI, DEA, and Worcester police officers and firefighters, as well as Maj. Duffy’s friends and family, to get together to watch the movie and later gather at Vive Bene restaurant at 144 Commercial St. to celebrate accomplishments and share warm memories.
Maj. Duffy, who spent a career as a state police detective involved in organized crime cases, served as the technical consultant on “The Departed.” And clearly he had an impact on the casting director as well.
If a state police cadet in the graduation ceremony in the movie looks a lot like the fictional governor addressing the graduating class, that’s because the cadet was Thomas B. Duffy II, Maj. Duffy’s son. The younger Duffy, who was standing behind Matt Damon in the scene, is a patrolman in the Worcester police Operations Division.
Also in the theater was Pam Marrone, a friend of Maj. Duffy and part of the family that owns Wachusett Country Club. She played the lieutenant governor, who stood behind the governor in the graduation scene.
Despite Maj. Duffy’s earlier concerns over whether his fellow law enforcement officers would accept the movie’s portrayal of their careers, the film left a strong, positive impression on those gathered. With the movie’s portrayal of an Irish-American youth growing up under the wing of a South Boston mob boss and then joining law enforcement and feeding tips to his old mentor, it is hard to avoid the comparison to ex-FBI agent John Connolly, who was convicted of tipping off Whitey Bulger — despite the fact that the movie is a remake of a Hong Kong film, “Infernal Affairs.”
The general public can be forgiven for believing the similarities to the Bulger case are not coincidental, because the lawmen who viewed the movie certainly recalled the Bulger case. DEA Special Agent Daniel M. Doherty, one of those who arrested Mr. Flemmi, said, “Jack Nicholson’s a great Whitey Bulger.”
The investigator added, “To be honest with you, a lot of the scenes were very realistic — the manipulation of people.”
Mr. Wyshak, the prosecutor, said he does not think the movie was meant to be the Bulger case. Nevertheless, the movie “had in common with the Bulger case the display of how complicated (relationships of) informants and undercover police can become,” he said.
He also thought that “the tension between state and federal authorities was realistic.” Both the anti-FBI feelings and the appreciation for the greater latitude the FBI has in wiretapping is rooted in reality, Mr. Wyshak said.
Shifting easily into movie reviewer mode, the assistant U.S. Attorney pronounced the movie a “5-stars” effort. But amid the bonhomie at Vive Bene, DEA Special Agent Joseph P. Barrett said the movie could have been improved with “less Damon, more Duffy.”
It seems everyone is touched by the movie. Vive Bene owner Keivan Mizrahi was at the premieres in New York and Boston as well as at the Showcase Cinemas Friday. He recalled the admiration that cast and directors alike had for Maj. Duffy, and he said they expressed the belief that the major was responsible for the feeling of authenticity in the movie.
The film has conferred a feeling of community between Hollywood and Worcester. Ms. Marrone said Martin Sheen has played golf at Wachusett Country Club twice since the movie project began. And within an hour of giving birth to her second child, Maj. Duffy’s daughter, Kim Henrickson, received a congratulatory phone call in her room at St. Vincent Hospital from Matt Damon, who was at the post-premiere party in New York.
Also sharing Friday night in what she considered “one big family day,” was state police Sgt. Darlene DeCaire, Maj. Duffy’s girlfriend, who also was in on the arrest of Mr. Flemmi. She currently is in the state police Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section.
Maj. Duffy recalled a moment one day before the cameras rolled when Matt Damon said to him, “Duff, Duff, watch this.” With camera’s rolling, Damon’s character flirtatiously called another character “Darlene,” which stayed in the film.