×

Johnny Depp Drops Out of Whitey Bulger Biopic

Cross Creek seeking a replacement for thesp as future dims for 'Black Mass'

With Johnny Depp leaving “Black Mass,” odds are that the Whitey Bulger drama won’t make it to the big screen any time soon.

A rep for Cross Creek said that the production-financing company was seeking a replacement for Depp, who had come on board with Barry Levinson directing amid fanfare in February just before the start of the Berlin market.

SEE ALSO: ‘Alice in Wonderland’ Sequel in the Works (EXCLUSIVE)

The rep refused to answer questions as to when the production would start and how Depp’s departure would impact foreign sales. Exclusive Media, which is co-financing, had no comment, but several sources indicated that buyers could easily back out of territorial sales agreements made at the markets at Berlin and Cannes given the absence of the “essential element” of Depp.

Joel Edgerton remains attached to “Black Mass” as an FBI agent as does Levinson.

It’s uncertain why Depp fell out though speculation has risen it was triggered by a request for a reduction in his standard $20 million fee. His attachment to the project made it one of the most prominent titles for sale at Berlin and Cannes and his departure underlines the uncertainties in the world of independent financing — even for prominent players such as Cross Creek and Exclusive Media, which have teamed on high-profile projects including “The Ides of March,” “The Woman in Black” and a pair of upcoming titles — Ron Howard’s racing drama “Rush” and “A Walk Among the Tombstones,” starring Liam Neeson.

Efforts to make the film about the ruthless Boston gangster date back almost a decade with Jim Sheridan and Ben Affleck attached as directors at various points.

The project’s producers include Cross Creek’s Brian Oliver and Tyler Thompson along with John Lesher. Oliver announced at Berlin that he had been trying to make the Bulger movie since 2004.

The project is based on “Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob,” written by Boston Globe reporters Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill.

Bulger, the head of Boston’s Winter Hill Gang, was captured in Santa Monica in 2011 after being on the lam for 16 years. Bulger fled authorities in Boston just before he was indicted in 1995 for federal racketeering. He’s currently in prison in Massachusetts, where he is awaiting trial on allegations that he participated in 19 murders.

Depp is currently filming Wally Pfister’s sci-fier “Transcendence” and is lined up for Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean 5,” which could begin shooting late this year with “Kon-Tiki” helmers Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg.

The absence of Depp doesn’t necessarily doom “Black Mass.” Natalie Portman’s indie Western “Jane Got a Gun” managed to get made despite the departures of director Lynne Ramsay just before shooting started along with stars Michael Fassbender, Jude Law and Bradley Cooper.

“Jane” was directed by Gavin O’Connor and stars Portman, Edgerton, Ewan McGregor, Noah Emmerich and Rodrigo Santoro. Exclusive Media has been selling foreign rights for “Jane”; a deal by CAA for U.S. rights with Relativity and The Weinstein Co. came together last week after footage was shown at Cannes.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Rob Schneider'The Week Of' film premiere,

    Film News Roundup: Rob Schneider Wins SAG-AFTRA National Board Seat

    In today’s film news roundup, Rob Schneider wins a SAG-AFTRA board seat; “Badland,” “Sorry We Missed You” and “Extracurricular” find homes; and “The Shawshank Redemption” gets a re-release.  SAG-AFTRA Rob Schneider has won a SAG-AFTRA national board seat as a member of presidential candidate Matthew Modine’s progressive Membership First slate. Schneider won a four-year term [...]

  • This photo shows actor David Oyelowo

    David Oyelowo Joins George Clooney in 'Good Morning, Midnight' Adaptation (EXCLUSIVE)

    David Oyelowo is in final negotiations to join George Clooney in Netflix’s untitled adaptation of Lily Brooks-Dalton’s 2016 novel “Good Morning, Midnight,” sources tell Variety. Felicity Jones and Kyle Chandler are also on board, with Clooney set to helm the pic — his first feature film directing gig since 2017’s “Suburbicon.” “The Revenant” screenwriter Mark [...]

  • Disney Delays 'Cruella,' 'Woman in the

    Disney Delays 'Cruella,' 'Woman in the Window'

    Disney is shaking up its release calendar, delaying its live action “Cruella” until Memorial Day 2021 and pushing Fox 2000 drama “The Woman in the Window” to 2020. “Cruella,” starring Emma Stone, is based on the classic “101 Dalmatians” villain Cruella de Vil. The revisit to Disney’s animated classic was originally set to hit theaters [...]

  • Spider-Man Could Leave the Marvel Cinematic

    Spider-Man Could Leave MCU if Disney, Sony Can't Reach Financing Deal

    Disney’s Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures have hit an impasse on new financing terms for upcoming Spider-Man movies, sources have told Variety. If a deal cannot be reached, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige will not produce future Spider-Man films, effectively removing Tom Holland’s Spider-Man from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Reps for Disney, Marvel and Sony [...]

  • Australia Makes Progress on Gender Equality

    Australia Makes Progress on Gender Equality in Film and TV

    Screen Australia, Australia’s federal film and TV funding body, has made sufficient progress in furthering gender equality that it has set more ambitious targets. The organization has exceeded its long-term Gender Matters key performance indicator, with 56% of projects receiving production funding having at least half of the key creative roles occupied by women, based [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content