Johnny Depp attended the Venice Film Festival, where his latest opus, Black Mass, impressed audiences, but, as Vanity Fair reports, the real Whitey Bulger wasn’t the slightest bit interested in the film or in Depp’s requests to meet with him. In discussing his efforts in portraying Whitey accurately, Johnny revealed that he reached out to the real Whitey Bulger in the hopes of meeting with the convicted gangster.
While it would seem that meeting a celebrity of Depp’s stature would be a welcome diversion to one serving two life sentences in a Sumterville, Florida, federal prison, Whitey apparently chose to decline the visit.
“I asked to meet James Bulger through his attorney, Jay Carney,” Depp said. “And—as expected—I knew this wouldn’t happen, Bulger respectfully declined because I don’t believe he was a great fan of the book Black Mass…I also don’t believe he was a great fan of any of the books written about him.”
While Johnny never realized his hope of gaining inspiration directly from Bulger, Depp does reveal that other sources were helpful in inspiring his Black Mass portrayal.
“But Jay Carney was very helpful to me in finding James Bulger,” Depp continued. “First and foremost, he said, ‘I ain’t gonna say nothin’ that Jimmy wouldn’t want me to say. I will say this, and I’ll say this, but I won’t say anything over here.’ But Jay came to the set a couple of times and watched, and he gave me a lot of confidence because he said he could feel his old friend in what I was doing, which was a very high compliment.”
Johnny was dedicated to presenting himself as Whitey in as accurate a manner as possible. F.B.I. surveillance tapes and audio recordings of Bulger helped Depp deliver the chilling performance seen in Black Mass.
“It was very, very important to look as much like Jimmy Bulger as humanly possible,” the Black Mass actor said. “My eyeballs are black as the ace of spades, so clearly the blue contacts…they were hand-painted because they needed to be piercing, they needed to cut right through you.”
While at the Venice Film Festival, Variety reports that Mr. Depp was asked if he found it difficult to step into such an evil character as is seen in Black Mass.
“I found the evil in myself a long time ago. I accept it, we are old friends. But with James Bulger, I think you have to approach him as just a human being,” Johnny said.
Depp added that transformations like the one seen in Black Mass are “very challenging, and I think that’s important as an actor, to test yourself, challenge yourself each time. Take the chance that you may actually fall flat on your face and look like a complete ass. That’s what I do for a living!”
[Featured image: Johnny Depp courtesy of Ian Gavan/Getty Images]