From the makeup and hairstyling to costumes, cinematography, and score, it all revolves around Johnny Depp’s dead-on portrayal of crime lord Whitey Bulger in Black Mass.
Scott Cooper’s Black Mass encompasses so many facets of Bulger’s legendary rise and fall as crime lord of South Boston. But of course it began with creating the right look for Depp, and it’s not surprising that the hair and makeup of Gloria Casny and Joel Harlow (Depp’s long-time collaborator) have been shortlisted for an Oscar.
“Initially, Johnny wanted to look exactly like Jimmy Bulger, so that’s what I started sculpting,” Harlow explained. “And we went through five tests. What was interesting was, we planned two tests on the same day during our last round. The first test was the full transformation into Whitey, but the second actually showed more merit [revealing both Bulger and Depp] and that’s what we went with.”
A forehead piece was created from his cheekbones to the back of his skull. His eyebrows also need to be punched and he had a nose prosthetic to further resemble Bulger.
“We tried to capture how they behaved in the ’70s, that particular masculinity, not how we view the ’70s from a modern perspective,” explained cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi, who shot on film with the Panavision Millennium XL2 and anamorphic lenses. “If anything, we also went for a little harsher lighting. And Scott likes the shadow and that is a great drive to explore in the darkness.”
“Examining those gangsters, I quickly discovered that they had a very specific language of dressing,” added costume designer Kasia Walicka Maimone. “The line between the politicians and the mobsters was very thin. Whitey Bulger and the head of the Italian mob wore blazers and polos and khakis. Some of them looked like they were about to go on a yacht.”
When it came to Tom Holkenborg’s operatic score, it was important to create an atmosphere that emphasized the strong bond between Bulger and childhood pal John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), the FBI agent who makes an unholy alliance with him. “I came up with themes so that I could swap instruments,” said Holkenborg.
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