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Johnny Depp to play Whitey Bulger?

Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger? It’s in the works, according to the authors of “Black Mass.” The Oscar-nominated actor who’s recently been a pirate, a vampire, and the Mad Hatter will play Bulger in a Barry Levinson-helmed, Mark Mallouk-penned adaptation of “Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob,” the Bulger book written by former Boston Globe investigative reporters Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill. Deadline.com reported the news about the project Saturday night, saying that production would begin in May. No word on location. Lehr told us Sunday that he believes Depp (inset) will make a fine Whitey. “He’s certainly one of the best actors of our time and he can certainly fill any role.” O’Neill added: “He’s got Donnie Brasco under his belt. Now he’ll have Whitey Bulger there, too.” The news makes us wonder about the fate of Ben Affleck’s plans for a film about the former Boston mob boss. Affleck told us at a Boston screening of “Argo” in September that he already had an original script in the works by Terry Winter, of “Boardwalk Empire,” and that Matt Damon was all set to play Whitey. Ben’s brother, Casey, would play Bulger’s brother Billy in the film, which Affleck would direct. Affleck said, “It’s one of those things: If you do Whitey, you better make damn sure you execute and make a good movie.”

O’Neill explained that before “Black Mass” made its way into the hands of the project’s current producer, Brian Oliver, of Cross Creek Pictures, Harvey Weinstein had optioned the book for Affleck and Damon through Miramax. That option lapsed after a year. The first director attached to the project once Oliver was in charge was Jim Sheridan, of “In the Name of the Father.”

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