written by Heather Foley
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that Johnny Depp is playing James “Whitey” Bulger in the upcoming film Black Mass (not to be confused with that satanic Black Mass nonsense) and they’re filming right here in the ‘hood. While I personally love Johnny Depp and think he’s an incredibly talented actor, I have my concerns. First the big one, which I’m sure many of you share. This is a true story; people were killed, families were ripped apart, lives were ruined. Anything that glorifies violence and turns a profit off the pain of others is a little stomach turny. Ok, now that the heavy stuff is out of the way, onto the fluff. My second concern is bringing a host of Southie characters to the big screen. Southie is never represented all that well in pop culture (Hello, Wicked Single and Southie Rules!) and I worry about Depp and company being able to pull it off. Because I’m such a fan of 21 Jump Street (and Johnny had a cameo in the movie), I have some advice for the Black Mass peeps. Hopefully they listen.
Clothes make the man. Television and film have not been kind to the fashion sensibility of South Boston. Men are usually tracksuit clad or rocking some hideous leather jacket/gold chain combo. The ladies have it even worse. It’s like the wardrobe departments say, “Yes, but can we make her look trashier?” Now I know South Boston might not rank up there with London, Paris, and Milan, but there have always been plenty of fashionable people wandering the streets of Southie. I know the gut instinct is to just throw scally caps and claddagh rings on anything with a pulse and call it a day, but here’s to hoping a little more thought goes into the film’s styling.
Use your words. The devil is in the details, and nowhere is that more evident than dialogue choices for Southie characters. There are some words true Southie folk would never say, like “sprinkles”, “soda pop”, “hoagie”, or “I’m really proud of my daughter Heather”, so hearing a character say them is a total record scratch.
You can’t get there from here. A simple familiarity with the layout of South Boston should not be too much to ask. Don’t expect me to silently sit by while you try to convince me M Street Park is near Broadway Station. I won’t have it!
Wicked bad accents. This is probably the biggest obstacle for any South Boston or Boston-set film. Johnny Depp has done some good work with accents before, I mean he pulled off effeminate bi-curious pirate talk and I still wanted to do stuff to his stuff. So I’m hoping he can do a Boston accent that doesn’t make me want to stick knives in my ears, but it’s hard to have a ton of faith. I mean Mark Wahlberg grew up in Boston hearing that accent every day and he still sounded like he had half his tongue removed in The Perfect Storm.
I know I can’t be the only one with these concerns. Most of us don’t want to see our beloved neighborhood portrayed in a negative light on the big screen. We get enough of that on the local news, amirite? I should probably let Hollywood know I’m available for consulting, and I don’t want to say I’m cheap (there’s plenty of other people to say it), but my fees are very reasonable. And since I’m such a giver, here’s another piece of free advice for Black Mass and any other productions thinking of using Southie as a backdrop. Don’t let anyone in your cast watch Ray Donovan, unless a mangled Boston accent mixed with Bell’s Palsy is what you’re going for.