Mike Fleming

UPDATE, 11:24 AM: Deadline broke news last night that Johnny Depp was teetering toward the exit door on Black Mass, the Barry Levinson-directed story of Whitey Bulger, with Joel Edgerton playing his disgraced FBI pal John Connolly. There was some hope last night that after some hard negotiating, things might turn around and Depp would stay in the movie. I’m now told that’s not going to happen. The financiers, Cross Creek and Exclusive Media, are moving to recast the lead, balking at paying Depp the equivalent of $23 million to headline the indie crime drama. If you remember, Ben Affleck planned to direct buddy Matt Damon in a Bulger picture, but this news isn’t going to help those heavily booked fellas. The Black Mass team — which sold the picture heavily in Cannes — expect to have a new star in place so they can shoot the picture later this year.

PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE, WEDNESDAY PM: While the hiring of Kon-Tiki helmers Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg to Pirates Of The Caribbean 5 solidifies one Johnny Depp project, another, Black Mass, isn’t looking too good at the moment. Depp has suddenly become shaky as the star of Black Mass, the story about Boston mob kingpin Whitey Bulger and his close relationship with FBI agent John Connolly. The troubles are in making his deal and things aren’t looking great at the moment. Barry Levinson is directing, and Depp has long been attached to play Bulger. Joel Edgerton recently came attached to play disgraced FBI man Connolly, who was charged with tipping off his childhood friend Bulger when the feds were coming for him, leading Bulger to vanish for many years. The indie film is being funded by Cross Creek and Exclusive Media, with Universal aboard to distribute through its deal with Cross Creek. It was a hot sales title over in Cannes. It’s possible this will come back on track in the give and take of negotiation, so stay tuned. Nobody would comment.

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