While the name Johnny Depp evokes visions of flamboyant pirates and Tim Burton eccentrics, the actor’s filmography also features an intriguing emphasis on true crime. Through his films, Depp has explored the worlds of Jack the Ripper (From Hell), John Dillinger (Public Enemies), drug smuggler George Jung (Blow), and the Bonanno crime family (Donnie Brasco). According to The Hollywood Reporter, the actor plans to return to this milieu when he collaborates with director Barry Levinson—who produced Donnie Brasco and directed Warren Beatty in Bugsy, the well-regarded gangster biopic from 1991—on Black Mass, an adaptation of the book about notorious Boston gangster Whitey Bulger. Arrested in 2011 after spending 12 years on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, the 83-year-old mob boss has been indicted on 19 counts of murder and is currently serving an eight-year sentence for identity fraud.
Widely known as the inspiration for Jack Nicholson’s character in The Departed, Bulger is also the subject of a biopic that Ben Affleck and Matt Damon have been working on for several years. Affleck plans to direct and Damon plans to star, but Affleck claims that the script still requires a great deal of work, making it unlikely that it will be his next film as director. This means that Depp and Levinson should be first out of the gate, limiting the options available to Damon and Affleck. Still, after roughly 60 years of criminal activity, Bulger’s story includes more than enough dramatic incident to support both films, assuming Affleck is interested in directing the second Bulger biopic.