Notorious Mobster Whitey Bulger Furious About New Movie Black Mass Based on …

18 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Black Mass’: This actor is the unsung hero of the film.

Notorious Boston gangster James “Whitey” earned the moniker he loathed – a nickname criminal cohorts never dared say to his face – from the shock of platinum hair he perpetually slicked back from his forehead. Black Mass attempts to cover the core of mobster James “Whitey” Bulger’s criminal life in just two hours, and as such, it leaves a number of smaller questions unanswered.Black Mass arrives in theaters Friday after generating plenty of buzzy chatter from the film festivals in Venice, Telluride, and Toronto. (You can read EW’s review of the film here.) The film, directed by Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart; Out of the Furnace), tells the true story of James ‘Whitey’ Bulger (played by Johnny Depp), one of Boston’s most notorious criminals.

Whitey Bulger is one in a long line of real-life gangsters whose bloody exploits have been transmuted into big-screen gold, in this case “Black Mass” with Johnny Depp as the Boston crime legend.Until he was handed a life sentence after being convicted of 19 counts of murder, gangster Whitey Bulger topped the FBI’s Most Wanted list – and was considered the most dangerous man in America. And despite the “millions upon millions” of dollars his lawyer told a federal jury Bulger made in the rackets he ran in the insular Irish neighborhood of South Boston, the mobster never bothered to fix a blackened front tooth. Depp tends to excel at, and to revel in, playing hyperstylized characters who exist in fanciful filmic worlds: He’s perfectly at his ease as a vampire, a pirate, a blade-fingered freak, or a singing demon barber but can seem uncomfortable inhabiting the skin of real-life people, whether it’s a Prohibition-era gangster (Public Enemies) or a disco-era cocaine importer (Blow). The film chronicles the scary menace that is Bulger and explores his complicated relationship with his FBI handler John Connolly — currently serving a 40 year prison sentence — played by Joel Edgerton.

In fact, Warner Bros., the studio behind “Black Mass,” has been making gangster movies since the advent of sound recording, when real-life gangsters such as Al Capone were making chilling headlines in newspapers across the country. Now a new book has revealed the full extent of the horrors he meted out to hapless victims – and how he was protected for years by ‘petty bureaucrats’ more interested in ‘protecting their own a**es’.

Still, many crime-watchers worldwide have been intrigued by the powerful stronghold on South Boston – and multiple cold-blooded killings – attributed to Bulger and his band of criminals known as the Winter Hill Gang. Capone’s favorite film was reportedly Rouben Mamoulian’s early “talkie” “City Streets,” (1931), a gangster movie with a Dashiell Hammett screenplay, co-starring a young, gun-toting Gary Cooper and Sylvia Sydney. We’re celebrating,’ ” Mallouk recalls. “I go to put it in my room, and I look down and see a message that says, ‘Whitey got arrested in Santa Monica.’ ” “I had gotten to know a lot of the FBI agents, the reporters, the police and some of the victims’ families, and there was not a single person who said, ‘We’ll find him eventually.’ The unanimous consensus was, ‘We’ll never see Bulger again. In the new film Black Mass, actor Johnny Depp, 52, portrays Bulger and told reporters at a screening of the movie in Brookline, Massachusetts this week that he approached the role by looking at Bulger as “a human being and not only as a man in that business.” “There’s a kind heart in there,” Depp told reporters. “There’s a cold heart in there. Yet Depp’s performance as Bulger is as strong, and as energized, as anything he’s done on screen for years. (If there’s any earlier Depp vehicle this movie resembles, it’s the 1997 mob drama Donnie Brasco, in which he gave a fine naturalistic performance as an undercover FBI agent cozying up to Al Pacino’s sad-sack hit man.) After making a career for decades off his own inextinguishable charisma (with enough success that he now owns an island in the Bahamas), Depp has taken a role that allows him to examine charisma’s dark side—the unholy power that can accrue to people who know how to make others love them, fear them, and, most chillingly, obey them.

Many film historians list Josef von Sternberg’s silent drama “Underworld” (1927) — complete with fast cars, gun molls, Thompson submachine guns, wiseguys and cops — as the first modern gangster movie. He’s either dead or living in Europe off the grid.’ And there he was basically living down the street from me,” says Mallouk, calling a few days ago from his home in L.A. To help answer these questions, we consulted Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill’s book Black Mass, and also spoke to Kevin Cullen, the co-author of Whitey Bulger: America’s Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice.

Depp’s Jimmy Bulger (call him Whitey, explains another character, and you might get on his bad side—never a wise move) does have his share of vampire-like elements, starting with a piercing ice-blue stare that comes courtesy of the creepiest contact lenses since Ray Milland’s in X: The Man With X-Ray Eyes. But for all that has been written and scripted about the criminal, the details of his sickening crimes and 16 years on the run have never been fully revealed.

Edgerton’s performance, calling him “especially good,” “equally impressive [as Depp],” and “could be in for an award-worthy breakout.” Edgerton has had supporting roles in such films as the 2010 movie “Animal Kingdom,” 2012’s “Zero Dark Thirty,” and the 2013 Baz Luhrmann version of “The Great Gatsby,” for which he received particularly positive reviews for his role as Tom Buchanan, the husband of Gatsby’s love interest Daisy. The prominent gangster had long functioned as the de facto mob boss of New England – as well as a top informant for the FBI, who fed information on other mob figures to eliminate them as rivals while protecting himself from prosecution. There’s a lot to the man.” “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.” Bulger, now 86, refused to meet or even correspond with Depp, and has no plans to watch the film, even if it ever becomes one of the films piped into the maximum security federal prison in Florida where he is serving two life sentences, Brennan says.

According to Cullen’s book, co-written with Shelley Murphy, the Mafia and Winter Hill tried to play nice for the sake of business, but issues erupted “when they were going after the same money.” As paraphrased from Cullen and Murphy, a vending machine company was paying the Mafia $50,000 per month to house the machines in bars around Boston, and Winter Hill wanted those machines out of its bars in Somerville, Charlestown, Southie, Roxbury, and Dorchester. Jimmy’s menace lies in his stillness, his coldly assessing intelligence, and his unpredictable and lightning-fast shifts between canny businessman and ruthless butcher. Robinson as the Capone-like Rico; “The Public Enemy,” (1931) with a grapefruit-mashing James Cagney; and “Scarface: The Shame of a Nation” (1932), with stage actor Paul Muni in a role inspired, again, by Capone. He was often romanticized as a Robin Hood-type character for keeping drugs out South Boston but in truth, he had taken over the drug trade and became the largest peddler of illegal narcotics in the area’s history.

In real life, when imprisoned in Atlanta in the late ‘50s, Bulger volunteered to experiment with LSD as a test subject as part his efforts to reduce his sentence. It takes a while for Jimmy Bulger to emerge as Black Mass’s lead character—indeed, you could argue that he never quite does, given the near-equal importance to the narrative of Joel Edgerton’s John Connolly, an FBI agent who grew up in the rough Southie neighborhood with Bulger as his friend and protector.

Cooper told EW that the real life federal prosecutor Fred Wyshak [played by Corey Stoll in the film] came to the set one day and he said it was uncanny how much you sounded and moved like Connelly. Of course, Robert De Niro memorably played a baseball bat-wielding Capone in Brian De Palma’s terrific 1987 screen version of the 1960s-era TV series “The Untouchables.” De Palma also directed the aptly notorious 1983 remake of ”Scarface” with Al Pacino in the definitive title role. When I’m inviting someone to come to Toronto, I feel like that jerk who planned a destination wedding.” “ ‘Scarface’ ‘The Godfather,’ ‘Goodfellas’ — with all three, you want to be those guys to some degree.

Jimmy Bulger wasn’t the only boy in his family to rise to a position of power: His younger brother Billy (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a Massachusetts state senator with ambitions to become something more. More recently, Jack Nicholson played a degenerate version of Bulger in Martin Scorsese’s Academy Award-winning “The Departed” (2006), a Boston-set-and-shot remake of a 2002 Hong Kong crime thriller. This meant being injected with the hallucinogenic drug, which, at the time, no one was really familiar with. “Obviously he didn’t know it would have serious effects on him,” Cullen said. “He was told it was a treatment for depression, when it actually was a CIA project trying to figure out crazy stuff about mind control.

The story of how Jimmy Bulger went from small-time hood to Boston’s top kingpin gets told from the points of view of multiple minor players, all testifying against their former boss into a reel-to-reel recorder at a police station. Nicholson’s bloodthirsty Frank Costello almost literally scares an undercover Boston cop played by Leonardo DiCaprio to death with his sadistic behavior and bestial presence. Jesse Plemons, who played a vile neo-Nazi thug in the last two seasons of Breaking Bad, is the first of these narrators, Bulger’s dimwitted but loyal bodyguard and driver. The best Boston-set crime drama remains, however, “The Friends of Eddie Coyle,” a doom-laden 1973 effort shot in Boston and directed by Englishman Peter Yates (“Bullitt,” “Breaking Away”).

After a robbery in 1955, he fled Boston after his partner told police of his involvement but returned in early 1956 – despite the arrest warrant on his head. Kevin Weeks, who Shelley and I interviewed for the book, said Whitey did suffer from that.” In 1991, Michael Linskey bought the winning lottery ticket for a $14.3 million jackpot from a South Boston liquor store owned by Bulger. The wonderful character actor Rory Cochrane plays Steve Flemmi, Jimmy’s right-hand man, whose eyes burn with repressed self-loathing as he commits unspeakable acts at his boss’s behest. Actors also writing and directing projects is nothing new – just ask Orson Welles – but Edgerton could model his career after another actor currently succeeding in all those endeavors: Ben Affleck. He was caught and began a prison term in Atlanta, Georgia before being shipped off to Alcatraz on the big rock in the San Francisco Bay and then to the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas.

After a string of box-office and critical misfires like “Jersey Girl” and “Surviving Christmas,” Affleck began releasing critically well received work that he directed, like “Gone Baby Gone,” and directed and starred in, like “The Town” and “Argo.” The last won the Oscar for Best Picture and his lack of a nomination for Best Director for the film was widely viewed as a snub. There are also several brief appearances by key players in the Bulger story, including a haunting one by Peter Sarsgaard as Brian Halloran, an ill-fated business partner of Whitey’s. Among these informants was Bulger, but also his criminal lieutenant Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, who had been secretly cooperating with the FBI and bribing Morris and Connolly with cash, expensive wine, and fancy trips, beginning in 1975 and ending with Flemmi’s arrest in 1995.

He had no loyalty to anybody but himself.” That tactic attracted Oscar veteran Johnny Depp, whose attachment fast-tracked the feature into production and enticed director Scott Cooper (“Out of the Furnace”) to come onboard. He’s delivering well received acting work like that in the 2014 movie “Gone Girl” and is currently headlining what could be a valuable franchise, starring as Batman in the newest Warner Bros. comic-book adaptation. Years later, Bulger claimed he subsequently suffered headaches and persistent insomnia and told his associates he would use this LSD experiment as a defense in court if he were ever arrested. Connolly, for his part, was able to build his reputation at the bureau as a taker-down of bad guys while enjoying the spoils of the mob lifestyle: decadent parties, flashy suits, gold watches. While we’re probably not going to see a Ben Affleck/Matt Damon Bulger biopic, which is too bad, we can enjoy Pete Postlethwaite’s Whitey-like Fergus “Fergie” Colm in Affleck’s “The Town” (2010), and don’t get me started on the dueling Whitey Bulgers in “Ray Donovan.”

But there are other significant relationships as well, like the strained loyalty between the two Bulger brothers, each striving to succeed in his own racket, one making the laws, one breaking them. Friendship is a sham and everyone’s out to make life easier for themselves, whether it’s Bulger’s lieutenants giving the federal agents evidence against him, or Whitey brutally disposing of Flemmi’s moll because he suspects that the police knows she’s involved with them. Or the deteriorating marriage of Connolly and his wife (Julianne Nicholson), who’s not thrilled about the alleged murderers who gather to grill steaks on her back porch. The writer, whose last name is pronounced “mah-luke” (“like ‘Luke, I am your father,’ ” he quips), earned degrees in economics, psychology and human development. Seeing Depp in a strange wig, buried under a few thousand dollars of make-up, has become a trial in recent years, but once you get used to his receding hairline and piercing grey eyes, it becomes easier to appreciate his performance.

In 2000, investigators uncovered the bodies of six people — King, Debra Davis, Paul McGonagle, Deborah Hussey, Bucky Barrett, and John McIntyre — in the area around Tenean Beach in Neponset, according to Cullen and Murphy’s book. Secondary characters with no more than a scene or two apiece—including Corey Stoll as an FBI higher-up and Juno Temple as a prostitute—leave a lasting impression. Upon graduation, he headed to Pepperdine University in Malibu to attain a master’s in business administration. “I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. Barrett, a likeable guy according to sources, was doing well from his legitimate business but his greed for stolen jewelry that he could resell for a profit proved his undoing.

Though it’s directed by Cooper (Crazy Heart) with an able hand and a fair degree of visual style, Black Mass can’t be said to reinvent the gangster movie; it pulls tricks from Goodfellas, The Godfather, The Departed, and a host of other sagas. This wasn’t a plan, but I was starting to think I could write for something like ‘Letterman,’ ” Mallouk says. “I was walking home thinking, ‘That’s what I want to do: write those kinds of movies.’ I got the paperwork to apply to film school the next day.” He soon graduated from UCLA with a screenwriting degree. He was lured to the same Third Street house on the premise that there was stolen jewelry to be assessed but when he got there, all he saw was Bulger pointing a gun at him and telling him to freeze. Edgerton, all fake charm and bluster, is a good foil—the Australian actor is a far more convincing Bostoner than Cumberbatch, whose accent keeps slipping.

A crime drama called “Somerset Square” that he wrote while in film school got optioned — he describes it as a “modern-day ‘On the Waterfront’ that takes place in Kansas City.” That deal led him to up-and-coming producer Brian Oliver, the head of Cross Creek Pictures. The conversation switched to how much cash Barrett kept in his house which prompted Bulger and Flemmi to immediately pay a visit and help themselves to over $40,000. Cyr, who is now 70 and living in a ramshackle house near Nantasket Beach in Hull, Massachusetts, “doesn’t talk about Whitey,” her neighbor tells PEOPLE. And he understands how to get rid of scenes that don’t drive the plot,” says Oliver, who received an Oscar nomination for producing “Black Swan.” Mallouk’s association with Cross Creek triggered his first official credits as an executive producer on “Rush,” “A Walk Among the Tombstones” and “Everest,” which opened Friday opposite “Black Mass.” “In Toronto, I met Michael Mann (director of “Heat” and “Public Enemies”), who is one of my heroes,” Mallouk says. “During our conversation he’s like, ‘Aren’t you doing that Calabrese thing?’ The home was stockpiled with high-powered weapons secreted in the walls, with bookshelves stocked with Bulger’s favorite mob books, many that featured him. “She’s in love with the guy; if she could be with the guy right now, she’d be with him,” Greig’s lawyer, Kevin Reddington told reporters after she was sentenced to 8 years in prison for helping the fugitive. “He is the love of her life.” Earlier this year, when three teenage girls from a Massachusetts high school wrote to him saying they were writing a school essay about his criminal exploits, he wrote back, “My life is wasted.” Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage?

In May 2014, Connolly’s murder conviction was voided because jurors relied on a “flawed charge,” mainly that Connolly did not carry or discharge the gun used to kill Callahan. They tried to squeeze more cash out of Bucky’s partner in the cocaine and marijuana business who told Bucky to ‘F*** off!’ Bulger rested on the couch upstairs while other gang members buried Bucky in the same dirt basement where Hussey’s body would be buried later that same year. ‘Bucky tumbled down to the bottom of the stairs, where Stevie grabbed his body and dragged him over to the side,’ Weeks later revealed at Bulger’s trial. ‘Stevie had me go get a plastic container with water. We cleaned up all the blood and everything and then [Steve] went over and proceeded to take out Bucky’s teeth.’ Flemmi was fixated on removing the teeth of his victims one by one in the mistaken belief that they couldn’t be identified without them. When Whitey’s follow-up shipment of marijuana was busted, he learned from his man in the FBI, John Connolly, that John McIntyre was suspected and he was soon brought to Third Street.

With body bags procured from a funeral home, picks and shovels, trowels, gloves, surgical masks, and cleaning fluids, Flemmi, Weeks and Nee arrived in the early hours of the morning to do the deed. But there was a problem: the wrong kind of lime had been used when the victims were initially buried and instead of one that accelerates decomposition, a lime that mummified the bodies had been used. Once in the body bags, the bodies were moved to a dense gully in Dorchester, Massachusetts, near Florian Hall where civil servants often met for social functions. Ironically, Bulger’s brother happened to be the influential Massachusetts Senator Billy Bulger – the most powerful politician in the state of Massachusetts who also served as president of the state senate for 16 years.

English writes: ‘Flemmi, an Italian-American, had connections among nearly every criminal faction in the city, including, as it turn out, the FBI’. It was Flemmi’s attorneys who dropped the bombshell in 1997 that Flemmi and Whitey had been covert informants for the Feds dating back to the mid-70s. Flemmi didn’t think he could be prosecuted for his crimes because of the immunity given both men as informants in the Justice Department’s war against the Mafia.

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