July, 2013: The life, crimes, and ultimate capture of fugitive James Joseph “Whitey” Bulger Jr. read like a movie—or television—script. The notorious Boston gangster allegedly worked hand-in-hand with the FBI in the ‘70s, turning in his rivals in exchange for protection. When the corrupt partnership crumbled, Bulger vanished, launching a 16-year-long manhunt that culminated with his arrest in 2011 outside an unassuming Santa Monica apartment Bulger and his longtime girlfriend had secretly made home some ten years before. As biographers work to fill in the details of Bulger’s life in Los Angeles, multiple filmmakers are said to be interested in getting his story onto the silver screen. Who will play the Bostonian gangster in a biopic? And which execs are vying for the project? Here’s what we know now:
- Cross Creek and Exclusive Media were planning a blockbuster titled “Black Mass,” set to release next year, Johnny Depp backed out due to budget cuts earlier this month.
- While director Barry Levinson searches for Depp’s replacement for that production, Boston natives Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are scheming to make their own Bulger flick. Though nothing is set in stone, Affleck is rumored to be planning to direct the film, with Damon starring as Bulger.
- NBC has speculated that Mark Wahlberg (another Bostonian) or Leonardo DiCaprio might be well suited for the role. Neither actor is reported to have expressed interest in taking on the project at this point.
UPDATE, 11/4: Deadline has reported that yet another Bulger project is in the works, although this time it's for the small screen. Fox has put a series titled Street Soldier into development, and at present, Peter Facinelli is rumored to have the lead. The series would follow boxer and drug dealer Eddie MacKenzie, a Bulger enforcer, who somehow managed to remove himself from Bulger's gang without being killed.
Related: The Old Man Next Door
Related: Whitey Bulger's Secret SoCal Hangouts