Filming Black Mass the “experience of a lifetime” for recent Merrimack grad

There's still time to catch recent Merrimack grad Molly Canyes '15, in the biopic movie “Black Mass” which is garnering star Johnny Depp some Academy Award interest but also making her a celebrity at home.

Canyes was cast as a member of a marching band in the movie about notorious Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger.

Canyes is a real-life alto sax performer and for the movied joined a marching band of 107 college and high school students that re-enacted a St. Patrick’s Day parade from the 1970s for “Black Mass.” Depp plays the convicted mobster and Benedict Cumberbatch his brother William “Billy” Bulger, then president of the Massachusetts Senate.

“It was really the experience of a lifetime,” Canyes of Haverhill, Mass., a communications major and music minor, said a short time after filming in the summer of 2014.

Canyes, who performed in Merrimack’s jazz and pep bands, saw the call for musicians on Facebook and signed up. The group met in the predawn hours June 23 at Boston University — BU’s band formed the core of the film group — and took buses to Lynn, Mass., where streets had been set up to look like the South Boston of Whitey Bulger’s heyday.

“It was hot — 76 degrees,” she said. “We were pouring sweat.” The white-uniformed band did 28 takes between 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. — four times playing “Garryowen,” 24 times just marching around.

“It was very chaotic,” Canyes recalled. “There’s a lot of waiting around, and you don’t get much information. You stand there and wait for someone to tell you what to do, and you do it.”

She did see Depp and Cumberbatch on set, but didn’t get to meet them. “Johnny Depp can pull it off as Whitey Bulger,” she affirmed. “He’s really intense looking.” She also couldn’t take photos: Cell phones were forbidden on set, she said, though the film crew didn’t have to confiscate devices. “We’re good students,” she said.

Canyes was president of the Art Warriors, a member of Lambda Pi Eta and, of course, a member of Merrimack’s bands.

It’s an impressive resume but it’s her one-day film career that’s made big waves at home.

“My parents were really impressed,” she said. “My mom was freaking out.”

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