Johnny Depp will star as notorious gangster Whitey Bulger in "Black Mass," an upcoming film that "Rain Man" director Barry Levinson will direct, Cross Creek Pictures and Exclusive Media announced on Saturday.
Cross Creek and Exclusive Media are co-producing and co-financing the project, which Universal will release domestically as part of its deal with Cross Creek.
The film's title stems from the New York Times bestseller "Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob." Written by Boston Globe reporters Dick Lehr and Gerald O'Neill, the film chronicles a gangster who was on the FBI's Most Wanted List for more than a decade and was also an FBI informant.
Bulger, who served as the basis for Jack Nicholson's character in "The Departed," was the brother of a state senator and one of the most famous criminals in Boston history.
Mark Mallouk wrote a new adaptation of the books after Bulger was captured in Santa Monica in 2011 at the age of 81. Boston native Ben Affleck has his own project in the works with fellow Bostonian Matt Damon likely to play Bulger, but this film will enter production first.
"I could not be more thrilled to have the biggest star in the world and Academy Award winning director Barry Levinson to finally bring this incredible story to the big screen," Cross Creek president Brian Oliver said in a statement. "Black Mass expertly details the twists and turns of this highly complex story, painting a vivid portrait of Boston's underbelly and its corrupt political machine, as well as exposing the worst scandal in FBI history."
Oliver will produce the movie with Tyler Thompson, Nigel Sinclair, Tobin Armbrust, John Lesher and Christi Dembrowski. Exclusive's Armbrust and Cross Creek's Adam Kassan will oversee production. Exclusive's Alex Walton will begin selling the movie at the upcoming European Film Market in Berlin.
Exclusive and Cross Creek worked together on George Clooney's "The Ides of March," "The Woman in Black" and the upcoming "Rush," Ron Howard's movie about a Formula One driver.
Depp, who will appear on screens this summer in "The Lone Ranger," was supposed to star next in "Transcendence," the directorial debut of Wally Pfister. Pfister has been Christopher Nolan's cinematographer on films like "The Dark Knight" and "Inception."
That project is awaiting a rewrite, and this film is intended to begin production in May.