The latest news from the Berlin International Film Festival is what we in the business call “significant.” Johnny Depp, American cinema star, has signed on to play Boston mega-criminal Whitey Bulger in the upcoming drama Black Mass. Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart, Out of the Furnace) will direct, and production will begin in May.
Bulger, who is still alive at age 84, currently resides in Massachusetts state prison after being sentenced to two consecutive life terms last summer for racketeering, money laundering and complicity in at least 19 murders. Bulger was at the top of the Boston organized crime food chain, and escaped prosecution for years because he secretly served as an FBI informant beginning in 1975. After a scandal in 1994, Bulger was on the verge of being indicted when his childhood friend John Connolly, an FBI agent, tipped him off. Bulger fled, and spent 16 years on the lam, many of them on the FBI’s Most Wanted Fugitives list. He was finally caught in Santa Monica, Calif. in 2011.
Cooper and Cross Creek Pictures are in talks with Tom Hardy (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises) to play Connolly, though nothing official has yet been announced. Production is slated to start in May.