‘Shutter Island’ Cheat Sheet: Everything You Need to Know

Keep up with Martin Scorsese's twists and turns with our handy guide.

U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) arrives on Shutter Island to investigate the disappearance of a patient at a hospital for the criminally insane. What he discovers at the moss-covered, nightmare-generating asylum — hallucinations, conspiracies, all manner of macabre looniness — is nothing like what he expected.

You don’t need to find yourself in the same position as Leo. We’ve been following Martin Scorsese’s “Shutter Island” for years, tracking the production, talking to the stars and examining the footage. The result of this cinematic study is one of our handy cheat sheets. Read up before you hit the theater this weekend, and you might have a chance of staying on top of the film’s “What’s real, what’s not, what the heck is going on?” plot twists.

My Name Is … ?
The film is adapted from a 2003 book by Dennis Lehane (also the author of “Mystic River” and “Gone Baby Gone”), but early on in its cinematic life, “Shutter Island” got a title change to “Ashecliffe,” the name of the insane asylum where the action takes place.

In spring 2008, co-star Patricia Clarkson opened up about the production — then still called “Ashecliffe” — discussing the “twists and turns and surprises” the story has in store for viewers.

Months later, co-star Mark Ruffalo told us, “It is Martin Scorsese’s playground with this movie. He gets to do everything he loves about film. He does noir, fantasy sequences, dream sequences, madness, suspense, tough urban stuff. It’s absolute madness and twist upon twist. This could be one of his great films.”

Your Flight Has Been Delayed
Scorsese and Paramount eventually settled on “Shutter Island” as the title, but they had more trouble deciding when to release the picture. Six weeks before the film was set to open on October 2, the studio announced the opening was being shifted back to February. So close to viewing another DiCaprio/Scorsese collaboration — and then denied! It was a bummer, because the first trailer had promised such great and twisted things.

Great and Twisted Things
Arriving in June 2009, that initial trailer offered much more of a horror vibe than we had expected. Mixed with all the creepy imagery was the clear indication that “Shutter Island” would deliver a detective story as well, though hardly a straightforward one. Any signal the film would present a simple, linear narrative fluttered away after we caught the second trailer: one hallucinatory shot after another, from disappearing women to almost elegantly out-of-control fires.

And For Your Fifth Trick …
With “Gangs of New York” (2002), “The Aviator” (2004), “The Departed” (2006) and soon “Shutter Island” behind them, what will DiCaprio and Scorsese’s next project be? If Leo could have worked with the director back in the ’70s, he told us he’d have killed to star in “Taxi Driver.” But what of the future? Scorsese seems to think he’s found in Leo the man who should play Frank Sinatra in a big-screen biopic.

“I don’t know,” DiCaprio told us recently when asked about the possibility, before adding with a laugh, “Oh, I can sing like Sinatra, man, definitely. Can’t everyone?”

Check out everything we’ve got on “Shutter Island.”

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