TIFF: Johnny Depp Talks About "Responsibility" in Portraying Gangster Whitey Bulger

Courtesy of Venice Film Festival

Depp plays the legendary Boston mobster in Scott Cooper's crime saga, co-starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton and Dakota Johnson.

Black Mass star Johnny Depp on Monday talked about the long hours in make-up — including an elaborate hairpiece — required to become the cold-blooded Boston gangster James "Whitey" Bulger in the upcoming Warner Bros. release.

"When you play someone who either existed or exists, there's a tremendous amount of responsibility, at least for me," Depp told the Black Mass press conference at the Toronto International Film Festival. The Hollywood star worked with makeup artist Joel Harlow to come up with a look for his movie character.

"We did five or six tests until we got to the place that's Jimmy Bulger. That's much to the chagrin of the producers and money people, but that's a couple hours in makeup," he said of the elaborate transformation required for his role.

Black Mass debuted in Venice before shifting to Toronto. Directed by Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart, Out of the Furnace), the film sees Depp playing the notorious gangster.

The ensemble cast also includes Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Rory Cochrane, Jesse Plemons, Dakota Johnson, Peter Sarsgaard and Kevin Bacon. Black Mass follows an FBI agent, played by Edgerton, who in 1970s Boston persuades Irish mobster Bulger to collaborate with the FBI to eliminate their common enemy, the Italian mob.

Depp, who also projected obsessive cleanliness and didn't blink in tight shots to portray Bulger, told the presser he did not deliberately set out create an evil character from beginning to end. "I don't think any of us wake up every morning and say, 'I'm so evil. I'm so horrible.' I approached James Bulger as a human being, who's multi-faceted and did have a side to him that was human and loving," he explained.

Black Mass director Cooper said Depp's biggest transformation was to go from someone who is "gentle and kind" to become a cold and cunning crime boss. "That man you see on screen is not the man you see to my right," Cooper said at the presser.

Warner will distribute Black Mass worldwide beginning Sept. 18.



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