The Hollywood Reporter puts the departure on a salary dispute. After the film’s overseas pre-sales at Cannes were not up to expectations, the producers were looking at having to trim the project’s budget and asked Depp if he would take a 50% pay cut. Depp’s normal quote for a film is $20 million and Black Mass‘s reported budget was in the high $60 million range.
Depp was set to play Bolger, the head of a Boston crime family who turned FBI informant but continued to maintain criminal connections with federal, state and local law enforcement officials. Fleeing a an impending RICO indictment, Bulger was on the run from the FBI from 1994 until his arrest at age 81 in 2011.
The story is perhaps understandably local to the United States, with limited appeal on the foreign market outside of Depp’s potential box office draw.
The film was scheduled to shoot later this year after Depp finished his work on the science-fiction film Transcendence. It is unclear whether producers Cross Creek and Exclusive Media will move forward with the project with someone else in the role.
It’s hard to see this news as anything but disappointing. Depp’s career has been pretty much stuck in high profile, big budget event pictures, but he is usually at his best and most interesting in smaller films and over the last decade I dare say that there have been very few of those – 2004’s The Libertine and 2011’s The Rum Diary. Hopefully, he’ll find some more projects that will allow him to stretch but will be also able to meet the price tag for his services.