Whitey Bulger is in prison and will never get out. Famed Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger is currently serving two life sentences for conspiracy, racketeering, extortion and the murders of 11 people. But out of sight certainly doesn’t mean out of mind.
In the new film Black Mass, actor Johnny Depp portrays Bulger, a fact that some former Bulger associates are keen on, but some are not. Depp famously expressed interest in the human side of the murdering gangster, saying of his preparation for the role,
“The first thing for me was to understand him first and foremost as a human being,”
“Anybody and everybody, especially the families of his victims, could say ‘He’s just an evil person.’ I don’t believe that exists. People have their humanity, everything they’ve carried with them since they were children. There’s a side of James Bulger who is not just that man who was in that business.”
— The New York Times (@nytimes) September 18, 2015
Depp says he wanted to talk to Bulger himself, but was turned down.
“I made an attempt to contact Mr. Bulger only out of respect. It’s his life, and I’m playing him onscreen,” Depp says. Apparently Bulger did not like the book about him that the film was built on.
“I’m sure he’s not enthusiastic about any of the books – which I understand,” Depp said of Bulger. “I never expected him to meet with me.”
Bulger’s defense attorney Hank Brennan is not even enthusiastic about Depp’s portrayal of Bulger.
“Johnny Depp might as well have been playing the Mad Hatter all over again as far as James Bulger is concerned,” Brennan says. “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.”
“The movie missed the real story and instead made a cartoon mockery out of Jimmy Bulger,” Brennan says.
Dick Lehr, who co-authored Black Mass, begs to differ.
“Yeah, I think Johnny nailed it,” says Lehr. “Johnny didn’t back away from the fact that he’s a monster.”
Is Nicholson's performance in the Departed is still the best fictionalized Whitey Bulger we have seen?
— Bradley Milne (@Darbmilne) September 15, 2015