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Fall Movie Guide: Movie true-life heroes and villains include Whitey Bulger and Dalton Trumbo

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Johnny Depp, left, as Whitey Bulger and Joel Edgerton as FBI Agent John Connolly in “Black Mass”
(Claire Folger / Warner Bros.)

In addition to the high-wire Philippe Petit pic “The Walk,” several other movies arrive this fall looking to illuminate the lives of heroes and villains (and those falling somewhere in-between), including “Steve Jobs,” the Aaron Sorkin-written dramatization of the Apple co-founder’s life, and “Truth,” a chronicle of newsman Dan Rather’s fall from grace. Here’s an early look at some of the others:

“Pawn Sacrifice”

Release date: Sept. 16

Synopsis: Chess player Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire) becomes an unlikely Cold War hero during his 1972 “Match of the Century” against Soviet grandmaster Boris Spassky.

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Why now: “It’s the height of the Cold War and the beginning of international media culture,” says director Ed Zwick. “Fischer was a genius, but as is the case with a lot of great artists, there’s a price that comes with that. His internal struggle, combined with the external context, makes for the kind of dramatic story that has always interested me.”

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“Black Mass”

Release date: Sept. 18

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Synopsis: Boston crime boss Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp) uses his FBI friend (Joel Edgerton) and state senator brother (Benedict Cumberbatch) to protect his drugs-and-extortion operation.

Why now: “These guys were playing cops and robbers as kids on the playground,” director Scott Cooper says. “They grew up with a code of loyalty they can’t outrun. It’s very Shakespearean. The line between the criminals and some of the lawmen was indistinguishable, which adds a lot of dimension to these characters.”

“Legend”

Release date: Oct. 2

Synopsis: Glamorous and brutal, identical twins Reggie and Ronnie Kray ruled the criminal underworld of London at the height of the swinging ‘60s. Reggie was the apparently movie-star suave frontman while Ronnie provided the back-room muscle. It all came crashing down in a vortex of ego, jealousy, mental illness and violence. Actor Tom Hardy gives a virtuoso dual performance as both Reggie and Ronnie.

Why now: “Morality in movies has reached an odd place, as far as everyone is either good or evil and movies go out of their way to stress all that,” writer-director Brian Helgeland says. “I think it’s diminishing to storytelling. I much prefer gray to black and white. They might have done some things you or I would never dream of doing, but you don’t want to deify them and you don’t want to demonize them.”

“Freeheld”

Release date: Oct. 2

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Synopsis: Terminally ill New Jersey police officer Laurel Hester (Julianne Moore) fights to pass on her pension benefits to her domestic partner (Ellen Page) in 2005.

Why now: “It was thrilling to be working on a movie that was on the cutting edge of an issue,” director Peter Sollett says. “While we were filming, it was becoming clear that the Supreme Court would have to take the [same-sex marriage] case. We didn’t know the outcome, so the film would either stand as an important illustration of how we arrived at marriage equality and why we need to defend it or why we need to continue to fight for equal rights.”

“Trumbo”

Release date: Nov. 6

Synopsis: Prolific Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) fights his way back from the 1950s blacklist.

Why now: “He was mainstream, irreverent, articulate, not too different from a lot of my screenwriter friends right now,” director Jay Roach says. “He could get under people’s skins because he was that talented and well spoken. But that also painted a target on him. What I love about his story is that instead of succumbing, he fought his way through it and helped others in the process.”

glenn.whipp@latimes.com

mark.olsen@latimes.com

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MORE:

FULL COVERAGE: Fall Movie Guide

Filmmakers tackling social issues keep it real but also entertaining

Joseph Gordon-Levitt mentored by daredevil Philippe Petit for ‘The Walk’


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