Johnny Depp's been on a cartoonish roll of late, mostly playing characters who are broad or wear silly hats. It used to be that we were excited to see Johnny Depp in a film, but the last few years have conditioned us to sort of sigh and hope that this time he's doing more than shucking and jiving to pay for the upkeep of his private island.
One such film that gave us hope was Black Mass, which would have seen Depp playing Boston mobster Whitey Bulger. Bulger (who inspired Jack Nicholson's character in The Departed) recently made headlines when he was nabbed in Los Angeles after a decade on the run. Black Mass, based on the book by Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill, tells the story of Bulger and his friend John Connolly who, in best mob movie tradition, grew up to be an FBI agent. Connolly tried to bring Bulger in as an FBI informant but crosses got doubled and alliances were broken. It's a fascinating story, the sort that reads like high drama but is totally real.
Depp seems like a weird choice for Bulger, but it's been since Donnie Brasco that we've seen him tackle this sort of character, so that would have been exciting. And Black Mass is being directed by a newly revitalized Barry Levinson, which I think is interesting as well. But the movie had some trouble getting financing in the Cannes market, and so the producers are looking to trim money from the $60 million budget, and they wanted to start with Depp's salary. He was taking his usual $20 million, and they asked him to cut that in half. Depp refused, and now he's walked.
To be fair to Depp he is starring in what looks to be a real movie, Transcendence, the directorial debut from cinematographer Wally Pfister. Black Mass would have started immediately after that, and he would have had to roll right into Pirates of the Caribbean 5. That's a lot of work, and he'd only be compensated a measly $10 million. That's not even getting out of bed and rolling to the beach on your private island kind of money.