Under Whitey’s Skin

How Academy Award-winning makeup artist Joel Harlow transformed Johnny Depp into South Boston’s most infamous gangster, James “Whitey” Bulger. —Margaret Heidenry

johnny depp black mass makeup

photograph by FameFlynet

Full Camouflage

Depp “changes his appearance drastically when he dives into a role. I knew he was going to want some kind of transformation,” says Harlow, who has worked on 14 films with the actor. After testing five guises, including full-coverage makeup, the right balance was “half Johnny and half Whitey. From the middle of [Depp’s] face up is entirely prosthetic.”

Head Start

The character’s flawlessly thinning hairline—not a lumpy bald cap in sight!—is the result of individual human hairs painstakingly “punched into a prosthetic…strand by strand,” Harlow says. Each Bulger headpiece (50 total) took 22 hours to make. Sounding vaguely criminal, Harlow adds, “Every day of shooting was a different head.”

Evil Twin

Depp’s resulting resemblance to the blue-eyed Irish murderer “shocked” neighborhood locals who knew the fugitive. According to Harlow, “some people couldn’t look at [Depp] because he looked so much like Whitey.”

Most Wanted

Harlow calls the three-and-a-half-hour process of turning Depp into a bearded octogenarian with prosthetic makeup “a dream. To do that on Johnny and see the character through to the end is pretty special.” Could Harlow have helped Bulger escape the feds with a disguise? Apparently not: “I can’t use my powers for evil,” he says.

johnny depp black mass makeup

Photographs by FameFlynet (depp, left); Ian West/PA Wire (depp, right)