The Making of Martin Scorsese’s ‘Shutter Island’

Shutter Island is the new movie by director Martin Scorsese being released in the US in February 2010. It’s his first movie since ‘The Departed’ which won the best picture Oscar and a directing award for Scorsese back in 2007. It usually takes Scorsese an average of 3 years between his movies since he is a perfectionist. The movie is based on the novel by Dennis Lahane about a US Federal Marshal (DiCaprio) who investigates the vanishing of a mental patient on a remote island that houses a hospital for the criminally insane. The story is set in the early 50s.

Paramount Pictures first developed this as a project for the director/star team of David Fincher and Brad Pitt while Mark Wahlberg was wanted for the opposite leading role (since this is a Boston-set story). However, Fincher and Pitt moved on to other commitments. Paramount almost signed on the star duo of Pitt and Wahlberg for another Boston-set drama, The Fighter (2010), a couple years later. Pitt eventually had to drop out of that project, as well.

Feature film rights to the 2003 novel Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane were first optioned to Columbia Pictures in 2003, but the rights lapsed back to the author. The author's representatives then sold the rights to the production company Phoenix Pictures, who hired screenwriter Laeta Kalogridis to script the novel for a film adaptation. The project was in development for a year. By October 2007, the project had developed into a co-production between the studios Columbia Pictures and Paramount Pictures. Director Martin Scorsese and actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who had worked together on three films, were both attracted to Shutter Island as their next collaboration.

The project was originally commissioned as a directing vehicle for Wolfgang Petersen. However, there were considerable modifications made to Dennis Lehane's novel in order to create a more action-driven blockbuster.

DiCaprio had a big hand in casting since Scorsese considers him a key collaborator. Before settling on Mark Ruffalo for the role of Chuck Aule, Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese also considered Robert Downey Jr. and Josh Brolin. Of the two actors who play the chief wardens of Shutter Island, Ted Levine portrayed serial killer Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs (1991) and John Carroll Lynch played a suspected serial killer in Zodiac (2007).

Production began on March 6, 2008 and took place in Taunton, Massachusetts to film World War II flashback scenes of DiCaprio's character, a former soldier. Scorsese filmed the scenes in old industrial buildings in Taunton's Whittenton Mills Complex, which replicated the Dachau concentration camp. Extras portraying the Dachau prisoners were called back to reshoot a scene in July, due to the film of one scene being damaged due to an improperly sealed film shipping container.

Scenes were filmed at the old Medfield State Hospital in Medfield, Massachusetts. Originally, scenes were going to be shot at the old Worcester State Hospital, but the filming would've gone on during the demolition of the surrounding buildings, so filming was impractical. Peddocks Island was used as a setting for the story's island and East Point, in Nahant, Massachusetts for the lighthouse scenes. Filming ended on July 2, 2008. Additional footage was filmed in Los Angeles and wrapped in July 2009.

In Total Film magazine, Scorsese says one of his influences on the film was Orson Welles' 1962 film The Trial — an adaptation of Franz Kafka's novel — in particular its use of corridors, tunnels, claustrophobic ceilings, and angular lenses. He also discusses the importance of costume choices as an element of characterization, noting that a striking choice can leave a subconscious imprint of a character's essence in the spectator's mind: in Shutter Island, he made Dr. Cawley smoke a pipe, and in some scenes of the film he seems covered by a cloud of smoke, hiding something, with an aura of malice and mystery

Shortly before its original release in October 2, 2009, the movie was pushed back to February 2010 by Paramount Pictures. The studio later announced it was going to push back the release date to February 19, 2010. Reports attribute the pushback to Paramount not having "the financing in 2009 to spend the $50 to $60 million necessary to market a big awards pic like this," DiCaprio's unavailability to promote the film internationally, and Paramount's hope that the economy might rebound enough by February 2010 that a film geared toward adult audiences would be more viable financially.

Filmmaking, New Movies

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