Upcoming Movies about Whitey Bulger

Since his arrest in 2011, famed mobster James “Whitey” Bulger has drawn considerable attention from Hollywood and Main Street alike. Styled in the media as the modern day Robin Hood of Greater Boston, Bulger made headlines as a FBI informant in the 1970s, and for his participation in a number of high profile murder cases in the 1980s. In 1991 he once again came into the spotlight after winning the $14 million Massachusetts Lottery, with a ticket, coincidentally purchased from a store he owned.

After more than 15 years on the run, “Whitey” Bulger was finally brought to justice following his arrest in Santa Monica, California in June 2011. Now, several big name Hollywood directors and actors are hoping to make the “Whitey” Bulger story come to life on the big screen.

Bean Town Besties: Ben Affleck and Matt Damon
Boston’s homegrown acting sensation Matt Damon will be teaming up with long-time pal and director Ben Affleck in the Warner Brothers film on “Whitey” Bulger later this year. Although the Affleck-Damon film was the first to be announced, the actors have stiff competition from at least two other big name actors.

Boston Boy Mark Wahlberg
Fellow Boston-born musician turned actor Mark Wahlberg is also considering putting together a film on Bulger. In fact, Wahlberg recently stated that “Whitey” reached out to him about the project. The actor is trying to arrange a sit down with “Whitey” at the Plymouth County Correctional Facility, where he is currently awaiting trial for several federal charges.

Big Screen Favorite: Johnny Depp
Not one to let a juicy role pass him by, Johnny Depp is also getting ready to jump on the Bulger bandwagon, portraying the mob boss in an upcoming Barry Levinson-directed film.

This is not the first time “Whitey” has been in the Hollywood spotlight. In fact, Bulger has served as the inspiration for a number of infamous characters. Jack Nicholson is said to have drawn inspiration from Bulger in giving life to Frank Costello in the Scorsese-directed, Oscar darling, The Departed.

While mobsters are fodder for a number of hit shows and films, the family members and friends of the victims of the alleged crimes are, not surprisingly, less enthusiastic about the prospect of celebrating those accused of committing some of the most violent and gruesome crimes in recent history. The challenge for all of these actors and directors will be to bring “Whitey’s” story to the public without romanticizing it and offending survivors of the mob boss’ alleged victims.

Early Life of James J. “Whitey” Bulger

Although he would later gain notoriety as one of organized crime’s most prolific members and for sharing part of the $14 million prize from a winning Massachusetts Lottery ticket in 1991, James J. “Whitey” Bulger came from humble beginnings. Born in Boston in 1929, “Whitey” Bulger’s father, James Joseph Senior, hailed from Newfoundland, Canada and worked as a longshoreman and laborer. After marrying Junior’s mother, Jane Veronica “Jean” McCarthy, the family moved to Boston’s North End. Unfortunately, James Senior lost an arm in an accident and was left unable to provide for his family. When Junior was ten years old, the family moved to the housing projects in South Boston where Junior’s younger brothers, politician William Michael Bulger, and John P. Bulger were also raised.

Junior showed signed of his preference for a more unconventional career path from an early age. By his early teens, Junior had become a member of the “Shamrocks”, a gang running the streets of South Boston. As a teen, “Whitey” was arrested for a number of crimes, including armed robbery, larceny, and assault. Since he was underage at the time, James Junior was sent to juvenile detention, after which he joined the Air Force. His time in the U.S.A.F. took Junior far from his New England roots as he was stationed in Kansas and Idaho. However, old habits proved hard to break and he spent some time in the military stockade for assault. Shortly before accepting an honorable discharge and returning to his home state in 1952, Junior was also arrested for being A.W.O.L.

Back in Massachusetts, it wasn’t long before “Whitey” was sentenced to three years at USP Atlanta from 1956 to 1959. During that time, Junior also participated in a CIA study regarding the use of mind altering substances. Junior’s sentence was reduced as part of his compensation for participating in the project, although he later claimed he was duped into joining the project, thinking the goal was to find a cure for mental illness. From 1959 to 1965, “Whitey” was transferred to Alcatraz before being moved to Leavenworth and finally Lewisburg in order to serve the remaining six years of his federal sentence, before finally being released at the age of 36.