Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are set to reteam for a biopic of Irish crime boss Whitey Bulger. The project hasn’t been officially announced, but Damon is playing Bulger, Affleck is directing, and Terrence Winter (Boardwalk Empire) is writing the script. Affleck and Damon were previously planning to team up for The Trade, a true-life story about wife-swapping Yankees players, but legal complications have held up the project. Damon says the movie is still in development, but it will come after the Bulger biopic.
Hit the jump for more on Bulger, the direction the movie might take, and an update on Damon’s recently-announced directorial debut. [Update: More details have been revealed about the project including new casting. Hit the jump for more.]
Bulger was the head of South Boston’s Winter Hill Gang, and fled before his indictment for federal racketeering in January 1995. It turns out he was a longtime FBI informant (an inspiration for Jack Nicholson‘s character in The Departed) who had been warned by his corrupt handler, former FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr. (the basis for Damon’s Departed character). Connolly Jr. tipped off Bulger about his pending arrest, and Bulger stayed on the lam for sixteen years before he was caught living by the beach with his girlfriend. He was 81 at the time of his arrest.
“If it’s a straight biopic, we’ll do it over a period of time. But it’s always a question of what part of the story do you tell, and biopics are always a little cumbersome,” Damon says. “So do we find another way in? We’re still figuring it out.”
Damon and Affleck’s film joins three other Bulger-related projects currently in development. There’s Black Mass from producer Brian Oliver (click here for what he had to say to Steve about the film), producer Graham King (The Departed) is working on a biopic of Winter Hill Gang’s chief enforcer, John Martorano, and The Twilight Saga actor Peter Facinelli is producing an adaptation of Edward MacKenzie and Phyllis Karas‘s book Street Soldier: My Life as an Enforcer for Whitey Bulger and the Boston Irish Mob.
Affleck is currently working on Argo for Warner Bros., and last Friday we reported that he had signed on to write and direct the adaptation of Steven King‘s massive post-apocalyptic tome, The Stand. There’s now word on where the Bulger project would fit in, but since it’s smaller scale than The Stand and both movies are for Warner Bros., I wouldn’t be surprised if the studio let Affleck and Damon work their movie in before Affleck moves to the tentpole feature.
Finally, Damon set the record straight on his recently-announced directorial debut. Contrary to what was reported at the time, the movie does not resemble Erin Brockovich.
“Nobody gets poisoned,” says Damon, who plans to direct the untitled film early next year. “I don’t know where that came from.”
All Damon would say about the project, which he co-wrote with John Krasinski, is “It’s about a salesman who goes to this small town and how the salesman is changed by his experience there,” which confirms the logline provided by Variety.
[Update: According to Deadline, "The story will cover Bulger’s youth to his incarceration on Alcatraz, through his rise to become a mob boss while secretly serving as an FBI informant for decades." Deadline adds that Casey Affleck will play a supporting role.]