From Dillinger to Capone to Gotti, there are few subjects that fire up Hollywood's imagination more than a notorious gangster, and the latest to come down the pike is James ''Whitey'' Bulger. The South Boston crime boss and inspiration for Jack Nicholson's fictional mobster in 2006's The Departed was captured in Santa Monica in 2011 after 16 years on the lam and is awaiting trial on 19 counts of murder, among other charges. He's now the center of two major film projects in the works: Earlier this month, Johnny Depp signed on to play Bulger in director Barry Levinson's Black Mass, which begins shooting in May. Meanwhile, Ben Affleck is developing his own Bulger film to direct, with Matt Damon on board to star. Dick Lehr, who coauthored the 2001 book on which Black Mass is based as well as a new Bulger biography out this month, says that what distinguished him was his ability to leverage his status as an FBI informant to grow his empire. ''For 20 years he harnessed the power of the FBI to work for him. The scope and horror of what was eventually revealed was mind-boggling.''