So you’ve likely read our reviews of Black Mass or have seen the film itself, crafting your own opinion of it. But what about the subject of the film himself? What does James “Whitey” Bulger (and his associates) think of Johnny Depp’s performance as him in the film? They’re not fans, at all.
Now Bulger himself hasn’t seen the film, but he was not a fan of the choice of actor or the slant that Hollywood took to tell his story, allegedly highlighting his side in a statement to People Magazine via his lawyer Hank Brennan:
“Johnny Depp might as well have been playing the Mad Hatter all over again as far as James Bulger is concerned,” Brennan says. “Hollywood greed is behind the rush to portray my client, and the movie missed the real scourge created in my client’s case, the real menace to Boston during that time and in other mob cases around the country – the federal government’s complicity in each and every one of those murders with the top echelon informant program.”
Part of this is suspect, which you’ll hear about; but even if Bulger hasn’t seen the film, the members of his crew that are free and able to go out and see the movie have. Kevin Weeks chatted with The Daily Beast on his thoughts about the film, notably saying that his portrayal in the film — played by Jesse Plemons — was “a knuckle-dragging moron…I look like I have Down syndrome.” The interview goes through bit by bit of the film with Weeks, noting the stuff they got wrong and the “pure fantasy” as he describes:
According to Weeks, the filmmakers behind Black Mass “didn’t consult with anyone within the inner circle about the movie,” and as a result, there are major discrepancies between what really happened and what happens onscreen.
One of the more interesting sticking points seems to be how the FBI got away from the film smelling largely like roses, leading to this little tidbit:
We considered Connolly a criminal, too. He was our informant, and that’s how it was portrayed to all of us—that we were paying for his information. That’s why no one suspected that Jim Bulger was informing on us, because every time we made a score we’d put money aside to pay our contacts in law enforcement, and we were getting good information. Jimmy used to tell me, “I can call any one of six FBI agents and they’ll come to me and jump in this car with a machine gun and go on a hit.” One FBI agent actually gave us 17 kilos of C-4 which we were going to use to blow up a reporter, Howie Carr. Howie thought it was a made-up story, until he found out it was the truth.
And Weeks also responded to the alleged comments above from Bulger, claiming that they might not be too solid:
[Hank Brennan] is a buffoon. I mean, really. He was supposed to defend Jim Bulger, and when he stood up and gave his opening remarks, he basically admitted to every charge. What, he’s spoken to Jim Bulger for a hundred hours, and that’s supposed to make him something? Now, he speaks about Jim like he’s his best friend. He doesn’t know a thing about the real Jim Bulger, what’s happened, or anything. He’s literally a buffoon.
The entire interview is really worthy of your attention and is full of a lot of great pulls like you see above. Even if Bulger hasn’t seen the film or has no opinion on it, he has to dislike his ghoulish look. Johnny Depp looks decidedly creepy throughout, something that either plays up his scary nature or is a mistake by the filmmakers. Who knows? I still like The Departed better myself, since it can claim inspiration without mucking up history.