Best buds (and Oscar-winning screenwriters) Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are ready to join forces again on a new project: a biographical film about infamous Irish crook James Joseph “Whitey” Bulger Jr. – the recently-captured fugitive from justice who (among other things) was the inspiration for Jack Nicholson’s character in director Martin Scorsese’s The Departed.
While nothing is set in stone just yet, the plan is for Damon to play Whitey Bulger and Affleck to direct – working with a script by multiple Emmy-winner Terence Winter (The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire).
This new Affleck/Damon Whitey Bulger project is one of several in-development, alongside Oscar-winning Departed producer Graham King’s new film – an “inspired by” movie based on Bulger’s life; a cinematic adaptation of the Bulger-oriented book “Black Mass” from Black Swan producer Brian Oliver; and another non-fiction literary adaptation from Twilight star-turned-producer Peter Facinelli, based on the book “Street Soldier: My Life as an Enforcer for Whitey Bulger and the Boston Irish Mob”.
Quick bit of history: Whitey Bulger took control of South Boston’s Winter Hill Gang around 1979 and was eventually indicted for federal racketeering in 1995. However, Bulger had actually been a FBI informant since the ’70s and was able to flee from the authorities, thanks to a tipoff from his contact: federal agent John J. Connolly Jr. (the inspiration for Damon’s character in The Departed). Bulger was eventually caught and arrested at a luxurious Santa Monica apartment in the summer of 2011.
Here’s what Damon told GQ, with regards to his and Affleck’s planned approach to dramatizing Whitey’s life:
“If it’s a straight biopic, we’ll do it over a period of time. But it’s always a question of what part of the story do you tell, and biopics are always a little cumbersome. So do we find another way in? We’re still figuring it out.”
Bulger’s story is one of those that almost sounds like it was imagined by a Hollywood screenwriter – similar to Affleck’s next directorial effort, the true-story CIA thriller, Argo. It’s no wonder filmmakers of all creeds are leaping at the chance to offer their own spin on the tale of a colorful character like Bulger.
That said – Affleck has already demonstrated a knack for helming solid crime dramas/thrillers (see: Gone Baby Gone and The Town), so this new collaboration with Damon sounds like a good fit for him – more so than The Stand, which Warner Bros. wants Affleck to write and direct in the near future. Plus, with Winter handling screenwriting duties, the Good Will Hunting duo’s Bulger project has all the more potential to be an intelligent and entertaining period crime saga… perhaps as good (if not better) than director Ridley Scott’s true-story historical crime flick, American Gangster.
Expect to hear more about Affleck and Damon’s Whitey Bulger project in the future.