How Did Johnny Depp Turn Into Whitey Bulger? Audiences Should Be Used To The Actor's Transformations By Now
I love mobster movies. I love biopics. And I love Johnny Depp. So obviously, I'm looking forward to the new Johnny Depp-starring mobster biopic movie, Black Mass . The film tells the story of infamous Boston gangster Whitey Bulger, who worked as an FBI informant for years while building his own crime empire. It's also worth mentioning that he did this very recently (he was finally arrested in 2011), long after the heyday of organized crime in America. And although the story is certainly shocking, perhaps the most surprising thing about the film is the appearance of Depp. The handsome actor is nowhere to be found here. Depp instead completely disappears into the role as the aging, bald, and I might as well say it, unattractive Bulger. But how did he do it? How did Johnny Depp transform into Whitey Bulger for Black Mass?
With a lot of makeup and prosthetics. Depp's look was the work of makeup artist Joel Harlow, who has collaborated with the actor over a dozen times previously. Harlow tested out five different looks for Depp with varying ratios of makeup and prosthetics and ended up going with one that combined the two equally. The lower half of Depp's face is handled with makeup, while the entire upper half is covered in prosthetics. This includes Depp's bald head, which was not a typical bald cap. The hairline was achieved by hand-inserting actual human hairs directly into the prosthetic one by one, and 50 of the bald heads were made. According to Harlow, Depp looked so much like Bulger that some Boston locals who knew the criminal had a hard time looking at the star in his getup.
The process to turn Depp into Bulger took three-and-a-half hours each time it was done, showing a serious commitment to the role on the part of Depp. But fans of the actor should not be surprised. Depp has transformed his look in so many extreme ways in various movies over the years that it's almost more surprising to see him look like himself in a movie at this point. Here are some examples of what I'm talking about.
Depp's first collaboration with director Tim Burton saw him shed his heartthrob status by becoming a hideous monster with a heart of gold... and scissors for hands. Burton would go on to drastically alter Depp's appearance in virtually every other film the two have made together.
Pirates Of The Caribbean
Depp's most famous and iconic role. The actor has played the eyeliner-loving swashbuckler Jack Sparrow four times and counting, with a fifth installment due out in 2017.
Charlie And The Chocolate Factory
Depp and Burton re-teamed for this remake of the Gene Wilder classic and really amped up the weird level, especially when it came to the look of Depp's Willy Wonka.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street
Another Depp/Burton collabo, this extremely violent take on the Broadway musical saw Depp stick with the pale makeup of Willy Wonka while going for a decidedly darker hairstyle. He was a barber, after all.
Alice In Wonderland
Did I mention that Burton enjoys making Depp look pale? The actor takes on the role of the Mad Hatter here, and channels some of that delightfully creepy Wonka weirdness.
21 Jump Street
Depp starred in the TV show of the same name in the '80s, so no one was too surprised that he would cameo in the 2012 big screen reboot. His appearance was definitely a shock though, and his role as Officer Tom Hanson probably stands as his best disguise to date.
The most recent Burton contribution, and wouldn't you know it? Depp is pale as hell. He has a good excuse though, since he's playing a vampire, but come on? When is this guy gonna get a tan?
The Lone Ranger
Depp received flak from some corners for his portrayal of Native American Tonto in this bomb from Walt Disney, but to his credit, Depp really put a lot of effort into making sure his portrayal was respectful of Native Americans.
Depp obviously loves changing his appearance a role, and his performance as Bulger in Black Mass is generating a lot of buzz. Plus, he even got to have a little color in the film! Almost! Maybe. Not really? OK, forget it.
Images: Warner Brothers Pictures