A group headed by Arthaus Pictures has acquired the motion picture rights to the best-selling book Black Mass: The Irish Mob, the FBI, and a Devil’s Deal, and has begun development of a film on its main character, fugitive underworld figure Whitey Bulger.
Written by prize-winning Boston Globe reporters Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill, Black Mass is a true-crime saga about FBI corruption and the uniquely savage New England mob scene. After stints in Alcatraz and Leavenworth, James “Whitey” Bulger returned to Boston and scorched a trail of murder to the top of the Irish mob. His younger brother, Billy Bulger, is the iron-fisted president of the Massachusetts State Senate and later president of the University of Massachusetts. John Connolly is an ambitious FBI agent and fellow “Southie,” a pal of the Bulgers since boyhood.
Brian Oliver (Auto Focus) and Joseph Nittolo (A Man Apart) will produce the film for Arthaus Pictures and will begin talking with studios next week. Black Mass screenwriter Mark Mallouk is also the screenwriter of The Wheat Field. The script for Black Mass is expected to be finished in mid-April.
Recent projects by Oliver and Nittolo include Legion, a psychological thriller set on the Mexican border, and The Wheat Field, a story of sex, politics and betrayal, both of which are in development.
“‘Black Mass’ goes to the core of the war between the government and the mob,” says Oliver. “It shows us how easy the good guys can begin the descent into lying, breaking the rules and ignoring the law.”
Whitey Bulger is now near the top of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List just below Osama bin Laden, and there is a $1 million reward for his capture. He is a figure of unending fascination, featured 12 times on America’s Most Wanted and most recently was the subject of a CBS 60 Minutes investigation.