Exclusive: Producer Brian Oliver Talks Whitey Bulger Project BLACK MASS, Reveals Story Details

     October 4, 2011

The story of James “Whitey” Bulger is a little bit crazy. A powerful gangster in south Boston (and the inspiration for Jack Nicholson’s character in The Departed), Bulger brokered a deal with the FBI in the 1970s and became an informant in exchange for protection. Over the next 20 years, Bulger went about his crime work (including extortion, drug trafficking, and murder) without every being held accountable for his actions. Furthermore, Bulger began changing the tide of his informant position, and actually started using information from the FBI to aid his criminal work. When he was found out, Bulger went on the lam and wasn’t captured until this past June.

Steve recently got the chance to speak with producer Brian Oliver (President of Cross Creek Pictures) about his upcoming political drama The Ides of March, but the conversation also included updates on the feature film version of Bulger’s story Black Mass.  Oliver talked about what parts of Bulger’s life the film will focus on, what the story will include, how Bulger’s recent arrest affects the story, and more. Hit the jump to see what he had to say.

whitey-bulger-image-2Oliver said that they just got a new draft of the script in by screenwriter Russell Gewirtz, and they’re currently looking for a director:

“Russell Gewirtz wrote the script and it’s a redraft.  Mark Mallouk did the first draft and we’re out looking for directors right now.  That’s definitely something that we really want to make.  If we could do that next, we would.  I just don’t think that we can get that in production before the end of the year just because of the timing.  It’s definitely something that we’ve been developing for awhile and we feel that it should be made.  The fact that he was just captured makes it very timely.  But we’ve been dedicated and have wanted to make that movie before that happened, but that just reinforces our reasons for why that story should be told.”

whitey-bulger-image-4The producer also discussed what parts of Bulger’s life their film focuses on, and what story they want to tell:

“It’s a little bit hard to tell that story without having someone in the full thing because you need to know where he came from and where he ended up.  But I think we’re focusing more on after his rise in the Irish mob and being a boss, and how he basically was going down until he made this corrupt deal with the FBI.  It was through that deal that he manipulated the FBI into being his servants and basically wiped out the La Cosa Nostra in New England, and then there was his escape.  I think that’s the story that we want to tell.  It’s how something like that could happen—how the FBI can become part of one of the biggest scandals in United States history.”

black-mass-book-coverOliver also talked about their source material for the screenplay, the book Black Mass by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill, and how the authors were the ones who blew the lid off of Bulger’s scam:

“We optioned the book that was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, Black Mass by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill, which I think is the only real source on the material.  Those were the guys that were the reporters for The Globe.  They were basically the ones that figured out the legal deal between the FBI and Whitey Bulger and the informant stuff.  It is about how it risked their life, the death threats, and how they were the ones that brought the attention to what was going on.  So they were obviously the right people to write the book, and they wrote an amazing book.”

Oliver went on to say that it’s a great story that should be told, and he’s excited to finally get it going. It sounds like the next step is getting a director attached, which hopefully won’t take too long because this stranger than fiction story is incredibly intriguing. If you missed Oliver talking about Ron Howard’s Formula One racing drama, click here.

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