A man whose very name was synonymous with crime, violence, and basically all things undesirable throughout the city of Boston, The Departed‘s Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) spent his life carving out his legacy. Directed by Martin Scorsese, and based on the real-life Boston gangster Whitey Bulger, Costello’s unkept, uncouth appearance was the antithesis to the smooth-talking, sharp-dressed gangsters that usually appear on screen. Despite his irreverent nature, there was a certain method to Costello’s madness, one that helped him build his criminal empire, and made him a man known everywhere he went. For those of you looking for some pointers on how to build a legacy of your own, let these Frank Costello quotes help show you the way.
“I don’t want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me.”
The first line spoken in The Departed explains Costello’s outlook on life: he’s a man who wants to leave his mark on the world, for better or worse. More than just the “rock star” of the Irish mafia, Costello’s presence was felt everywhere throughout the city that he called home. Of course, you don’t have to be a murdering sociopath to leave a lasting impression after you’re gone. Really, what you need is a lot of determination, along with a little bit of charisma, and you’ll be on your way to carving out a legacy of your very own. Also charity. Donating to good causes helps. Might get a library named after you.
“A man makes his own way. No one gives it to you. You have to take it.”
On that note, Costello knew that creating a lasting legacy in his name wasn’t going to be just handed to him. Despite being morally repugnant, Costello knew he had to work tirelessly to make his name synonymous with life in south Boston — for better or worse. If you want to make your mark, it’s not going to come with a neat little bow on it. It’s an unending process of tireless devotion, but if you stay focused, you’ll be able to make that happen. Just, you know, aim to make that happen while keeping your nose clean.
“One of us had to die. With me, it tends to be the other guy.”
To Costello, life is simply a dog-eat-dog, winner-take-all competition, and it’s a game he always plays for keeps. Rather than be deterred by rival gangs constantly trying to move in on his turf, Costello never backs down, which only adds to his cunning, ruthless reputation. Again, you don’t have to go through life making such extreme choices, but a no-nonsense attitude, and an uncompromising desire to stand your ground against insurmountable odds can make you the last one standing too. And, as they say, history is written by the winners.
“The point I’m making with John Lennon is: a man could look at anything, and make something out of it.”
Like many enigmatic crime bosses, Costello tends to take inspiration from unusual places. In this case, from the former Beatle-turned-radical who once quipped that, if given a tuba, he’d make some art out of it. Most people would’ve chalked that up to Lennon’s arrogant flippancy, but Costello took those words to heart, and applied them when explaining why he was so intent on grooming Bill Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) to be part of his trusted inner circle. As unusual as it sounds, it makes an interesting point. The legacy you leave isn’t left solely in your hands, but those who you take under your wing, who are bound to carry it out long after you’re gone. Which is why it’s best to choose these people carefully.
“Your best? What do you think we’re in, the f*ckin’ haberdashery business?”
For all the idealistic, do-anything-you-can-put-your-mind-to thinking, Costello had the highest expectations of his crew. Just being told that they were doing their best simply wasn’t good enough, and no matter what, he always expected better. No matter how hard you work when building your own personal empire, you won’t be able to do it alone. For moments like these, make sure everyone you depend on knows to hold themselves to the same exacting standards you hold for yourself. Interestingly, this also applies if you happen to be in the haberdashery business.
“You can learn a lot watching things eat.”
Out of all the quirky aspects to Costello’s personality, him sizing others up based on watching them eat is pretty high up there. It’s no accident that this revelation comes while he brings Costigan to one of his restaurants, questioning his dedication, and repeatedly remarking how he’s never seen him eat. Unconventional as it sounds, it shows that Costello never stops sizing up everyone around him — be they friend or foe. Building your legacy is a full-time commitment, and while erratic paranoia probably isn’t in your best interest, it never hurts to remain observant.