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Benedict Cumberbatch Replaces Guy Pearce in Johnny Depp’s Whitey Bulger Movie

Benedict Cumberbatch has replaced Guy Pearce in the untitled Whitey Bulger biopic starring Johnny Depp.

Cross Creek Pictures president Brian Oliver told Variety that Pearce departed due to scheduling issues on the project, which had been titled “Black Mass” and began shooting Wednesday in Boston with Scott Cooper directing. “We were not able to make it work with Guy,” he added.

Cumberbatch will portray Billy Bulger, Whitey Bulger’s law-abiding brother and a Massachusetts State Senator. Joel Edgerton is playing disgraced FBI agent John Connolly, who aided Bulger and was sentenced to 40 years in prison despite maintaining his innocence.

Jesse Plemons (“Breaking Bad”) will portray Bulger’s longtime partner in crime, Kevin Weeks, and Sienna Miller will play his lover, Catherine Greig. Dakota Johnson has been cast as Bulger’s former girlfriend and mother of his only child.

Other cast members are Rory Cochrane, Julianne Nicholson, Adam Scott,  David Harbour, Jeremy Strong, Brad Carter, W. Earl Brown and Corey Stoll.

Brian Oliver, Tyler Thompson, John Lesher, Patrick McCormick and Scott Cooper are producing with Peter Mallouk, Lauren Selig, Brett Granstaff and Gary Granstaff serving as executive producers.

Warner Bros. came on board in February to co-finance with Cross Creek and release the film — then titled “Black Mass” — with Depp returning as the ruthless Boston mobster. He had dropped out last summer over money issues.

Oliver said last year that he had been trying to make the Bulger movie since 2004.

The project is based on the book “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. Mark Mallouk penned the script.

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 was found guilty last year on 31 counts, covering 11 murders, and was sentenced to two consecutive life terms plus five years for his crimes.

Cumberbatch, Tye Sheridan and Will Poulter recently came on board Iraq war drama “The Yellow Birds,” which was unveiled at Cannes. The pic revolves around two young soldiers (Sheridan and Poulter) who are taken under the wing of an older sergeant (Cumberbatch) as they are deployed to Iraq.

Cumberbatch will next be seen in “The Imitation Game” for the Weinstein Co.

He’s repped by UTA in the U.S. and John Grant at Conway Van Gelder Grant in the U.K.

News of Cumberbatch’s casting on “Black Mass” was first reported by the Boston Globe.

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