Irish Eye on Hollywood:
Johnny Depp Goes Green

Johnny Depp is going through an Irish phase. Above as Whitey Bulger, right, in "Black Mass."

By Tom Deignan, Contributor
August / September 2015

A-lister Johnny Depp is going through some kind of Irish phase.

The Pirates of the Caribbean star – who played an Irish gypsy in the 2000 French flick Chocolat – has two films with heavy Irish themes coming out, including a big-screen version of a beloved classic of Irish-American literature.

First up is Black Mass, slated to hit movie theaters in September. Black Mass (based on the best-selling book by Boston Globe journalists Gerard O’Neill and Dick Lehr) is based on the FBI’s notorious relationship with Irish-American mobster Whitey Bulger. Depp plays Bulger in a role that is already garnering Oscar buzz. Black Mass will explore how FBI agent John Connolly (who grew up in the same housing project as Bulger) cultivated the South Boston criminal as an informant, only to get sucked into the temptations of the underworld himself. Black Mass has a star-studded cast, including Kevin Bacon, Sienna Miller, Benedict Cumberbatch and Dakota Johnson.

Meanwhile, reports also indicate that Depp is looking to bring J.P. Donleavy’s classic The Ginger Man to the big screen. Lilliput Press in Ireland recently published a 60th anniversary edition of The Ginger Man, “which comes with an introduction by Johnny Depp, who is also planning to make a movie out of it,” The New Yorker recently noted. “Depp, in the intro, describes the novel as ‘a bedeviled, timeless jewel of scandalous misdeeds.’” The Ginger Man is about the romantic and sexual escapades of Sebastian Dangerfield, an American law student who ends up living in Dublin. Donleavy himself was born in New York to Irish immigrant parents but ended up living in Ireland, flipping the traditional Irish immigrant narrative, one of many elements that make the novel so fascinating.

The Modern Library hailed The Ginger Man as one of the top 100 novels of the 20th century. And The New Yorker recently noted: “Sixty years later, the work remains a hilarious and upsetting portrait of postwar Ireland and the American G.I.s who showed up there, with the prerogative and the wherewithal to carouse and copulate on a level that the locals did not appreciate.”

Let’s just hope Depp does better with The Ginger Man than he did with The Lone Ranger. ♦

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