Johnny Depp Brings A Notorious Gangster To Life In the #1 Movie On Streaming

Johnny Depp plays real-life gangster Whitey Bulger in Black Mass, the number one film on HBO Max.

By Jessica Goudreault | Published

johnny depp

Johnny Depp’s 2015 gangster biopic Black Mass is currently #1 on HBO MAX(via FlixPatrol). In this film, the often funny and romantic Pirates of the Caribbean actor stunned audiences with his accurate and terrifying portrayal of the infamous Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger. The film follows the true story of the gangster’s wild and fascinating life as a gangster and an FBI informant.

Black Mass takes place in Boston during the 1970s, bringing to life the story of Whitey Bugler (Johnny Depp), who took a very different career path from his brother Bill (Benedict Cumberbatch), a powerful Massachusetts senator. The story follows Johnny Depp as he leads his Massachusetts Winter Hill Gang while at the same time becoming an FBI informant to try and take down his rival, the Italian mob.

The film also largely focuses on Whitey Bulger’s relationship with FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton). Johnny Depp’s character originally agreed to become an informant for the FBI to protect his gang while bringing down his rival, but after their alliance goes awry, Whitey Bulger escapes from the feds and becomes one of the most wanted men in America.

Black Mass features an all-star cast with Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, and Benedict Cumberbatch as some of the top characters. Dakota Johnson, known for her roles in the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, plays Lindsey Cyr, Whitey Bulger’s long-time partner and the mother of his child. To round out the impressive cast, Kevin Bacon and Adam Scott play FBI detectives alongside Joel Edgerton’s character, and Stranger Things star David Harbour plays their boss, John Morris.

The real Whitey Bulger did lead a truly crazy life of crime, becoming one of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives in 1999 (right behind Osama bin Laden) after being a fugitive for five years. When he was 81 years old, he was finally caught in California and tried for the 19 murders he supposedly committed, along with racketeering and money laundering among other crimes. He was found guilty of 11 murders and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences plus five years.

At 89 years old, the wheelchair-bound Whitey Bulger was murdered by his fellow inmates at the United States Penitentiary Hazelton. The former crime boss had only been at the prison for less than a day when he was beaten to death by the inmates Fotios Geas, Paul J. DeCologero, and Sean McKinnon. There is a rumor that these men may have been working for a Massachusetts mafia hitman.

To prepare for his role as the notorious gangster, Johnny Depp attempted to talk with the actual Whitey Bulger while he was still alive but was unable to meet with him. Thankfully, the Hollywood star had plenty of practice playing a gangster, since he portrayed undercover agent Joseph D. Pistone in Donnie Brasco (1997), drug trafficker George Jung in Blow (2001), and the legendary gangster John Dillinger in Public Enemies (2009).

To perfect the Boston accent that Whitey Bulger was known for, Johnny Depp spent a lot of time with Aerosmith’s guitarist Joe Perry, likely jamming together. Director Scott Cooper also hired former associates of Whitey Bulger as consultants for Black Mass. They were all blown away by Johnny Depp’s performance and have been quoted as saying, “That’s Whitey.”

Johnny Depp has gone on record saying that Black Mass is his favorite movie that he has ever done, which is surprising since he famously does not watch his own movies. He was about to leave the movie premiere without watching the film, but director Scott Cooper asked him to stay and watch it, so he obliged. While many would love to know what Whitey Bulger thought of the movie (since he was still alive when it was released), the former gangster refused to see it.

Black Mass ended up grossing a total of $99.8 million worldwide with a production budget of $53 million. In addition to its 73 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and its 6.9 out of 10 rating on IMDb, the film was nominated for many awards, including Best Film at Satellite Awards. Ultimately, Johnny Depp ended up winning the Maltin Modern Master Award from the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and the Desert Palm Achievement Award (actor) from the Palm Springs International Film Festival.