BROOKLINE (CBS/AP) — A movie about Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger’s violent reign as leader of the city’s criminal underworld is getting its first screening in Massachusetts.

Johnny Depp plays Bulger in “Black Mass.” He and several other cast members greeted fans and the media before the private screening at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline on Tuesday night. He signed autographs for dozens lining the sidewalk across from the theater.

The movie is based on the book of the same name by former Boston Globe reporters Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill.

Bulger is serving life in federal prison after being convicted in 2013 of playing a role in 11 killings and other crimes. He argued he was unable to fully present his defense.

“I tried to contact Mr. Bulger through his attorney JW Carney, and I guess it was about a week later I got a response that said Jimmy respectfully declines,” Depp said on the red carpet Tuesday night.

Depp portrays a complex James “Whitey” Bulger part ruthless killer, part loving family man.

“Anybody and everybody especially the families of the victims can say he’s just an evil person,” Depp said. “I just don’t believe that that exists.”

Director Scott Cooper said, “I made every effort not to romanticize or glorify any of these events just because so many people in the city of Boston were so affected by it.”

The same people who’ll judge the authenticity of characters like Kevin Weeks played by Jesse Plemons. “I read Kevin Weeks’ book as many times as I could,” he said.

Some didn’t need to study the region. Erica McDermott, from Somerville, helped Benedict Cumberbatch perfect her character’s husband Billy Bulger’s accent.

“He must have said egg nog 20 times,” McDermott said.

But it was Depp who may have channeled the biggest transformation, in large part, due to make up.

“Arriving in South Boston,” Depp said, “coming out of the makeup trailer for the first time and having you know some of his former associates or people in the neighborhood, you’d hear these kind of oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.”

“Black Mass” made its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival and was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival. It’s scheduled for general release Friday.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments (7)