Regional crime boss James Joseph “Whitey” Bulger has a curiously strong hold on the imaginations of filmmakers. As one of the last of a largely bygone generation of gangsters, Bulger has become an inspiration for those looking to create screen villains — Jack Nicholson’s character in The Departed, for example, was based on Bulger. So was Pete Postlethwaite’s character in The Town.

The Boston-area criminal has captured the interest of Boston-area filmmakers Ben Affleck and Matt Damon as well, and the two have planned a Bulger film for a couple years now. Looks like the will be beat to the punch, however, by Barry Levinson. The director is attached to Black Mass, a film 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.

Now Levinson has landed Johnny Depp — star of the Levinson-produced crime film Donnie Brasco — to play Bulger. That gives Black Mass serious momentum. Read More »

The world doesn’t necessarily need another found-footage horror film, but Barry Levinson‘s well-crafted The Bay reminds us why there are so many of them to begin with. The format does precisely what it’s supposed to here, ramping up the dread through the illusion of reality. Combine that with Levinson’s commitment to (relative) plausibility and incisive understanding of human nature, and we’re left with an eco-horror film whose scares linger long after the credits roll.

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It’s July 4 and a coastal playground in the Northeastern US is under attack from something that comes from the water. Familiar as that premise sounds to Jaws fans, this is something different. The Bay is from Barry Levinson (Wag the Dog, Rain Man) and is a found-footage assembly that looks at what happens when pollution-mutated parasites start burrowing into people.

This is like a grand found-footage mash-up, featuring viral horror, zombie-like aftereffects, and an obvious updated influence from Jaws, in at least the film’s first act. Check out the trailer below. Read More »

Barry Levinson, director of the baseball classic The Natural, is about to return to the diamond once more. The filmmaker is set to direct a biopic of legendary sports star Hank Aaron, based on the Howard Bryant tome The Last Hero: The Life Story of Henry Aaron. Adam Mazer, who previously penned Levinson’s You Don’t Know Jack, will provide the script.

The new film will follow Aaron’s quest to defeat Babe Ruth’s home run record, which he ultimately did on April 8, 1974 with his 715th home run. (Aaron’s own record was eventually eclipsed by Barry Bonds in 2007.) Casting for the film is expected to get underway shortly.

Perhaps spurred on by the success of last year’s Moneyball, baseball movies seem to be cropping up all over the place as of late. In addition to the Aaron biopic, there’s also Brian Helgeland’s Jackie Robinson tale 42 and Robert Lorenz’ Trouble with the Curve. [Variety]

After the jump, MacGruber director Jorma Taccone lands another action comedy.

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The film Gotti: In the Shadow of My Father has had a difficult path from development to screen. In fact, it looks like the project has fully stalled out before cameras were even able to roll.

While Barry Levinson came on board a few months ago (replacing Nick Cassavetes) and a cast had started to shape up with deals for John Travolta, Al Pacino, Ben Foster, Kelly Preston and possibly Joe Pesci, the time has come when some of those people were meant to be paid. And if reports are correct, there is no money to pay them. As a result, the movie has been put on hold. It almost certainly won’t make a planned January start date, but we don’t know if the project will die altogether. Read More »

There are some films that seem like logical inspirations for Broadway musicals — such as Sister Act, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and The Lion King, to name just a few of the shows currently playing on the Great White Way. Barry Levinson‘s 1982 coming-of-age dramedy Diner doesn’t seem like one of them. Although the film boasts an impressive soundtrack of midcentury classics, with hits by Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, and Bobby Darin, the talky, meandering picture doesn’t seem like a natural fit for the flashy song-and-dance numbers of a typical Broadway production.

Nevertheless, a musical production based on the movie is currently in the works, to be directed by Tony-winning choreographer Kathleen Marshall. Levinson is set to write the book, with — here’s another surprise — Sheryl Crow writing music and lyrics. More details after the jump.

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Modern Family star Eric Stonestreet has signed up to play silent film star Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle in an HBO biopic titled The Day the Laughter Stopped. Arbuckle was one of the most popular, most successful actors of his time, but his career fell apart after he was accused of raping and murdering actress Virginia Rappe. Although he was eventually acquitted, he never completely recovered. He enjoyed only a very brief comeback before he died of a heart attack in 1933 at the age of 46.

Barry Levinson is set to direct the film from a script penned by John Adams screenwriter Kirk Ellis. The project is apparently something of a dream come true for Stonestreet, who’s been looking for a potential Arbuckle project since the late ’90s. [Vulture]

After the jump, the Old Spice guy gets a new gig, ABC picks up a split-personality drama, and USA announces return dates for some of its most popular shows.

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When John Travolta was cast as notorious gangster John Gotti, one had to assume that was the lead role of the movie. But when the title to the film was changed from Gotti: Three Generations to Gotti: In the Shadow Of My Father it became pretty obvious, Gotti Sr. wasn’t the plum role. The role of John Gotti Jr. was and Ben Foster has just been cast to play him.

Despite some ongoing controversy, Gotti: In the Shadow Of My Father is scheduled to begin pre-production next month for a January start date. Foster and Travolta will co-star with Al Pacino and Kelly Preston under the direction of Barry Levinson. The real Gotti Jr. is a consultant on the project, which was recently in the news because Joe Pesci, once cast as Gotti’s second in command, filed a lawsuit against the production company, Fiore Films. Read more about Foster, his role and the latest on the film after the jump. Read More »

The development of a film about father and son crime figures John ‘The Teflon Don’ Gotti and John Gotti, Jr. has already turned into something of a saga, with Nick Cassavetes set to direct, then departing and leaving a void ultimately filled by Barry Levinson. John Travola, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci were cast, and now Joe Pesci is suing the production, which we’ll get to in a moment. Lindsay Lohan was reportedly cast, then quite or was fired, then cast again, and now evidently not part of the project. There’s probably more, but that’s enough to start with.

Fiore Films has now announced what may be the final title for the film, Gotti: In the Shadow of My Father, along with a shoot date for January 2012. And there’s a rumor that Dominic Cooper will join the cast as well. Read More »

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Barry Levinson is going to direct Al Pacino in Gotti: Three Generations, but before that picture shoots they’ll also do another film. The Humbling is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Philip Roth from Millennium/Nu Image. This will make three films in a row for the Levinson/Pacino team, beginning with the acclaimed portrait of the late Dr. Jack Kevorkian, You Don’t Know Jack.

In addition, Barry Levinson has quite a lot to say about the John Gotti movie that he inherited when Nick Cassavetes vacated the director’s chair. More on that after the break. Read More »