By Jim Armstrong, WBZ-TV


BOSTON (CBS) – His likeness to the convicted murderer is remarkable, and now we know how Johnny Depp found his focus when it came to portraying James “Whitey” Bulger in the new motion picture about him: He tried to get into prison to meet the man.

“And, as expected – I mean, I knew this wouldn’t happen – Bulger kind of respectfully declined because I don’t believe he was a great fan of the book ‘Black Mass.’” Depp said Friday. “I also don’t believe he was a great fan of any of the books written about him. So therefore he declined.”

Depp and the other stars of “Black Mass” were in Venice, Italy Friday for the film’s red carpet premiere.

Back in the spring of 2014, Depp and crew took over sites all around Boston — using movie magic to turn modern locations into the South Boston of Whitey’s heyday.

Johnny Depp at Venice Premiere (L) and as Whitey Bulger in Black Mass. (R) (WBZ-TV)

Johnny Depp at Venice Premiere (L) and as Whitey Bulger in Black Mass. (R) (WBZ-TV)

“With a character like James Bulger,” Depp told reporters in Venice, “I think you just have to approach him as a, just as a human being in the sense that nobody wakes up in the morning and shaves or brushes their teeth and looks in the mirror and thinks, ‘I’m evil,’ or ‘I’m going to do something evil today.’”

His research into the mobster led him to draw some conclusions about how Bulger’s mind works. Depp suggested that “within the context of his business there was … the violence was just a part of the job, let’s say. It was also kind of a language that the people that he associated with and the people that he was, he opposed, understood the same language. It was a language, you know?”

Whitey Bulger vacationing in London

Whitey Bulger vacationing in London

Depp also revealed he had inside advice from one of the people closest to Whitey: J.W. Carney, his defense attorney.

“Jay Carney was very helpful to me in finding James Bulger,” Depp said. “I mean he hit me straight up, first and foremost he said ‘I ain’t saying nothing that Jimmy wouldn’t want me to say.’”

“Jay came to the set a couple of times and watched,” Depp continued. “He gave me a lot of confidence.”

“Black Mass” opens nationwide on September 18th, but will have a local premiere at the Coolidge Corner Theater on September 15th. Some of the film’s stars are expected to attend.

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