The trouble with some projects lingering in development is that other filmmakers can come along and get their version of the story produced before the first has a chance to see the light of day. Take Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, who have been working up a film about notorious Boston mob man Whitey Bulger for years. Now Johnny Depp is attached to Black Mass, a competing project, which has Barry Levinson set to direct. It's A-list warfare!
Mass is adapted from Dick Lehr and Gerald O’Neill’s book, subtitled The True Story Of An Unholy Alliance Between The FBI and The Irish Mob. Mark Mallouk wrote the script, which will track Bulger’s life masterminding a violent gang in Boston while also turning federal informant to take down rivals.
But when the FBI began making arrests, agents double crossed Bulger and prosecuted him. He fled in 1994 and was captured in 2011 in California.
Levinson, who produced the Depp-starring mob project Donnie Brasco, is set to start shooting in May, with production company Cross Creek rounding up the financing at this week’s European Film Market in Berlin.
“I could not be more thrilled to have the biggest star in the world and Academy Award winning director Barry Levinson to finally bring this incredible story to the big screen,” said Cross Creek’s Brian Oliver in a statement via Deadline. “We have been working on this project since we originally optioned the book in 2005. Black Mass expertly details the twists and turns of this highly complex story, painting a vivid portrait of Boston’s underbelly and its corrupt political machine, as well as exposing the worst scandal in FBI history. It’s also an examination of loyalty to family, Irish heritage, and South Boston.”
Affleck and Damon were not contacted for comment, though we imagine their reaction would run along the lines of, “Why you…. I oughta…” and shaking fists while growling, “Depp!” In the meantime, let's hope this turns out closer to Donnie Brasco than the slightly less well-loved Public Enemies.