Scott Cooper to Helm Whitey Bulger Film, Johnny Depp Circling Again
After delivering the fantastically performed, but poorly concluded gritty drama Out of the Furnace, director Scott Cooper is heading into period drama territory. Deadline has word that Cooper is currently in talks with Universal to rewrite and direct Black Mass, the biopic about Boston crime kingpin Whitey Bulger that once had Barry Levinson in the director's chair with Johnny Depp on board. The actor fell away from the project, but the sale of the film at Cannes was a little softer than anticipated, and Depp refused to lower his payday to fit in with the lower budget. However, Depp is again in talks to star in the revived project.
Last we heard of the project, screenwriter Mark Mallouk just recently completed an entirely new screenplay based on the book after Bulger, who was on the FBI's Most Wanted list for over 10 years, was captured in June of 2011. The true story follows the criminal brother of a state senator and the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who became an FBI informant to take down a Mafia family invading his turf. However, after the Feds closed in on their targets, they double crossed Bulger and ultimately prosecuted him, along with his partner in crime and the original FBI agent working with him.
Joel Edgerton was once slated to play John Connolly, an FBI agent who was a childhood friend of Bulger, who many believed helped the criminal stay at large for so long. Connolly was eventually convicted of racketeering and obstruction of justice for helping out the Boston kingpin and now sits in Massachusetts state prison for second-degree murder. It's not clear if Edgerton will still end up in the film or not though.
For those who don't know, the Cross Creek and Exclusive Media film was based on the 2001 book Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob, written by former Boston Globe reporters Dick Lehr and Gerald O’Neill. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were looking to get their own film about Bulger off the ground over two years ago with Affleck directing the film and also co-starring and producing with Damon who would play Bulger himself. But Affleck is busy with Batman vs. Superman and then has Live By Night set up as a director to follow, so they won't be beating Cooper to the punch. The Crazy Heart helmer is an actor's director, so teaming him with Depp could yield great results.