Johnny Depp stars as drug lord IRA gun runner

Johnny Depp stars as Boston mobster  James 'Whitey' in Black Mass
Johnny Depp stars as Boston mobster James 'Whitey' in Black Mass

Movie fans were out in force on Friday night to see Johnny Depp take on role the role of notorious drug smuggler and IRA gun runner James ‘Whitey’ Bulger in Black Mass.

The Hollywood blockbuster is a brutal portrayal of the underworld boss whose weapons shipment to Irish terrorists was intercepted off the coast of Cork in 1984.

The recovery of the arsenal on board the trawler Marita Ann resulted in the arrest and conviction of senior IRA figure Martin Ferris – now a Sinn Fein TD for North Kerry.

Around 160 guns and 71,000 rounds of ammunition were seized by Gardai and Ferris was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in the plot.

The IRA informant Sean O’Callaghan had tipped off his handlers about the smuggling operation, but a close associate of Bulger’s in Boston, John McIntyre, was believed by his crime boss to be working for the FBI.

As a result of his suspicions, McIntyre was later murdered by Bulger – who had managed to evade capture for 16 years but would eventually go on trial for 19 murders.

Bulger is currently serving a life sentence in a Florida prison.

Depp’s performance as the ruthless mobster has been widely acclaimed as the highlight of an otherwise run-of-the-mill gangster flick.

In real life, while Whitey Bulger was one of the FBI’s most wanted, his brother Bill was a Democrat politician and president of the Massachusetts Senate.

In the movie, Bill is played by Benedict Cumberbatch.

The FBI agent credited with recruiting Whitey Bulger as an informant, John Connolly, is played by Joel Edgerton.

After Connolly convinced Bulger to provide information on organised crime – in return for the FBI’s help in keeping him one step ahead of his Mafia rivals – their relationship blossomed to become what was described as “an unholy alliance” that “spiralled out of control”.

Despite being tipped for an Academy Award for his latest role, Depp said he has “no interest” in one – claiming to get tongue tied if required to speak in public unscripted.

“I don’t want to have to talk,” the 52-year-old actor, who has spent three decades in front of the camera, told the BBC. “I don’t want to win one of those things ever,” he added.