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Johnny Depp Turns Informant for Barry Levinson’s Whitey Bulger Biopic ‘Black Mass’

Written by on February 3, 2013 

For quite some time, and only until semi-recently, the number-one and number-two slots on the FBI’s most-wanted list were (respectively) occupied by Osama bin Laden and Whitey Bulger. They’ve since been killed or taken into custody, of course, and it also need not be noted that a fairly high-profile film was made about one’s apprehension — and, with this, I guess we’re all taking one step down the line of disreputable sorts.

Coming out of Berlin, Deadline report that Johnny Depp and Barry Levinson will give Bulger the movie star treatment in Black Mass, a project that, somewhat ironically, marks their first collaboration since the classic true-life mob picture Donnie Brasco. (The Diner director happened to be a producer on that one, so let’s not call this the most significant of working relationships in Hollywood.) Deals have, unsurprisingly, been locked into place at this point in time: Universal have distribution rights in the United States, while Cross Creek and Exclusive Media are allocating proper finances to begin shooting in May.

This comes off development that’s been wavering in and out of real progress since 2005 — fitting that the story of a long-lost man would be in various states of creative development for close to a decade — and, much like Zero Dark Thirty, it was essentially handed a third act when proper authorities captured Bulger in June of 2011. Mark Mallouk has been using all this in working on the screenplay, seemingly with a strong focus on the elements that made this man’s life and crimes so legendary — a mob boss, an informant, someone who could be trusted with neither position, and as elusive a criminal as U.S. forces have ever deal with. That William Monahan used his story as the basis for Jack Nicholson‘s terrific character in The Departed is indication enough as to the appeal that could be mined in his cinematic portrayal.

Partially due to that association, Depp is, all due respect, not who I’d have spring to mind for this particular role (blame my image of him as an older man on the lamb). This is of probably zero concern to Universal and other business entities, who have as much of a commercial “in” as almost any working actor could be said to afford a picture — and I’m sure he’ll do something interesting, so long as his unique gangster portrayal in Public Enemies served as any indication. Barry Levinson, on the other hand? Far too complicated to dive into, I’m afraid, except to say I hope positive word on The Bay (a very different film altogether) is another signal of sorts as to how Black Mass ends up coming together.

No matter what, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are going to be pissed.

Does Bulger deserve another, more specific film treatment, and is this a good actor-director combination?

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