The film Black Mass, which is meant to tell the story of high-profile Massachusettes gangster Whitey Bulger, would have been a Donnie Brasco reunion of sorts, but the idea of Johnny Depp playing Bulger seemed a little weird. Now it isn’t happening.
Black Mass is to be directed by Donnie Brasco producer Barry Levinson, based on Dick Lehr and Gerald O’Neill’s 2001 book Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob. But now Depp has pulled out of the project, after sluggish pre-sales at Cannes led producers to ask the actor to reduce his $20m quote.
The numbers here are actually pretty staggering: THR reports that Black Mass has been budgeted in the high $60m range, which means that Depp’s price is one-third of the budget. That’s what it takes to get Jack Sparrow into your movie.
The trade says that as producers were looking to reduce the budget, they asked about cutting Depp’s fee in half. “The actor and his reps refused,” says the report, and in this case it may well be the reps who were doing more of the refusing. When you’ve got a client whose quote is twenty million, cutting it for an indie isn’t going to be something many on the agency side will want to do.
Joel Edgerton was recently attached to play the FBI agent who was also, coincidentally, a childhood friend of Bulger’s, and who tipped off the gangster that his arrest was imminent. Whether he’ll stay on without Depp is open to question.