Johnny Depp talks about transforming into Whitey Bulger in the much-anticipated movie Black Mass premiering at TIFF.
Based on the book by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill, the film establishes the tough, clannish world of South Boston in the 1970s. Bulger is the black sheep of a poor Irish-American family. His brother Bill (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a state senator, and their childhood friend John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) has grown up to become an FBI agent, while Whitey goes in and out of prison.
But Whitey Bulger is not simply a ruthless street criminal; he’s also a cunning strategist. Guided by the philosophy of his favourite author, Machiavelli, Bulger constantly marshals the forces of his FBI friend and senator brother to protect his drugs-and-extortion business. If he has to kill those who get in his way, so be it. He’ll still be home for Sunday dinner.
For Depp, getting the look of Whitey was paramount to delivering a great performance. “It was very, very important to look as much like Jimmy Bulger as humanly possible,” Depp told The Daily Beast at the Venice Film Festival. “My eyeballs are black as the ace of spades, so clearly the blue contacts… they were hand-painted because they needed to be piercing, they needed to cut right through you.”
“Nobody, no matter how evil we would consider them or that sorta thing, they never look at themselves as evil; they’re on a quest, and they feel what they’re doing is righteous, from the worst to the clumsy,” he continued. “There’s something poetic about what he was able to do in his work, and at the same time, be of that very proud Irish immigrant stock who was loyal to his neighborhood, who was a great caregiver to his mother, who was very, very close with his brother, who was a very upper-echelon politician.”
Black Mass premieres at TIFF September 14.