Warner Bros. Pictures
Tomorrow sees the release of Black Mass, the much-anticipated film about the rise and fall of notorious Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger. A lot of people have been looking forward to the flick because of a slightly sick (and slightly unavoidable) fascination with the true story. Blame Martin Scorseseand The Departed if you will, but South Boston mobsters often make for terribly addicting big screen tales.
Bulger was perhaps the most famous (and most feared) Beantown mob boss during his reign in the 70s and 80s, and his made-for-cinema capture after two decades on the lam only makes for a better story. Black Mass spares no expense in the street crime department, showing audiences every last bit of Bulger’s capacity for evil, close-up shootings and beatings and all. (Those with weak stomachs may want to prepare themselves for a bit of a rough ride).
But all gangster activity and FBI informing aside, a whole lot of people have Black Mass on their radar simply because of Johnny Depp. To say the actor has a cult following is an understatement—his fans will follow him to the ends of the earth. (So long as that doesn’t involve watching The Lone Ranger.) And just as famous as his huge paycheck is his penchant for dramatic transformations. If he’s not virtually unrecognizable, it’s not a Johnny Depp movie we want to watch.
So that brings us to the big question: Where does Whitey Bulger rank on the sliding scale of Depp-ness? We took a look back at our favorite Johnny characters to play a little game called Rank The Part. Just don’t expect to see Tonto on this list because, like the film’s creators, we’d like to pretend The Lone Ranger never happened.
Captain Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean
No Johnny Depp retrospective would be complete without America’s favorite pirate (Sorry, Captain Hook). Like all movie lovers, we have a special place in our hearts for Mr. Sparrow and his gang from the south, but we just had to rank this character dead last. (We know, it hurts). But here’s why: We don’t really see this as a transformation at all. For starters, the movies have been around for so long (12 freaking years!) that we basically see Sparrow as Depp’s alter ego; they’re pretty much one and the same. Oh, and the fact that Jack has the same quirky mannerisms and wicked smile as Johnny doesn’t hurt with the association either.
Sweeney Todd, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Johnny Depp does Stephen Sondheim! He gets extra points for learning to sing for this role, as well as for the fact that he made a murderous barber fun to watch. He rocked a mean wig and managed to transform himself into a musical theater star, but we still can’t help but think that if Johnny Depp cut hair for a living, this is exactly what he would be like. Minus all the murders, of course. (We hope).
Mad Hatter, Alice In Wonderland
We could probably write an entire essay about our devotion to Johnny Depp and Tim Burton‘s cinematic partnership, but it likely wouldn’t be much different than what any human has thought watching one of their movies. Depp just seems to go the extra mile for his boy Burton, and it shows. His Mad Hatter was everything we dreamed it would be: bizarre, hilarious and creepy enough to haunt our dreams for at least a week after our first viewing of Alice. Maybe it’s the cheekbones, maybe it’s the high-pitched laugh, but we’d let his Mad Hatter poison us at a tea party any day.
James “Whitey” Bulger, Black Mass
The physical makeover for his latest endeavor wasn’t nearly on the scale of some of his other roles, but if we’re counting only the aforementioned haunting of our dreams than Whitey Bulger is the clear frontrunner. That’s not to say he looks like Johnny Depp in the film, of course. He sports a severely receded hairline, yellow teeth, a dead tooth (shudder), bad skin and the most piercing blue contacts we’ve ever seen. But that being said, it’s his personality and mannerisms that are the creepiest and, thus, the biggest change. Bulger isn’t just a take-no-prisoners gangster, he’s a take-no-prisoners gangster who is choking a young girl to death one minute and stopping to carry groceries for an old lady the next. Depp gives Bulger an ice cold stare and the facial expressions of the sociopath he is, and the lack of his usual whimsy or fantasy in Black Mass is what will stick with us far longer than that bad bald wig.
Edward Scissorhands, Edward Scissorhands
This is a total no-brainer. There’s no Depp role more classic than Edward, and no transformation more worthy of praise, in our humble opinion. This creepy kid put Johnny on the map as an actor who could take on any persona, and the movie’s place in the cult classic hall of fame doesn’t hurt. We’ll never be able to un-see those scissor fingers (or that wig, for that matter), and that’s exactly the kind of reaction we’d like to get from every Johnny Depp movie.