“My Name is Bulger,” a new documentary about the famous James “Whitey” Bulger and his younger brother Bill Bulger by Brendan J. Bryne, is a shameless revisionist take on South Boston’s most famous siblings.
“The Bulgers have a kind of deep-rooted and long-standing mistrust of the American media,” Bryne, 55, explained during a Zoom call from his home in Belfast.
“It started out essentially as a story to try, not to rehabilitate but to reevaluate Bill’s career as something that had been widely seen to be in the shadow of his brother.”
Bill Bulger, a career Democratic politician, served as President of the Massachusetts Senate for a record 18 years. After winning fifth in an investigation into his fugitive brother Whitey, Bill was pressured under pressure from Gov. Mitt Romney to step down as president of the University of Massachusetts in 2003.
Whitey was 89 in 2018 when he was murdered in prison. The leader of the infamous Winter Hill Gang, he was on the run for 16 years when he was caught in Santa Monica in 2011.
“Bill’s career has probably never been fully analyzed in an objective sense due to the constant pairing with his brother,” Byrne said.
“That’s where it all started: seeing Bill Bulger through the unique prism of what he did. And not judged by the actions of his brother.
“Then I got interested in his family and the children below. What was it like growing up as Bill’s son but being regarded by everyone you met as Whitey’s nephew?
“My motivation was to tell a story about this family that I didn’t think had a good crack. That’s not to say that politics isn’t a difficult game, but I was interested in telling the story of two families within one family.
The documentary marks the first time that Whitey’s companion, Catherine Greig, has addressed the media. She cries in front of the camera about the man she loved.
“We had to wait until she was released from prison last summer before we could approach her,” Byrne said. “I don’t think she thinks Whitey did everything he was accused of.”
One of Bill’s sons disputes the FBI’s claim that Whitey was an informant.
“What I was doing was trying to paint a more nuanced portrait of Whitey Bulger. At no point do we fear the fact that he has murdered people. We have some of these accomplices talking about the cold and brutal way he killed people, ”Byrne said. “It’s in the movie.
“What has frustrated me over the years is watching sensational, inexpensive TV documentaries and movies featuring one-dimensional portraits of very complicated characters.”
“My name is Bulger” airing on Discovery + from June 17th