Johnny Depp has played Dillinger and Donnie Brasco, and this fall he’ll take on another famous gangster, Whitey Bulger. The trailer for Black Mass suggests the action will take place during Bulger’s 1970s heyday, but his tale has a contemporary hook: he was captured just four years ago after 16 on the lam.
He was 81 when he was finally nabbed in Santa Monica, far from his South Boston stomping grounds (he’s now serving time for multiple convictions, including his part in 11 murders). He had more than just his presence on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List to worry about, since he’d been outed as an informant just a few years after he fled racketeering charges.
The FBI had a breakthrough in the case after it shifted its attentions from the notorious fugitive to his longtime partner, Catherine Greig, and launched a PSA in states where it was thought the couple might be hiding. The strategy worked, and a tipster (a former Miss Iceland, even!) came through. According to an FBI press release that went out shortly after the 2011 arrest:
The PSA focused on the 60-year-old Greig’s physical appearance, habits, and personality traits and was directed specifically at women who might come in contact with her at places such as the beauty parlor or doctor’s office. After the PSA began to air, hundreds of tips flowed into the FBI, and one of them led to the arrest Wednesday night in a residence near Los Angeles.
“We were trying to reach a different audience to produce new leads in the case,” said Richard Teahan, a special agent in our Boston office who leads a task force that has searched for Bulger around the world. “We believed that locating Greig would lead us to Bulger. And that’s exactly what happened.”
In the above trailer for Black Mass, Depp’s Bulger turns the revelation of a “secret family recipe” for steak into a pants-wettingly scary dinner conversation. (And for those in search of even more Bulger, check out Joe Berlinger’s 2014 doc on the same subject.)