Oscar winner disappoints writer of HK original

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 February, 2007, 12:00am

Martin Scorsese was yesterday basking in international acclaim after his film, The Departed, triumphed at the Oscars - but the writer of the Hong Kong original said he was 'disappointed' by the Hollywood version and didn't like the ending.

Alan Mak Siu-fai, co-writer and co-director of 2002's Infernal Affairs, on which The Departed is based, said the script adaptation by American William Monahan 'has not gone far enough' in offering a vision distinct from the original.

'It stuck so close to the original it looked like they are just making Infernal Affairs again - well in that case, I'm, of course, happy because it is like Infernal Affairs winning an Oscar,' he said in an interview with the South China Morning Post.

The Departed was named best film and it won the coveted best director Oscar for Scorsese. Monahan won an Oscar for his adaptation, while the film also won for best film editing.

Infernal Affairs, starring Andy Lau Tak-wah and Tony Leung Chiu-wai, told a Hong Kong crime story of two police and triad moles, planted in each other's organisations, and the battle of wits that unfolded as they tried to discover each other's identities. Scorsese relocated the story to Boston, with Leonardo DiCaprio playing Leung's undercover cop, and Matt Damon as the mob's man on the inside.

'Of course, I wouldn't want my screenplay to be moved about when it was made into a film for the first time [by co-director Andrew Lau Wai-keung] - but when it was being used for the second time I would have hoped some new elements were being introduced to it,' Mak said.

He also objected to the one significant twist in The Departed, in which both lead characters die. In Infernal Affairs, which Mak co-wrote with Felix Chong Man-keung and co-directed with Andrew Lau Wai-keung, Andy Lau's villainous mole survives at the expense of Leung's undercover cop.

'With the death of Matt Damon's character, the symbolism in the film's gone - it was designed so that the opportunist lives and has to face a life led on false pretences.'

Mak said he was sent only the first draft of Monahan's work after Warner Brothers bought the remake rights to the film for US$1.75 million in 2003, and had not heard from the organisation since.

'Somewhere along the way I heard they wanted to position The Departed as a film that was only 'inspired' by our story, rather than an adaptation,' Mak said, so that he had 'expected them to sweep the traces [of the original] clean anyway'.

Nevertheless, in a media release later yesterday, Mak said he was 'honoured' by The Departed's win and pleased to have played a part in the triumph of Scorsese, who had been unsuccessfully nominated as best director five times.

Hong Kong's secondhand triumph at the Oscars wasn't without a minor public embarrassment - The Departed was described in a voiceover during the telecast as having been inspired by a Japanese film. Scorsese put the record straight in his acceptance speech, in which he thanked 'Andrew Lau's original film from Hong Kong'.