Twice in the past five years Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson has attempted to make a film about a real-life gangster - Gotti: In the Shadow of My Father and then Black Mass - and on each separate occasion the respective project has hit a roadblock, only to begin moving forward again, with a new director. The latter crime/biopic is now progressing at a pace to reach the finish line (read: hit theaters) next year.
Black Mass is about Whitey Bulger, the infamous Boston crime boss who spent decades eliminating the competition by ratting them out to the FBI - in part through his childhood friend-turned federal agent John Connolly - before he went on the lam (thanks to a tipoff from Connolly) for ten years and was finally caught in 2011. Johnny Depp is set to realize Bulger's larger-than-life personality on the big screen, after having dropped out for a while due to salary issues.
Deadline is reporting that Warner Bros. has signed on to co-finance Black Mass with Cross Creek Pictures, in addition to handling the film's worldwide release. Production on Black Mass is set to begin on location in Boston in about two months, so that Depp can fit the movie into his work schedule before he plays dress-up in two Disney blockbuster sequels - Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and Alice in Wonderland 2 - that are scheduled and/or expected to reach theaters by Summer 2016.
Meanwhile, WB is currently eying Black Mass for an as-yet nonspecific October 2015 theatrical release date. However, although last we heard Deadline's sources had learned that Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) was being eyed to play Connolly in the film (Hardy is appearing on the TV series Peaky Binders instead), it now appears that Joel Edgerton (The Great Gatsby) - who was reported to have nearly closed a deal to play Connolly around a year ago - is firmly back in place as Depp's costar.
Scott Cooper - after stepping away from the gestating movie adaptation of Stephen King's The Stand - recently assumed the helm on Black Mass, which has a script in place by Mark Mallouk (executive producer on Rush), based on the 2001 book Black Mass: The True Story Of An Unholy Alliance Between The FBI and The Irish Mob - though, with a heavily-revised third-act, to include Bulger's capture. Cooper's sophomore feature Out of the Furnace last year failed to please critics as much as his debut Crazy Heart, but no doubt he'll be swinging for the fences again on this one.
Indeed, high-minded star-powered fare like Black Mass generally perform well at the Fall box office (see: historical drama/thriller Argo), as part of the awards-seaon lineup that serves as counter-programming to the season's genre offerings - which, in October next year, will include Disney's live-action The Jungle Book, Guillermo del Toro's haunted house feature Crimson Peak and the supernatural/horror sequel The Conjuring 2; with Depp in the lead, Black Mass is well-positioned to do right by itself.
We'll keep you updated on Black Mass's status as more information is made available.