The line between life and art is often blurred, and when the art is dealing with dangerous subject matter based on real life people, that danger can jump out from the screen and into the real world. Such was the case for Scott Cooper's 2015 film Black Mass, which saw Johnny Depp playing notorious Boston mobster James 'Whitey' Bulger. The Black Mass director admits that he actually got death threats over the movie, as he explained.
I will say, anytime you make a film about real life events and you try to do it with the type of authenticity I was striving for, you never stop looking over your shoulder. You make a movie about people like that who might not like the way they're portrayed, and watch out.
Scott Cooper, who also directed Crazy Heart and last year's Hostiles, didn't want to get into specifics about what happened as a result of Black Mass and any kind of death threats he received. Yet it does seem clear that they happened and they affected him.
In his comments to Deadline, Scott Cooper seems to acknowledge the cost of making the kind of movie he wanted to make with Black Mass, where a desire for authenticity and realism means depicting real-life people and making artistic choices for the story. The consequences of doing that means that those real-life people, and in this case dangerous ones, might not like the way they are portrayed and they respond in scary ways.
Scott Cooper seems to have an understanding about the whole situation. Having went through it, he understands the hazards of telling these types of stories and acknowledges the caution one must take when doing so.
This just goes to show how fearless some filmmakers are to tackle these kinds of subjects. It's one thing to make a movie about Attila the Hun, who isn't around to be upset, but it's another entirely to make a movie about gangsters and murderers who are still very much alive.
In preparation for Black Mass, the filmmakers extensively researched their subject, but neither Scott Cooper, nor Johnny Depp ever met the man at the center of it all, Whitey Bulger. The mob boss and FBI informant denied their requests to talk.
Whitey Bulger will now never get to see his side of the story depicted on the big screen, as the infamous gangster met his end at the age of 89. Whitey Bulger was found beaten to death in his cell in a West Virginia prison on October 30.
While Whitey Bulger is gone, I expect this won't be the last time we see his story committed to film, as the runtime of Black Mass couldn't possibly cover all the intrigue, drama and carnage left by this legendary life of crime.
Scott Cooper is currently filming his next movie, the supernatural horror-thriller Antlers, starring Keri Russell and Jesse Plemons. That film does not yet have a release date, but it could presumably hit theaters in 2019. For all the movies that are scheduled to hit theaters next year, check out our 2019 release calendar.