BOSTON – Mark Wahlberg says he's considering a jailhouse meeting with James "Whitey" Bulger, but victim's relatives are criticizing the actor's interest in the reputed former mob boss.
Bulger has reached out to Wahlberg, the actor told Boston's WAAF-FM radio Friday, and he speculated Bulger wants to give him rights to his story.
"He wants me to come down and visit him. Maybe he'll give me the exclusive rights to tell his story, 'cause he knows, you know, we can do it better than anybody else," Wahlberg said.
Wahlberg grew up in South Boston, also Bulger's home when he ran a local gang in the '70s, '80s and '90s while working as an FBI informant. Bulger, 82, is accused of participating in 19 murders before fleeing in 1995, allegedly after his FBI handler tipped him that an indictment was coming. He was caught in California last year after 16 years on the run.
Wahlberg said his "heart goes out" to loved ones of Bulger's victims, but the story has tremendous potential.
"If there's a story to be told there, and, you know, we can do it in the way we want in the way that we best see fit, then, you know, then it's certainly something that we would explore," he said.
Patricia Donahue, whose husband, Michael Donahue, was allegedly killed by Bulger during a hit on another man, said Saturday that's there nothing she can do to stop someone from making a movie. But, she said, she prays the filmmakers don't make Bulger a hero and "will portray him as he really is, the murderer that he is."
Donahue said she doubted Bulger would be honest with Wahlberg.
"The government can't get the truth out of him, nobody seems to be able to get the truth out of him, so why is he gonna to pour his heart out to Markie Wahlberg?" Donahue said.
But Wahlberg's local roots could help him sort through the lies, she added.
"He has a pretty good idea of who's who in this whole episode," she said.
Steven Davis, whose sister, Deborah Davis, was allegedly strangled by Bulger, told the Boston Herald that Bulger ruined "my whole family" and shouldn't be glamorized.
"I have a lot of respect for Mark (Wahlberg). I would hope that he would reach out to us, too," he said.
Phone messages left with Wahlberg's representatives at Leverage Management were not immediately returned Saturday.
A Massachusetts legislator, Sen. Stephen Brewer, has proposed a bill that allows only Bulger's victims to profit from his story.
Bulger is awaiting trial. A federal prosecutor said Wednesday at a status conference that he believes Bulger is trying to "manipulate the system" so he's never brought to trial for his role in the murders.
Bulger's lawyer said the volume of evidence he has received from prosecutors is "enormous" and he and other lawyers need more time to go through it, and noted that it generally takes 18-30 months for a murder case to go to trial in Massachusetts.
Another status conference in the case is scheduled for next month.