Jack Nicholson's character in The Departed was partially inspired by Whitey Bulger, the infamous real-life New England gangster depicted by Johnny Depp in the new movie Black Mass (read Joey's review here). One of Nicholson's co-stars, Matt Damon, took an interest in Bulger's story and in 2011, Damon and Ben Affleck announced they were developing a biopic. Affleck would direct and Damon would play Bulger. But obviously they got a little sidetracked and Scott Cooper's Black Mass beat them to the punch. In a new interview with The Boston Globe, Damon talks about what his version of the story would have been like:
“Ben and I had an idea that we would do it more like ‘Unforgiven’ — which was the anti-western. We wanted to do the anti-gangster movie. I got a letter from somebody — from a writer in South Boston when [Bulger] got caught and we announced that we were going to do this story. He sent me this letter and he was like, ‘Don’t glorify this guy anymore. Just stop. Please. He caused so much damage to so many people.’
And so it didn’t sit well with me. And then as I thought more about it, and Ben and I talked about it, what we realized was there was a way to do a movie that really explored all of our complicity in the raising up of this guy. . . . And, look, I was in ‘The Departed,’ so I’m not knocking anybody. I’m just saying what our way in was going to be, and I think it’s very different than anything that’s been done before and I was really excited about it.
If we make it about our own complicity — like why do we celebrate this sociopathy, then that’s a place that hasn’t been mined . . . and it’s really interesting.”
I haven't seen Black Mass yet myself, but it's hard to deny that Damon's version sounds like a compelling take on a somewhat tired genre. If he and Affleck can find a way to crack this project, it sounds like it could be different enough that people would still be interested in checking out an alternate take in theaters a few years from now, especially with their star power behind it. Sounds good to me.