‘Black Mass’: How Johnny Depp’s character was unmasked

One of the most fascinating things about "Black Mass" is how its shocking real-life story was first revealed in the book upon which the film is based. At a recent Q&A screening in New York City, one of its writers, Dick Lehr, said he stumbled upon the fact that Irish-American mobster Whitey Bulger (played by Johnny Depp) was a secret FBI informant while he worked as investigative reporter for the Boston Globe. (Listen to the full podcast audio below.)

"In the late 1980s I was part of a team of reporters who went after a story that seemed fascinating – the tale of two brothers," he recalled. "There was Whitey the gangster and his younger brother Bill, who was arguably the most powerful politician in Massachusetts. One of the mysteries we were looking into was Whitey's Houdini-like ability to not even get a traffic ticket while being the crime boss of Boston for some 20 years."

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What he and Gerard O'Neill ended up uncovering was "a blockbuster story" that they chronicled in  their 2001 bestseller “Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob.” Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth adapted it for the screen. 

This in-depth Q&A was moderated by writer Gay Talese. Among the other talent on the panel were director Scott Cooper, stars Peter Sarsgaard and Julianne Nicholson, producer John Lesher and New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton, who worked in Boston during Bulgers' reign.

Listen to the full Q&A podcast audio below.

Photo: Johnny Depp in "Black Mass." Credit: Warner Bros. 

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