By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist October 24, 2011 at 5:18AM
Casey Affleck To Co-Star
Granted, they've got some competition for this one, but you can bet Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have taken the lead on getting a biopic on famed Boston mobster Whitey Bulger onto the big screen.
Earlier this year Bulger—on the FBI’s top ten Most Wanted list for the past few decades—burst onto the headlines after he was finally arrested after years in hiding in California. The head of the notorious Boston outfit the Winter Hill gang, Bulger ruled with an iron fist, stacking up 21 bodies in addition to numerous other charges including racketeering. The great irony here of course, is that Bulger was at one time an informant for the FBI and his agent/handler John J. Connolly had initially tipped him off that the feds were closing in. It's a great story, so no surprise that with not even six months since Bulger was put behind bars, there are three projects in development: producer Graham King has something brewing based on the rights purchased from the Winter Hill Gang's chief enforcer, John Martorano; "Twilight" actor Peter Facinelli is producing an adaptation of Edward MacKenzie and Phyllis Karas’ book, “Street Soldier: My Life as an Enforcer For Whitey Bulger and the Boston Irish Mob” and writer Russell Gerwitz (“Inside Man”) is penning the thriller “Black Mass” for “Black Swan” producer Brian Oliver. But it's Damon and Affleck who will certainly have the heat now and of course, being Beantown boys themselves, it's a no brainer that the pair would have an interest in doing a movie about the man.
WB has been a haven for both Damon and Affleck in recent years. Damon has made nine movies at the studio in the last decade, while Affleck is their newest directorial golden boy, helming "The Town" and currently "Argo" for them, as well as recently jumping to the front of queue of the gestating adaptation of Stephen King's "The Stand." And if you need even more reason to get excited, "The Sopranos" and "Boardwalk Empire" scribe Terence Winter is writing the screenplay. The plan is for Damon to star and Affleck to direct, but the project is still in early stages and the former isn't quite sure who he would even play at this point.
"If it's a straight biopic, we'll do it over a period of time. But it's always a question of what part of the story do you tell, and biopics are always a little cumbersome," Damon said. "So do we find another way in? We're still figuring it out." So why even bother getting the word out early? It's a power play of sorts, as Damon is well aware of the other projects in development and he hopes quite simply they'll fade to the background once they hear of this studio backed production with heavyweight talent already on board.
"There are a couple of competing movies and I don't think it's been announced yet that we're doing it," Damon said. "But the sooner it's announced the better, just because everyone else will back off, hopefully. I'm really excited about it."
Of course, both Damon and Affleck are pretty much busy until at least late 2012. Affleck is shooting "Argo" and Damon will be lensing his directorial debut (also set up at WB) next year in addition to starring in Steven Soderbergh's "Behind The Candelabra." The duo also have the New York Yankees wife swap pic "The Trade" knocking about, but Damon acknowledges that while they still want to do it, the recent legal hassles have slowed down development.
So add this to pile of stuff Damon and Affleck may do, but don't expect it anytime soon. But it's an exciting prospect nonetheless, and a big screen tale with enormous potential. And while we doubt it will slow any of those other competing versions down, Hollywood is no stranger to telling the same story a few different ways.