When the Oscars roll back around early next year, one name on everyone’s tip sheet for Best Actor will be Johnny Depp.

Relative flops Mortdecai, The Lone Ranger and Dark Shadows – as well as interminable Pirates of the Caribbean movies - perhaps pointed to a career in decline, but his portrayal of gangster Whitey Bulger in Black Mass has been hailed by critics.

Vibe was on the film’s red carpet at London Film Festival to talk to his cast mates and the people behind the camera about what makes him so compelling.

Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch plays White Bulger’s brother, politician Billy.


Taking a night off from Hamlet at the Barbican, he told us: “Johnny was incredible. He was so generous.

“He’s a good friend. We had to get close in a very short space of time because of the amount of depth we had to have to play brothers.

“He was just completely open, as he is. He’s very laid back and he’s got a very cool energy.

“He has got this lovely radiant energy on set.

“Nothing is ever the same, it is always fresh and his process is just all consuming.

“Everyone goes on about the physical transformation but there’s so much going on inside. He really guns for subjects, he lives inside his characters for a long time.

“Every conversation we had was informed by anecdotes or references and I couldn’t have wished for a better actor to get me up to speed.”

Surrey Comet:

Director Scott Cooper rightly recognised Depp’s enormous achievements throughout a career, which has yielded three Oscar nominations and stand-out roles including in Finding Neverland, Edward Scissorhands, Donnie Brasco and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

He said: “He’s a national treasure in America. He’s one of our most daring and bold actors. He loves to transform into many different characters, he couldn’t be further from the man you see on screen so it is pretty remarkable.”

Black Mass tells the story of a Boston gangster, the brother of a respected politician, who rose to prominence in part because he was a secret FBI informant.

There’s no shortage of gangster movies around these days and Black Mass has one of the more far-fetched plots which on paper could seem implausible – if it wasn’t for the amazing fact it is true.

After spending 16 years on the run – second on the Most Wanted list only to Osama Bin Laden -  James ‘Whitey’ Bulger was sent to jail in 2013 for two consecutive life terms plus five years for charges including a part in multiple murders and racketeering.

Cooper said: “It’s a true story and any time you have one man who is the most powerful gangster in the city while his brother is the most powerful politician in the city, it makes for an interesting dynamic.”

Cumberbatch added: “If somebody sat down and script edited this story of two brothers, you’d say it’s crazy.”

Black Mass (15) is out Friday, November 28.