US Release Date: 9/18/15
With his white hair and piercing blue eyes, James “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp), one of the most notorious gangsters in US history, rules South Boston in Scott Cooper’s upcoming Black Mass.
Cooper’s new gangster-thriller, which has been enjoying a heap of positive pre-release buzz, reveals how Bulger, also the inspiration for Jack Nicholson’s character in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, worked as an informant for the FBI in a massive attempt to bring down the Italian Mafia.
In return for his help in smashing the mob, Bulger was given Carte Blanche to rule the Boston underworld – a reign of terror involving numerous murders, drugs, money laundering and extortion.
In 1988, The Boston Globe broke the news that Bulger had been an informant for the FBI – a story which exposed details of massive corruption. Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill, then reporters for the newspaper, unleashed the story and later wrote Black Mass: Whitey Bulger, the FBI, and a Devil’s Deal – the book which would form the basis of Cooper’s movie. Says Lehr:
“It was originally going to be a tale of two brothers – Whitey and Billy, who grew up in the same house in the South Boston projects and ended up at the top of their respective games, albeit with very different rules.”
With his henchmen, known as the Winter Hill Gang, Bulger terrorised South Boston – nicknamed “Southie” by the locals – from the ‘70s through the early ‘90s.
In 1994, Bulger fled the city after Agent John Connolly, Jr, his primary contact in the FBI, warned him about his impending criminal indictment. For more than sixteen years, Whitey lived life on the run, but the Feds finally caught up with him in Santa Monica in 2011 – he was captured living in an apartment with his girlfriend. Also seized were numerous guns and more than $800.000 in cash. He is now behind bars for the rest of his natural life.
Connolly, meanwhile, is currently serving a 40 – year sentence for providing Bulger with information that prompted the gangster to murder a Boston businessman.
In fact, Connolly had known Whitey and his brother Billy Bulger (played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the film), who eventually became one of the most powerful politicians in Massachusetts, since they were kids growing up in South Boston. The bond between the two brothers – who could not have been more different – and their relationship with Connolly fascinated Cooper.
“Connolly ultimately allowed Bulger to run amok in the city,” says Cooper, “because he’d wanted to be in Whitey’s good graces ever since Whitey rescued him in a playground fight when they were kids.”
During the early days of his career, Connolly nailed members of the New York Mob – a feat which allowed him to rise up within the FBI ranks – while Whitey’s criminal empire and dealings expanded.
“Southie was and is a very close knit neighborhood and they were very loyal to Jimmy,” Depp says. “Many people grew up kind of idolizing him; many wanted to be him because he did things his own way and, for the most part, he won. But he was also a very charismatic man. He had this draw that made people want to get close to him.”
Some members of the close knit community idolised Bulger without limit. To them, he was the local “rock star” or “Robin Hood” who could do no wrong. In one scene an elderly female resident happily welcomes the gangster – who has been away – back into the neighborhood.
“To John Connolly, there was a deeper connection—he knew the rock star and that rock star had treated him well once,” says Joel Edgarton, who plays the agent. “I believe he went into the FBI with good intentions and had aspirations of being a great lawman. But on his home turf there was a very blurry line between crime and the law, and if the person you admired was on the other side of the law, it could lead to other aspirations. When you look at the seemingly boundless freedom with which criminals operate…I think he started to get a little intoxicated by that.”
Studio: Warner Bros
Director: Scott Cooper
Stars: Johnny Depp, Joel Edgarton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon
Producers: John Lesher, Brian Oliver, Scott Cooper, Patrick McCormick and Tyler Thompson
Executive Producers: Brett Ratner, James Packer, Peter Mallouk, Ray Mallouk, Christopher Woodrow, Brett Granstaff, Gary Granstaff, Phil Hunt and Compton Ross
Screenwriter: Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth (Based on the book by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill)
Quote Source: Warner Bros Production Notes
Image Info: © 2015 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC., CCP BLACK MASS FILM HOLDINGS, LLC, BLACK MASS HOLDINGS, LLC.AND RATPAC-DUNE ENTERTAINMENT LLC. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
This Special ENTAction Feature Was Posted On: 9/16/15