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Warner Bros. Boards Johnny Depp's 'Black Mass' But Kiboshes Ben Affleck & Matt Damon's Whitey Bulger Pic

by Kevin Jagernauth
February 28, 2014 4:42 PM
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Black Mass Johnny Depp

Often in Hollywood, it's a game of massaging egos versus making decisions that are smart for the bottom line, and Warner Bros. had some tough decisions to make this week. The studio was given the opportunity to come aboard and co-finance "Black Mass," the Johnny Depp-starring flick based on the life of notorious gangster Whitey Bulger. But in doing so they had to kibosh a similar project by one of their golden boys.

Deadline reveals that WB has meanwhile scuttled plans for the long-developing Bulger pic being developed by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, with the the former directing and the latter starring. The story goes that the pair were given a heads up before the announcement went public, but the timing was still unfortunately as Terence Winter ("Boardwalk Empire") had just turned in his latest draft. Naturally, feelings were hurt. And WB will certainly want to make sure they keep Affleck happy somehow as he's delivered "The Town" and "Argo" for them, has "Live By Night" in the pipeline and he's also their new Batman. We wouldn't be surprised if within a few days or weeks we hear of a new Affleck priority project set up at the studio.

Meanwhile, the Scott Cooper flick continues to ramp up. To refresh your memory, it's based on the bestselling book by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill, "Black Mass: Whitey Bulger, The FBI, and a Devil's Deal," and tells the story of one of the FBI’s Most Wanted men and the fearsome leader of the The Winter Hill Gang, who counted murder and racketeering among his crimes. He was also an informant to the FBI.

Bulger is a pretty great part and it's easy to see WB are rolling the dice with Depp playing a gangster, but there has been one casting change. While Tom Hardy was recently named as the new co-star, playing FBI agent John Connolly, a childhood friend who tipped off Bulger that he was going to be prosecuted, that role is now being played by Joel Edgerton who was originally attached to the movie last summer. 

Anyway, it looks like the project is on firm ground and there's likely more news to come with production to start this spring.

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  • Thepolinator | March 3, 2014 11:09 AMReply

    So WB dumps on a star of their upcoming tent pole (the guy who just won an Oscar for best picture), Terrence Winter's script (who is legendarily great at writing exactly these kinds of stories), and a versatile actor who has not made himself into a parody. Not to mention these guys are legends in Boston, and every door would have swung open. Bizarre.

  • VWim | March 3, 2014 8:47 AMReply

    Once again, a major studio demonstrates that it is run by morons.

  • Mike | March 1, 2014 5:09 PMReply

    Wow, Johnny cut out Levinson without a backward glance, didn't he? Ah well, as long as he gets his $20 million, he's happy.

  • Eleni | March 1, 2014 4:03 PMReply

    Oh Johnny ! You are going to be great !!! Who ever tells the oposite is just stupid !

  • Pete | March 1, 2014 12:50 PMReply

    Boston is NOT happy.

  • Reggie | March 1, 2014 3:26 PM

    NOBODY needs to see Depp attempt another gangster. They're his most unconvincing performances. He used to he great but these days he's all about the cash.

  • @PETE | March 1, 2014 1:19 PM

    Are you a spokesperson for Boston? Speak for yourself only you moron. Depp will be great as Whitey.

  • ella | March 1, 2014 11:05 AMReply

    Depp as Whitey Bulger?Hell yeah!!!I will definitely go to see it!!!

  • Miss Miss | March 1, 2014 8:08 AMReply

    Hopefully Matt and Ben will take the project to another studio. Prefer this version. They are a much more natural fit with Boston.

  • Lala | March 1, 2014 1:20 PM

    Hopefully they don't. Prefer the Black Mass version. It sounds more promising and interesting and Depp as Bulger is better than Damned as Bulger.

  • Alan H | February 28, 2014 8:00 PMReply

    WB already gave Bland Affect the role of Batman, despite a massive negative outcry. Plus, he's so busy spouting his politics in D.C. all the time. Isn't Damon going to play Robin to Butman? Or maybe that was Marky-Mark? Sorry, Damon and Wahlberg are interchangeable in my mind.

  • Best | February 28, 2014 8:37 PM

    Best comment!

  • SEan | February 28, 2014 7:31 PMReply

    Not gonna lie. I am a solid fan of all 3. No bias-ism coming from me. BUT, I think, IMO, this is a wrong decision. I think Ben & Matt would have done a far better job at this film than Johnny's side. And there are many reasons...

    1. Matt & Ben = Boston. I mean come on the world knows that by now. That's their city, their hometown, and they know all about the cultural/logistical/and people better than anyone else (esp most if not all of Hollywood).

    2. Assuming Matt would play Bulger (rather than Ben) is a better casting than Johnny. I think Johnny for this role is miscast. Physically he is just not really Bulger looking. Matt I think can far more pull it off (esp with the older Bulger weight gain, looks, and accent) than Johnny. It doesn't mean I'm saying Matt is better actor or Johnny is, not at all. I'm only speaking on this role.

    3. Johnny has already played a mobster (albeit Italian) in his career. I'm not even sure why he would want this role in the 1st place. Ben & Matt simply just make better sense. And bringing them together in a film (which has not been done in a LONNNNGG time) would be a great project and a fan favorite!!

    We'll see what happens. I think they chose Johnny's team 1. he has a significant relationship with WB like Ben does 2. Scott Cooper vision of the film must be really appealing

  • Jo | February 28, 2014 6:25 PMReply

    Whitey with mascara is just wrong.

  • @THAT KID | February 28, 2014 7:49 PM

    No he didn't. That was makeup and not mascara. He's a profissional and he knows what he's doing.

  • That Kid | February 28, 2014 7:35 PM

    Definitely wore mascara (or something very similar to it) in "Willy Wonka", "Sweeney Todd"and "Cry Baby".

  • @JO | February 28, 2014 7:14 PM

    I don't remember JD wearing a mascara in The Rum Diary, The Tourist, Public Enemies, Sweeney Todd, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Finding Neverland, The Libertine, Secret Window, Once Upon A Time In Mexico, Blow, From Hell, Chocolat, The Man Who Cried, Sleepy Hollow, The Ninth Gate, The Atronaut's Wife, Fear And Loathing In LA, The Brave, Donnie Brasco, Dead Man, Nick Of Time, Ed Wood, Don Juan DeMarco, What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Benny and Joon, Arizona Dream, Cry-Baby! Have you only seen The Pirates movies or what?

  • Midger | February 28, 2014 6:04 PMReply

    Depp has only made one decent movie in the last ten years, and that was Rango. Hope that Affleck and Damon take the project elsewhere.

  • Yousef | February 28, 2014 6:30 PM

    That's funny because he's been nominated for the Oscar 3 times in the last 10 years and also won the Golden Globe and the Screen Actors Guild and starred in a Best Picture nominee! Finding Neverland, Secret Window, The Libertine, Corpse Bride, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, POTC2, POTC3, Sweeney Todd, Public Enemies and Rango were all good movies but you probably haven't even seen half of them. And what does that has to do at all with a project he's doing now? Should he stop working just because YOU think that he hasn't made a good movie in the last 10 years? The hacks that can't act Affleck and Damon can take their unwanted project elsewhere.

  • Yass | February 28, 2014 5:38 PMReply


  • John | February 28, 2014 5:29 PMReply

    Great news. Damon as Whitey Bulger would have ben ridicules.

  • Yousef | February 28, 2014 6:32 PM

    @MIDGER HAHAHA yes. Damned should forget about it.

  • Midger | February 28, 2014 6:06 PM

    As ridiculous as not knowing how to spell ridiculous?

  • Bahston | February 28, 2014 5:28 PMReply


  • Marlon | February 28, 2014 5:25 PMReply

    Good move on WB's part! Depp will be amazing as Bulger.

  • Leonardo | February 28, 2014 5:03 PMReply

    Isn't "Black Mass" now a Scott Cooper project, Levinson left the film months ago.

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