James “Whitey” Bulger, the notorious Boston gangster who was found dead Tuesday in his prison cell, reluctantly had his pop-culture breakthrough in 2015’s “Black Mass,” portrayed by one of the biggest stars in the world, Johnny Depp.
Bulger, who eluded authorities for 16 years before being captured and convicted of participating in 11 murders in 2013, wasn’t a fan of the performance.
Depp donned heavy prosthetics, stained his teeth yellow and wore blue contact lenses to capture Bulger’s stare in the gritty role. The actor said his aim was to bring out Bulger’s human side.
James “Whitey” Bulger in a June 23, 2011, booking photo
James “Whitey” Bulger in a June 23, 2011, booking photo provided by the U.S. Marshals Service. (Photo: U.S. MARSHALS SERVICE VIA AP)
“It would have been easy to dive into this thing as if it were just simply a gangster film,” Depp said when “Black Mass” was unveiled at Toronto International Film Festival. Director Scott Cooper made it “a story about people,” Depp added. “Present the people, warts and all, and then allow their personality, their way of life, to reveal themselves.”
High-profile figures, especially those spending the rest of their life in prison, will often meet with a high-profile star to discuss aspects of their lives.
Not Bulger, who was 86 and in a Florida prison when “Black Mass” hit theaters nationwide. He refused to meet or correspond with Depp during filming.
He let his defense attorney, Hank Brennan, do the talking. Brennan compared Depp’s portrayal to the star’s fantasy role in “Alice in Wonderland.”
“Johnny Depp might as well have been playing the Mad Hatter all over again as far as James Bulger is concerned,” Brennan told People. “Hollywood greed is behind the rush to portray my client, and the movie missed the real scourge created in my client’s case, the real menace to Boston during that time and in other mob cases around the country – the federal government’s complicity in each and every one of those murders with the top echelon informant program.”