Depp as Bulger in 'Black Mass': Can He Rise to Whitey's Level of Violence?

Monday, 04 Feb 2013 12:08 PM

By Dale Eisinger

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Johnny Depp has played a range of far-fetched characters in films, including a madcap journalist, a crazy confectioner, a wonky pirate, and a scissor-handed outcast, but can the versatile actor nail the role of an infamous crime boss?

Depp will star in "Black Mass" as Whitey Bulger, the violent Boston criminal who spent years at the top of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's 10 most-wanted list, Deadline New York reports.

Based on the 2001 bestselling book “Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob,” the film will chronicle Bulger's captivating rise and fall.

Barry Levinson will direct the film. He is best known for his 1988 drama "Rain Man," which won him an Academy Award for Best Director.

Levinson and Depp worked together in 1997 on the set of "Donnie Brasco," based on the true story about Joseph D. Pistone, an FBI undercover agent who infiltrated the Bonanno crime family in New York City during the 1970s.

When he takes on the role of Bulger, Depp will have to be convincingly violent. According to the FBI, Bulger committed at least 19 murders.

Bulger is being held without bond on charges of murder, extortion, and conspiracy and will defend himself when he is tried later this year.

The story of Bulger's criminal life is a complex tale of treachery, undercover operations, and organized crime. While he masterminded a Boston gambling and drug-trafficking ring, Bulger also played informant to the FBI.

However, the FBI double-crossed him by prosecuting him, after using his information to crack down on a rival gang. Bulger then went on the run, successfully eluding other criminals and prosecutors for years.

"Black Mass" has been in the works for about eight years, uncompleted because it lacked a good third act.

In June 2011, authorities finally tracked down 81-year-old Bulger in a coastal California town with his longtime girlfriend Catherine Greig, after he had been was on the lam for 16 years. That gave producers the logical conclusion they sought for the film.

Bulger's larger-than-life reputation has inspired Hollywood in the past, most notably Jack Nicholson's character from the 2006 Oscar-winner "The Departed."

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