A movie about gangster James ”Whitey” Bulger’s violent reign as leader of Boston’s criminal underworld got its first screening in the state Tuesday.
Johnny Depp, who plays Bulger in ”Black Mass,” and other cast members including Dakota Johnson and Jesse Plem greeted fans and the media as they arrived to attend the private screening at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline.
Hundreds of people gathered to see the stars. Depp signed autographs for dozens lining the sidewalk across from the theater.
The movie is based on a book of the same name by former Boston Globe reporters Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill, who attended the screening. It chronicles Bulger’s rise to become the city’s most feared gangster, ruling its underworld from the 1970s into the 1990s while working with the FBI as an informant on the New England Mafia, his gang’s main rival.
Bulger fled Boston in 1994 after being tipped off by his FBI handler that he was about to be indicted. He lived as a fugitive for more than 16 years before he was captured in Santa Monica, California, in 2011.
Bulger, 86, was convicted in 2013 of playing a role in 11 killings and multiple other crimes. He’s serving a life sentence in federal prison. He argued in an appeal he was unable to fully present his defense.
While Whitey Bulger rose to become one of the city’s most powerful criminals, his brother William Bulger became one of the state’s most powerful politicians, serving as president of the state Senate from 1978 until 1996.
William Bulger, who’s played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the film, told the Boston Herald he’s not much of a moviegoer but likely will see ”Black Mass.” He said he hasn’t seen the trailers or read the book and doesn’t know too much about the movie’s stars.
He hasn’t said much publicly about his brother but said they are in touch.
”Black Mass” made its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival and was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival last week. It’s scheduled for general release Friday.