- Associated Press - Monday, September 21, 2015

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - A University of Kansas graduate is winning accolades after his adaptation of the 2001 true-crime book made it to the big screen in a movie starring Johnny Depp.

Mark Mallouk attended the Toronto International Film Festival premiere of “Black Mass” last Monday. The film is based on his adaption of the book “Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob,” which follows notorious Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger, who’s played by Depp.

Mallouk grew up in Prairie Village and graduated from the University of Kansas in 1995, the Lawrence Journal-World (https://bit.ly/1OLotmz ) reported. He later moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in screenwriting.

His first script, “Somerset Square,” was a crime drama set in Kansas City. The film was never made, but through it Mallouk formed a working relationship with producer Brian Oliver, who offered him the chance to write the screenplay for “Black Mass.”

“The difficult part was coming to that now seemingly obvious realization: I needed to distill it down and get it as close to the dinner table as possible,” Mallouk said. “There’s so much in the book that you wouldn’t believe . that you’re compelled to put it in the first draft of the screenplay. That’s what was difficult for me, realizing that you show how bad Whitey is, by making it clear how he treats the people closest to him.”

The book contains 450 pages of information detailing the 19 murders for which Bulger would later be indicted.

Accomplished screenwriter Jez Butterworth helped close out Mallouk’s script by adding a narration-flashback structure.

In addition to Depp, the film also features actors Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch and Kevin Bacon. It was directed by Scott Cooper, who’s best known for writing, directing and producing the 2009 film “Crazy Heart.”

“Edgerton, Cooper, Depp, and Cumberbatch - they’re very savvy. They bend a word here, drop a line,”Mallouk said. “The beauty of screenwriting is that other people have their hands on it - and it’s a collaboration.”

“Black Mass” opened Friday at more than 3,500 movie theaters nationwide.

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Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, https://www.ljworld.com


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