From Edward Scissorhands to Jack Sparrow, Johnny Depp has long demonstrated a proclivity towards drastically altering his appearance when getting into a role. As it turns out, his part in his next movie, Scott Cooper’s Black Mass, is yet another performance that can be added to that ever-growing list, as the actor has once again changed his entire look in order to portray notorious real-life gangster Whitey Bulger.
I know about this new extreme makeover because this evening I had the chance to watch the first ever footage from Black Mass, which was shown during the Warner Bros. presentation at the currently-ongoing CinemaCon in Las Vegas. The studio didn’t show too much from the film – basically a teaser trailer – but the footage did feature a good dose of drama to go along with Johnny Depp’s latest physical transformation.
The preview began with Depp’s Whitey Bulger sitting at a dinner table and enjoying a nice steak dinner with FBI Agent John Morris (David Harbour). Clearly meant to look quite a bit older, Depp is featured with a severely receding hairline, slicked-back thinning locks, and a pair of sky blue eyes. Clearly enjoying his meal, he asks Morris about the special marinade that he used on the meat. Morris insists that it’s a family secret and that he’s unwilling to give it up, but Bulger continues to needle him, begging for what makes the meal so special. Eventually, Morris gives in and admits that the trick is simply a mix of garlic powder and soy. From the look on Bulger’s face, however, he’s none too satisfied with this answer – and suddenly there is a major tone change in the footage.
Bulger, with rising anger featured in his voice, begins to question why Morris would be so willing to immediately give up the ingredients of the marinade, and while the dinner host insists that what he was saying was little more than a recipe, Bulger explains that Morris first told him that it was a secret. The gangster continues to talk as we see a montage of scenes featuring shots of both criminal activity and the law at work, as well as many members of Black Mass’ fantastic supporting cast, including Benedict Cumberbatch as Whitey’s brother, Bill Bulger, Joel Edgerton as FBI Agent John Connelly, Kevin Bacon, and Adam Scott. Bulger wonders aloud if Morris’ willingness to give up the steak flavorings is a sign that he can’t actually be trusted with important information. Morris appears to be absolutely terrified, as his dinner companion never breaks his gaze… but then the air quickly rushes back into the room, as Bulger lets out a hearty laugh.
Watching the Black Mass footage, I was admittedly of two minds. On the one hand, I thought that the footage was captivating and cool, with Johnny Depp doing great stuff with the mini-monologue about potentially not being able to trust David Harbour’s character. At the same time, though, I also found myself constantly aware that I was looking at Johnny Depp playing Whitey Bulger, as opposed to just seeing Whitey Bulger. Honestly, a big part of the issue is the actor’s eyes, which just don’t look real (admittedly, this is something that could change in the post-production process). Hopefully the look will be a bit less distracting when viewed as a whole performance in the finished cut of the film.
In Black Mass, Johnny Depp will play Whitey Bulger over the course of several decades, following him, his brother, and his childhood friend as they all find themselves entangled in one of the biggest FBI scandals of all time. Warner Bros. will be releasing the movie in theaters on September 18th, so hopefully it won’t be too long before the first trailer finds its way online.