Often in Hollywood, it’s a game of massaging egos versus making decisions that are smart for the bottom line, and Warner Bros. had some tough decisions to make this week. The studio was given the opportunity to come aboard and co-finance “Black Mass,” the Johnny Depp-starring flick based on the life of notorious gangster Whitey Bulger. But in doing so they had to kibosh a similar project by one of their golden boys.
Deadline reveals that WB has meanwhile scuttled plans for the long-developing Bulger pic being developed by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, with the the former directing and the latter starring. The story goes that the pair were given a heads up before the announcement went public, but the timing was still unfortunately as Terence Winter (“Boardwalk Empire“) had just turned in his latest draft. Naturally, feelings were hurt. And WB will certainly want to make sure they keep Affleck happy somehow as he’s delivered “The Town” and “Argo” for them, has “Live By Night” in the pipeline and he’s also their new Batman. We wouldn’t be surprised if within a few days or weeks we hear of a new Affleck priority project set up at the studio.
Meanwhile, the Scott Cooper flick continues to ramp up. To refresh your memory, it’s based on the bestselling book by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill, “Black Mass: Whitey Bulger, The FBI, and a Devil’s Deal,” and tells the story of one of the FBI’s Most Wanted men and the fearsome leader of the The Winter Hill Gang, who counted murder and racketeering among his crimes. He was also an informant to the FBI.
Bulger is a pretty great part and it’s easy to see WB are rolling the dice with Depp playing a gangster, but there has been one casting change. While Tom Hardy was recently named as the new co-star, playing FBI agent John Connolly, a childhood friend who tipped off Bulger that he was going to be prosecuted, that role is now being played by Joel Edgerton who was originally attached to the movie last summer.
Anyway, it looks like the project is on firm ground and there’s likely more news to come with production to start this spring.