Last time we checked in with former Washingtonian Jay Bulger, the onetime boxer and model was celebrating: He’d just won the top documentary prize at South by Southwest, for his rollicking film about former Cream drummer and wild man extraordinaire Ginger Baker.
This time, he was nursing a sore hand. “Oh, my hand is so [expletive] up,” he said. “Al Pacino cuffed me too hard, I guess.”
Yes, that Al Pacino. Seems the next item on Bulger’s résumé might be “Hollywood actor.”
Bulger will be appear in the film “Stand Up Guys,” which is being directed by Fisher Stevens, whose production company backed “Beware of Mr. Baker.”
“I play this Polish rapist gangster, and I’m in a shootout scene with Al Pacino and Christopher Walken,” said Bulger, who delivers a few lines in the film.
In early March, the Washington Post Magazine detailed the bizarre story of Bulger’s quest to make “Beware of Mr. Baker” — a journey that included lying about being a writer for Rolling Stone, living with Baker on his South African compound and ultimately having his nose broken by the angry septuagenarian. The film debuted soon after at South by Southwest in Austin, and has continued to appear at various festivals throughout North America: the Toronto and Boston screenings were in late April, while the showings in Seattle and at our very own SilverDocs (date TBA) are coming up.
Though he was making the festival rounds, Bulger managed to free himself up to spend the last week of April in a downtown Los Angeles warehouse with Walken and Pacino to shoot his scenes.
Stevens described “Stand Up Guys” as a “love story about friendship and loyalty.” It’s about a crew of hoodlums that reunites after 30 years, and will also star Alan Arkin, and Vanessa Ferlito from “Sin City.” He said it could could debut in late fall or early winter.
But why would the director cast the totally green (though Armani-handsome) Bulger as a member of the Jarogniew brothers, a Polish gang? “The Jarogniew brothers are these mean, tough-looking guys that are actually wimpy — who get beat up by 70-year-old men. I thought Jay was perfect for that,” he said (poking fun, perhaps, at Bulger’s run-in with the cane-wielding Ginger Baker?). “Also, Craig Sheffer, who plays the lead Jarogniew brother, and Jay have a similar vibe. So, I thought it would be great to get vengeance on all the hell Jay put me through producing his movie to end the scene with him getting hit in the nuts by Vanessa Ferlito with a baseball bat.”
Another advantage was that, since Bulger had never filmed a shoot-out before, he didn’t have to act spooked when Walken and Pacino fired off fake rounds. It came pretty naturally. “They asked if I wanted ear plugs, but I said, no because I’m not a method actor or anything,” Bulger said. “I don’t know what kind I am. I thought maybe I’d give a better reaction if I’m actually scared of getting shot.”
Will we see more of Bulger onscreen in the future? “I’d really like to do it. I think I could be good at it,” he said. Stevens seems to be onboard as well. “I’d give him a bigger role next time,” he said. “He did a good job.”
Meanwhile, Bulger is still developing documentaries on music producer Bill Laswell and actor, musician and painter John Lurie; working on a script for a film he hopes to shoot in Washington next year; and polishing up a collection of anecdotes for a book.
Being in a movie with Al Pacino should make a good addition.
Freelance writer Kris Coronado wrote the Magazine story on Bulger.
READ MORE: “Mr. Baker” wins at SXSW