'Out of the Furnace' Director in Talks to Revive Whitey Bulger Biopic 'Black Mass'
Whitey Bulger biopic Black Mass is coming together once again.
The true-crime thriller was supposed to shoot last summer with Johnny Depp in the lead, under the direction of Barry Levinson, but fell apart over the superstar's fee. Now the companies behind the project, Cross Creek Pictures and Exclusive Media, are hoping to revive it with a new man in the director's chair: Scott Cooper.
Cooper, who won acclaim for his Jeff Bridges drama Crazy Heart, and, most recently, Out of the Furnace, is in talks to helm the movie, although sources say it's early going. And there is a chance that Depp could return to this new incarnation as the actor, according to insiders, is open to meeting Cooper. If all goes well, the project could end up at Berlin's European Film Market in February, which would be kismet, since the project first came together at last year's EFM.
Cross Creek and Exclusive are producing and financing the biopic, which hit a major roadblock after the budget rose to $63 million, with Cross Creek wanting to hold the line at $50 million. When the above-the-line talent, which also included Joel Edgerton, was asked to cut their fees, Depp walked away from the project. The two sides tried to find a middle ground, but by June the project, in that incarnation, was all but finished, with Levinson packing his bags, too.
Still, Cross Creek and Exclusive did not give up and approached Cooper and some other directors in the early fall. Cooper, at the time, was attached to adapt Stephen King's The Stand for Warner Bros. but left late last year due to creative differences, leaving him available.
Mass recounts the story of the South Boston criminal mastermind, who was sentenced in November to two consecutive life terms plus five years after being found guilty on 31 counts of racketeering, money laundering, extortion and weapons charges (including his role in 19 murders).
The film is loosely based on the New York Times best-seller Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob, written by Boston Globe reporters Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill. Mark Mallouk wrote an updated adaptation of the book following Bulger's June 2011 capture in Santa Monica, Calif., where he was found after more than a decade on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list.
Bulger is considered to be the most infamous criminal in the history of South Boston. He became an FBI informant in order to take down a rival Mafia family, only to be double-crossed by the government and prosecuted.