For Johnny Depp, portraying a crime boss indicted in connection with 19 murders wasn’t about bringing an evil villain to life. While discussing his latest film, Black Mass, during a press conference at the Venice International Film Festival Friday, he shared with reporters that he approached his character, real-life notorious criminal James “Whitey” Bulger, “as just a human being,” according to the Hollywood Reporter.
When asked if he’d struggled to tap into the evil side of Bulger, Depp quipped, “I found the evil in myself a long time ago. I accept it, we are old friends.” He then continued in all seriousness, explaining that Bulger was multidimensional. “Nobody wakes up in the morning and shaves or brushes their teeth and looks in the mirror and thinks ‘I am evil’ or ‘I am going to do something evil today,'” explained Depp.
The multi-Academy Award nominee asserted that violence was “part of the job” for Bulger, as well as “kind of a language” for him and those he worked with and against. “He was complicated,” added Depp. “… he would take in an old lady’s groceries into a house, and 10 minutes later he might be bashing someone’s skull in, but to him, that was all he knew.”
To prepare for the role, Depp had hoped to have a chance to sit down with Bulger himself, but the subject of the film declined. Depp speculated that Bulger, who’s currently in prison serving two life sentences, plus an additional five years, wasn’t very impressed with any of the books written about him. (Black Mass is based on 2001’s Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill.)
Without being able to meet Bulger, Depp relied on videotapes and information from Bulger’s attorney, Jay Carney. Apparently, it was enough. According to THR, when Carney visited the set he told Black Mass director Scott Cooper that he found it “chilling” to see Depp as Bulger, calling his portrayal “uncanny.”
There’s already Oscar buzz surrounding the biopic, which is scheduled for release on Sept. 18.
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