Depp’s Bulger comments punctuate Brookline’s starry night

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BROOKLINE – Rosalind Sukerman-Colon stood atop a blue camping chair, angling for the best view of her favorite actor, Johnny Depp, as he and other stars made their way down Harvard Street to the Coolidge Corner Theater for a special screening of the James “Whitey” Bulger biopic, “Black Mass.”

“I have been a fan (of Depp) since the beginning,” said Sukerman-Colon, a Brookline resident and one of more than 1,000 Depp fans lining the street Tuesday evening outside the theater. “He can play any character,” she added. “He can play Whitey.”

A gathering of movie stars drew media attention from far and wide, and Depp’s comments about Bulger delivered plenty of headline fodder. He suggested Bulger, the notorious convicted murderer and South Boston gang leader, wasn’t all bad.

“The families of the victims can say he’s just an evil person,” Depp said, according to reports from those who had access to the enclosed red carpet area. “I just don’t believe that that exists. I think that people have their humanity.”

“There’s a kind heart in there. There’s cold heart,” Depp said. “There’s a man who loves. There’s a man who cries. There’s a lot to the man.”

Depp’s comments stirred at least one popular Boston commentator: WBZ-TV news analyst Jon Keller to say he won’t buy a ticket to this show.

“After hearing the comments of “Black Mass” star Johnny Depp outside the theater in Brookline, I definitely won’t be paying to see it,” said Keller in a commentary that aired Tuesday morning. “In fact, I’ll wait until it hits free TV rather than subsidize it.”

The film’s director, Scott Cooper, told reporters however that he made efforts not to portray Bulger as a sympathetic character.

“That was the most important thing that I or any of the cast had to consider because so many people were affected by these men and their exploits and certainly the city of Boston themselves,” he told Fox News in Boston. “That emotional wound is yet to heal and I took great pains not to romanticize or glamorize any of this.”

Sukerman-Colon, who grew up in Boston’s Dorchester section, had no problem with making a movie about Bulger’s exploits in the latter half of the 20th century. And she wasn’t perturbed by Brookline’s decision to shut down busy Harvard Street to let the arthouse theater hold the star-studded private screening, which drew local luminaries like New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and several players. She said none of her neighbors had a problem with it, either.

“This is the perfect place for a premiere,” she said about the theater, which was originally built in 1906 as a Universalist church but was redesigned as an Art Deco-style movie house in the early 1930s.

The crowds began descending on the cinema at around 4 p.m., well before the arrival of various celebrities. Police set up a barricade along the street, keeping fans on the sidewalks and away from the front of the theater, where the red carpet was rolled up.

Depp pulled up just before sunset, wearing dark glasses and a salmon-colored blazer, a far cry from the drab threads he wore in “Black Mass” to play Bulger. The star didn’t ignore his fans, crisscrossing the street for more than 20 minutes to sign autographs and pose for photos.