A dark and grim setting, intense acting performances, and a mind-boggling plot. This thriller has all the elements to have you sitting on the edge of your seat from start to finish.
In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of facts about Shutter Island, one of the most gripping psychological drama movies ever created and one of Leonardo Dicaprio’s best movies of all time!
1. Shutter Island is an updated version of the film noir
The 1940s and 1950s saw the emerging of a movie style called the “film noir,” which applied to crime movies that integrated the art deco visual environment into the movies, had a dark theme, and saw the main character g through a lot of desperation.
In the 1990s, Quentin Tarantino became famous for integrating film noir elements in his movies such as Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, which portray conflicted antiheroes, one of the key elements of the “dark movies” genre.
Shutter Island is considered to be the perfect example of a movie that integrates elements of a “neo-noir” film.
2. The script was written by a Greek-American screenwriter
And her name is Laeta Kalogridis. She has been involved earlier in writing the scripts for “Alexander” (2004), “Night Watch” (2004), and “Pathfinder” (2007).
She has also co-written the screenplay for “Terminator Genisys” (2015) and “Alita: Battle Angel” (2019) and has been the director of the television series Birds of Prey and Bionic Woman.
Finally, if that wasn’t enough yet, she was the executive producer of the epic science-fiction film “Avatar” (2009) as well!
3. Despite a career of over 50 years, the movie was a first for its director
Martin Scorcese is arguably one of the best movie directors/producers to have ever lived. His career spans over 50 years and his filmography contain dozens of epics and top-rated movies of all time.
After all the accolades he received, Shutter Island still marked his first best in terms of earnings the first week it launched in the U.S. It grossed a whopping $40.2 million in the opening weekend, which is simply amazing.
4. It certainly didn’t stop there
Shutter Island wasn’t just popular in the United States, it was an extremely popular movie all around the world.
In the weeks and months that followed, the movie grossed an amazing $294 million worldwide as well.
5. It was one of the top 10 films in 2010
The movie was generally received positively by critics. The National Board of Review even went as far as including it in the list with the top 10 movies of 2010.
6. It has a great rating on IMDB as well
It didn’t just reach over a million votes on IMDB, one of the most popular movie databases online, but also has a pretty good rating.
At the time of writing this article, Shutter Island has an 8.1 rating on the popular site.
7. It’s based on a novel
It was written by Dennis Lehane and published in 2003 and according to Lehane, he wrote the book as an attempt to bring a homage to Gothic settings, B movies, and pulp.
8. The writer of Shutter Island wrote another famous novel
Dennis Lehane is also the writer of “Mystic River,” a novel that was adapted for the screen with movie legend Clint Eastwood in the director chair.
The film “Mystic River” (2003) went on to receive 6 Academy Awards including best picture and won 2 with Sean Penn (best actor) and Timm Robbins (best supporting actor).
9. The movie had another working title
During production, the movie didn’t have the same name as the novel but was referred to as “Ashecliffe,” the name of the mental hospital on the island.
10. It didn’t get any Academy Award nominations
Perhaps the theme was a bit too dark? Perhaps there were simply better contenders to win an Academy Award that year?
Either way, the movie didn’t receive a single Oscar nomination, which can be considered a surprise considering the performances of everybody involved in this epic psychological thriller.
11. Not being nominated for an Academy Award was a first
It was the first time that Martin Scorcese and Leonardo Dicaprio worked together on a movie and it didn’t receive an Oscar nomination.
Other movies include Gangs of New York (2002), The Aviator (2004), The Departed (2006), and later The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), which all received nominations.
12. The quote at the entrance has a special meaning
A moment in the movie that sets the tone immediately happens during the ride up to the mental institution. We see a plaque with a quote saying:
Remember us for we too have lived, laughed, and loved.
This quote was actually taken from Vinefield Cemetery in Medfield, Massachusetts, and was created during a contest.
What was this contest for?
To come up with a quote to remember the people that had died during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic.
13. Another movie was scheduled to be produced
Martin Scorcese wasn’t actually planning on creating Shutter Island back in 2010, but was planning on shooting “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
Since they didn’t have the needed budget at the time to shoot it, Martin Scorcese decided to make Shutter Island instead and “The Wolf of Wall Street” 3 years later.
14. Mark Ruffalo was definitely a fan
so you’re a big fan of Martin Scorcese and you want to play in one of his movies, what do you do?
Write him a fan letter saying how much you would love to work with him!
It works because that’s one of the main reasons Mark Ruffalo got the part of “Chuck Aule” in Shutter Island.
And yeah, the condition is that you can put in an amazing performance as well as Martin is a bit picky too. Mark Ruffalo did exactly that.
15. Martin Scorcese got inspiration from zombie movies
Shutter Island isn’t just a reference to the original film noir of the 1940s and 1950s, even though he got the inspiration for the main character, “Teddy Daniels,” from the performance of Dana Andrews’s in the 1944 film noir “Laura.”
He mentioned that he got the inspiration for the setting from multiple low-budget zombie movies made in the 1940s by “Val Lewton.”
16. Scorcese showed Dicaprio and Ruffalo the movie “Laura”
Martin Scorcese showed Leo and Mark the movie “Laura” so they could envision how he wanted them to play their character as detectives in a similar way as Dana Andrews.
Scorcese referred to this saying:
“The way he wears his tie, and the way he walks through a room, and he doesn’t even look at anybody. He’s always playing that little game. He’s just trying to get the facts.”
If you look at the opening scene of this 1940s movie, you can indeed see a striking resemblance (which means they did a good job):
17. The movie was released 2 years after it was shot
It took about 4 months to shoot the entire movie, which was done in 2008. It lasted until 2010 though before the movie was officially released!
The reason was the financial crisis of 2008 which affected Paramount Pictures in a major way, so they pushed back the release to ensure they had enough marketing budget to promote it internationally.
That was a pretty great strategy (even though forced) considering it became the highest-grossing movie during the opening weekend that Martin Scorcese ever made at that time.
18. There’s something about the ballpen
The movie is set in the 1950s, and 1954 is the year that the first-ever ballpoint pen was released by Parker Jotter.
This is the pen used by Teddy during his “investigation” on Shutter Island.
Interesting fact: Over 3.5 million of these ballpoint pens, which made fountain pens obsolete, were sold the first year they were released. Parker Jotter became the number 1 ballpen company in the next decade.
19. Where was the shooting location of Shutter Island?
The movie was mainly shot in Massachusetts:
- Taunton was the location for the World War II flashbacks that haunt Teddy during his dreams.
- Taunton’s Whittenton Mills Complex replicated the Dachau concentration camp in which we see the horrific event that Teddy dragged with him.
- The Borderland State Park in Easton, Massachusetts, was used for the cabin scene in the woods.
- East Point, in Nahant, Massachusetts, was the location for the lighthouse scenes in which Teddy believes something funny is going on.
- The scenes in which Teddy and Chucks appear to be trapped in a hurricane were shot at the Wilson Mountain Reservation in Dedham, Massachusetts.
- Peddocks Island, one of the largest islands in the Boston Harbor, was the island used as the island on which the story unfolded itself and where Ashecliffe was supposedly located.
20. Two other Marvel characters were considered to play Chuck
Mark Ruffalo is famous for portraying the Incredible Hulk or Bruce Banner in the Marvel movies, but two other characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe were considered for the role as well.
One was Robert Downey Jr. who plays Tony Stark or Iron Man, and the other was Josh Brolin who plays Thanos.
Sir Ben Kingsley, the psychiatrist at Ashecliffe, also played a role in Marvel’s Iron Man 3 as Trevor Slattery or the terrorist called “The Mandarin.”
21. The ending of the film is not in the book
At the end of the film, Andrew Laeddis tells his partner:
This place makes me wonder, which would be worse, to live as a monster, or to die as a good man?Andrew Laeddis’ final words in the movie
These words aren’t mentioned in the book that the film was adapted from. So it basically remains an open question that’s up for discussion, also for the writer, Dennis Lehane.
One way to describe it is that he is basically faking his relapse and the guilt makes him deliberately choose to be lobotomized.
Lehane, however, sees the ending as a “moment of clarity.” Just a moment that Andrew Laeddis comes to his senses in the midst of endless madness.
Whatever the answer, it’s worth watching Shutter Island twice (or more) to get a clear understanding of everything that is going on!