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Posts Tagged ‘Michael Mann’

Johnny Depp to direct Keith Richards Documentary

Posted by LiveFor on February 3, 2010

Johnny Depp and The Rolling Stones’ guitarist Keith Richards have a bit in common. Depp based Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean on Richards and then Richards played Captain Jack’s Dad in the last part of the trilogy.

Now, according to The Playlist, they will have something else to chat about as Depp is apparently a documentary on his Keith Richards.

Depp’s last time behind the camera was back in 1997 for the Marlon Brando film, The Brave. It only played at the Cannes and Toronto Film Festivals and wasn’t distributed as it wasn’t meant to be very good. It sounds as if Depp agrees with this.

“Now that I’m wiser, and that enough time has passed, I can experience directing again,” said Depp. “Already next week I’ll start working on a Keith Richards documentary. While I’m in Drvengrad, my editor is already working on kilometers of archive footage and footage of his concerts. I’m very touched that Keith agreed to show up in front of my cameras.”

The fact it is a documentary this time may also help him get his directing mojo together.

I’ve never seen The Brave (it is for sale over on Amazon UK) so can’t say how bad it is. However, I am a big fan of Depp (check out the time I managed to speak to him at the Public Enemies press conference) and look forward to seeing how he gets on with Keith Richards and what his experiences working with the likes of Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam and Michael Mann bring to the mix.

Do you think Depp will be a good documentary maker?

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Villains to be Fight Club of the comic book film world?

Posted by LiveFor on July 29, 2009

This sounds like if could be interesting if done right.

Viper Comics miniseries Villains, follows a main character who decides he wants to learn the dark art of villainy after discovering the old guy living next door is actually a retired baddie. Sounds a bit like Apt Pupil but with super powers.

Universal is giving the series the big-screen adaptation treatment and producers are conceiving the film as a big-budget, super-dark adventure directed by someone with a sensibility similar to the men who’ve helmed “Fight Club” and “Collateral.”

“I think we want to go big with it,” producer Sean Bailey told MTV News. “My personal ambition is to have it be operatic and epic. If Michael Mann or David Fincher were ever to go make one of these movies, what would that look like? That’s my hope for it. To be in that kind of world.”

“If you look at any war movie or any crime movie, who the hero is, is solely a question of the point of view,”
Bailey continued. “So we wanted to look at the rise of a villain—why and how it happened. It’s got a different slant than you’ve seen.”

The project was announced last year and “Wonder Woman” screenwriters Matt Jennison and Brent Strickland recently handed in a first draft of “Villains.” The studio and producers handed back notes, and now the writers are at work on a second draft.

With the script not yet nailed down, Bailey hasn’t yet begun the search for a director, nor thought deeply about casting choices.

“We’re still in the script stage,” Bailey laughed.

Have a look at a preview of the first issue.

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Public Enemies – Cool Johnny Depp poster

Posted by LiveFor on July 7, 2009

Check out my review plus my time at the Public Enemies press conference with Marion Cotillard, Michael Mann and Johnny Depp.

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Public Enemies, 2009 – Movie Review

Posted by LiveFor on July 4, 2009

Director: Michael Mann
Starring: Johnny Depp, Marion Cotillard, Christian Bale
Running Time: 140 minutes
Score: 9 / 10

Another review for Public Enemies. This one by Pamela Fruendt.

Michael Mann’s ‘Public Enemies’ is a visually stunning, emotionally satisfying and damn near perfect film shot in a crisp documentary style rarely seen today. You are not just watching John Dillinger and friends shoot it out in the 1930’s. No, you’re the proverbial ‘fly on the wall’ smack dab in the middle of it and along for the ride. Oh, and what a ride it is! From the shuffling feet and chains in the opening scene to the double hankie gut-wrenching ending ( And I don’t mean Dillinger’s death. ), ‘Public Enemies’ is a feast for the eyes and the senses.

Johnny Depp’s Dillinger is a man’s man full of grit and action and Depp ( 3-time Academy Award Nominee for Best Actor ) dazzles as always. His range of emotions shown throughout the film, particularly those following Billie Frechette’s arrest, leaves no doubt as to his acting skill. Depp is the finest actor of his generation.

Marie Cotillard ( Academy Award Winner for ‘La Vie en Rose’ ) is perfectly cast as Billie Frechette, Dillinger’s true love. Her strength and vulnerability and on screen chemistry with Depp is memorable. Cotillard appears in two of the film’s most emotional scenes, including one where a chivalrous Melvin Purvis carries her to the bathroom when she can not walk after being brutalized by Chicago investigators. It was a scene I did not expect.

Christian Bale’s performance resonates with just the right amount of restraint and ‘get the job done’ ideology. He is the perfect foil to Billy Crudup’s pompous, manipulating J Edgar Hoover. Bale appears in far more of the film then I had expected. His one on one with Dillinger at the Crown Point jail is priceless. Their verbal barbs remind me of two tom cats circling one another looking for signs of weakness.

The supporting cast, generally left to unrecogizable actors in lesser films, is a kalidescope of known faces. Some linger on the screen. Others, you’ll have to look for or you’ll miss them. British actor Stephen Graham is outstanding as Baby Face Nelson. Never have I seen an actor take such pleasure in killing his fellowman. Those to look for include: Lili Taylor ( Arizona Dream ); Channing Tatum ( Fighting ); Emilie de Ravin ( Lost ); Giovanni Ribisi ( The Dog Problem & The Rum Diary ); and Leelee Sobieski ( 88 Minutes ). And don’t forget the fantastic ‘Public Enemies’ extras – each and every one of them. They are the true fabric of the film.

Finally, are there gaps in the film? Of course. Is everything explained? No. But the audience is the ‘fly on the wall’ and we see enough. ‘Public Enemies’ is not your typical spoon-fed summer fare. You’re going to have to work a bit with this film. Dare I say concentrate? Look at it this way, the R rating means you don’t have to contend with children throwing popcorn and climbing over the seats. Thank you, Michael Mann. Thank you.

Check out my time at the Public Enemies press conference with Michael Mann, Johnny Depp and Marion Cotillard.

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Public Enemies – Press Conference Part 3 – Michael Mann

Posted by LiveFor on July 2, 2009


Here is the final part of my Public Enemies press conference report. Be sure to check out the Marion Cotillard and Johnny Depp posts along with my Public Enemies review.

This final part deals with what Michael Mann had to say about the film. He gives some great, detailed responses to the question and was very forthright and informative. It was excellent to hear the thoughts of a great filmmaker like Mann.

Public Enemies features a theme seen in most of your work, that clash of law versus lawlessness. Why are you exploring this, and why choose the life of John Dillinger?

I became fascinated with Dillinger, because of certain mysteries in his life. First of all, he was very bright, and great at doing what he did. And he’s regarded as one of the best bank robbers of American history, to whatever extent that’s worth. He was very very current, very contemporary. Very sophisticated. He planned his robberies with great precision and forethought, and employed techniques picked up from the military by a guy called Herbert K. Lam – where the expression ‘on the lam’ came from. He mentored Walter Dietrich, Walter Dietrich – the guy who died at the beginning of the film – mentored John Dillinger. So Dillinger’s time in prison is really a post-graduate course in robbing banks. But what really interested me, is he not so much gets out of prison – he explodes onto the landscape, he is determined to have everything right now. And lives the dynamics of maybe four or five lifetimes in one, and that one life is only thirteen months long and it has the intensity and white hot brilliance to it, and an indefatigable brio, that I found stunning in view of the fact that he had no concept of future. That he could plan bank robbery with great precision, but they couldn’t plan next Thursday.

There was no sense of, as there was with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and the Hole in the Wall gang, of making a quarter of a million dollars, then go to Brazil for a year and a half, and chill out. There was no endgame. There was this very very intense live for today, and whatever happens tomorrow, it’s fated. It’s not that by decision making or consciousness it’s determined, it’s just fated. And it’s part of current thinking in the ’30s – it’s within three years of Hemingway writing Death in the Afternoon, about facing death straight on if you’re a matador… Writing that every story ends the same way, with death. And not something that you’ll transcend, or go to heaven, or any other fiction – but not something that’s depressing, it’s just fact. We have Red [John ‘Red’ Hamilton, Jason Clarke in the film] saying, ‘when your time’s up, your time’s up’… and people had expressions like ‘there’s a bullet with your name on it’.

The spirit of this guy – for example, even when everybody’s dead and gone… and he has the outrageous audacity to walk through that police station. Which didn’t happen the day of the Biograph, it actually happened three days before. Well, it was just stunning, so for me to explore it and to try to bring the audience into some real intimate relationship with it, became the challenge of this work. To as much as possible to locate the audience in his shoes, in his skin, looking through his eyes. Y’know – what’s he thinking? What’s he thinking in the Biograph, when [in Manhattan Melodrama] Myrna Loy – who looked like Billie Frechette – says ‘Bye, Blackie’, and he’s watching Blackie, who’s played by Clark Gable – who’s derived from Dillinger! So it’s Dillinger watching Gable being Dillinger! And Gable seems to be thinking more about the future and how should I look at mortality than Dillinger is. And how did those words fall upon him? He doesn’t know that there’s 30 FBI agents outside, who are planning to kill him. So that was the real engagement.

Reportedly, Christian Bale was your first choice for Melvin Purvis, what was it about him that made you see him in the role? It says in the production notes that, in between takes, he kept up the Southern accent – is that something you encouraged, or was that his choice?

That’s how Christian does it. Every actor’s different. Some actors will put on that – being completely in character when they show up for work. A brilliant actor – Stephen Graham, he picked up that Chicago accent [clicks fingers] in two days. And that was just amazing, and then the second I said ‘cut’, he’s back to, you know [Graham is from Kirkby, Merseyside], and I could barely understand him – I need subtitles! Christian, on the other hand, just dives into the deep end of this swimming pool and he’s there the whole time.

The character of Melvin Purvis, if you know American culture and patterns of immigration and ethnicity – he was a member of the landed gentry. They were people who settled in the United States in the 1600s, they were from the richer southern counties of England, and they got the best land – Virginia and South Carolina. For example, the people who settled in Appalachia, where [The Last of the Mohicans protagonist] Hawkeye’s ancestors would have come from, were the people from the borderlands who got kicked off the land after the union of England and Scotland. And they got what was left over, which was this brilliant piece of real estate, the only thing is, there’s a bunch of hostile American Indians who said ‘this is our land’, so it was dangerous. So that was the tenement slum of the 18th century.

So he emerged as a very rigid young man, with very specific treasured traits, a very specific code. One of which was – in addition to chivalry, not saying no, and loyalty – was conflict resolution through violence is totally acceptable. A kind of a duelling ethic. But he breaches those codes when he drinks J. Edgar Hoover’s kool aid, when he embraces the notions of expediency. Which means setting aside habeas corpus, persecuting the innocent, using torture and those kind of things.

So I had to have somebody who could embrace those original values. And Christian, clearly, was the guy for me. When he got the accent down, he would [adopting Southern drawl] talk like this, in this genteel Southern accent, and it made his three year old daughter nuts! She’d say ‘daddy, stop talking like that!’, and he’d say ‘Well, dear, I have to play Melvin Purvis, and I will be doing so for the next…’ [drowned out by laughter, laughs] And that was it! He was a dream, though, a dream to work with. He’s a great guy, and a great actor.

Is there a sense that, as Dillinger is such an American folk hero, that the film can’t help but glamorise him?

Who glamorised him?

Just the film itself, you can’t help but sympathise with him…

The media glamorised him?

Yes, in a…

Well, the media didn’t glamorise him. Contemporary news reports at the time glamorised him – there was something from the Daily News, a reporter who interviewed him at Crown Point, who wrote this big piece about how genteel he was, how charismatic, how well-spoken. How he didn’t conform at all to the stereotype – or archetype that they had in their minds of the criminal class, who they thought was some slothful somebody with dark skin and a low forehead and eyebrows. That was the take. And he would basically be this middle class guy, who was charming, who would be able to make you feel he was your best friend in three minutes.

And with Dillinger, this was absolutely tactical. And when they got this great press, which they did all the time, their heads didn’t get large. They planned their robberies with sobriety with great discipline, they had great operational security. And he was popular for [hitting arm of chair for emphasis] a very very good reason. There’d been forty bank failures in this recession in the United States – and the enmity towards the banks is palpable in the United States. And Chicago alone, in 1933, of 166 regional banks – meaning outside the Loop – 140 had failed. Employment wasn’t 8%, it was 25%. One out of four were hungry and cold and miserable. And most people blamed the banks.

So Dillinger is stealing from the banks, and he’s sharp enough to make sure that he treats female hostages well – because he knows that they’re all going to be interviewed. When Saager, the car mechanic who was taken hostage [as Dillinger escaped Crown Point prison] was released, there was a MovieTone newsreel – that’s where we got that scene from, it’s just a verbatim copy, it’s a xerox of the mechanic trying to sing out of tune on MovieTone news. So the attitude in the country, which was very wired. Everybody had only one medium – radio. And everybody listened to it, and the biggest radio commentator in America was Will Rogers, and the way Will Rogers reported what happened at Little Bohemia was like this – he was a very folksie guy – ‘well, the FBI had the whole place surrounded, and Dillinger was inside, and some other guys came out, some civilian conservation corps workers, so they just shot them instead. Dillinger and his whole gang got away. They probably will get Dillinger some day, when they shoot down a bunch of innocent bystanders, and they get Dillinger by accident’. That was kind of the media take, there was a begrudging admiration and ridicule heaped on the authorities.

As a person who grew up in Chicago, what part did the story and films inspired by it have in your upbringing and childhood? And, did they influence your filmmaking at all?

Chicago, as a city, it’s a very tough-minded, and ironic, and humorous kind of city. It really has a Brechtian kind of wit to it. Which it why Brecht set [The Resistable Rise of] Arturo Ui in Chicago, and movies like The Front Page and His Girl Friday all come from Chicago writers, and are all about the newspaper business in Chicago. You know, hiding a wanted criminal in a roll-top desk – that’s very Chicago. I remember driving down Lincoln Avenue with my dad when I was about seven or eight or something, and he said ‘oh, there’s the Biograph, that’s where they killed John Dillinger’. ‘Well, who’s John Dillinger?’ It’s all kind of folklore that’s embedded in the brown bricks of the city. So it’s my neighbourhood physically as well as culturally. My wife and I used to go to the Biograph, because it was an arthouse by the time the early ’70s rolled around. So, it’s plays a big part.

And, becoming a filmmaker, did watching these gangster movies as a kid, did that inspire you?

Not at all! First of all, I loved the literature of the period: Hemingway, Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and particularly someone who’s not as well read now, [John] Dos Passos and the USA Trilogy – Big Money particularly, about the Depression. And the ’30s is a fascination for me photographically, because of Roosevelt and the WPA [Works Progress Administration], and Dorothea Lange’s photography. And the first recordings of folk music, and prison chain-gang music, and blues – we used some of it in the film too, Blind Willie Johnson and the spiritual that’s there in the beginning. And it seemed like the rest of the 20th century was given birth in the ’30s, not the ’20s.

The world becomes streamlined, not just in the shapes that changed from neo-classical, square stuff. But in systems, all systems, centralisation. The commercial airplane is four years old. And Hoover innovatively takes that over, sends agents everywhere – networking, triangulation, none of this stuff had happened. America was very much, outside of the big cities, was absolutely in the middle of the 19th century. If you committed in a robbery in Wisconsin, and crossed the border into Illinois, you were home free. And there was nobody with a badge or any authority to go after you. It was almost like primitive territories. The use of data collecting, and disseminating information, it was all brand new. The highways were brand new – they had been built in the 1920s, they were only four or five years old… So these guys, armed with modern weapons, being innovative, using cars, travelling the highway system, going anywhere they wanted, were just about invincible.

So, that part of it. But it’s really the magic of trying to be intimate to Dillinger, trying to live in the ’30s, to place the audience – as much as I’m able to do that – in 1933, rather than look at 1933, and be inside the frame of reference of Dillinger with his period psychology. And that was the real traction for me. One other thing, the movies of the ’30s that I relate to aren’t those movies. It’s more Zero de Conduite [Jean Vigo film], and some French movies, than it is those pictures. Or if I went to those pictures, it would be to see [actor, star of original Scarface] Paul Muni do acting that’s directly from Stanislavsky, not filtered through the Actors Studio, so I wasn’t really a huge fan of the gangster pictures from the period.

How easy was it for you to get access to the locations you wanted in Chicago? And, how difficult was it to dress them up to fit the period?

It was very difficult. Well, there were obvious things, where you’d have a building from the 1920s, and then you’d have three others that weren’t. And when we did the Biograph… they took down the authentic marquee about a year before we got there, which was a great tragedy. So we had to put that back. And then we had to change the ground level of all those buildings and put facades on all the buildings, and put cobblestones down, and put trolley tracks in the middle.

But there exists in the south-western quarter of Wisconsin a very unusual area. Wisconsin had a boom economy at the turn of the century, from around the 1860s, after the Civil war, all the way to about 1910 – it was lumbering, and iron ore. And so it was fabulously wealthy, so leading families in town, like Black Falls, Wisconsin, always went to Europe in the summer. It was like Silicon Valley in the ’90s.

But when lumbering was over, the south west quarter of Wisconsin doesn’t have rich agricultural land like the rest of the state did. So their economy just trickled along. Consequently, there were these fabulous towns and small cities that were built up, they were very well maintained, but they never got their Walmarts, or their Burger Kings, or their McDonalds. So the silhouette of these towns is perfect – exactly the way they would have been in the ’30s. They’ve got this beautiful county court house, county square, and at the end of the main street, the forests and the hills begin. So we did a lot of shooting up there, and also in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The small town, where they escape the Crown Point jail, that whole town is a town called Columbus, Wisconsin – it’s gorgeous – but we still had to change the ground for it.

The film has been praised for its fidelity to the truth, but how important is that for you? And when do you decide to take dramatic licence?

I hope I don’t have a slavish adherence to actuality. It’s only when it’s magical, or when it means something, do you go there. So the magic of being able to shoot in the real Little Bohemia, in Manitowish, Wisconsin, for example, was superb. For Johnny Depp to be in the same bed John Dillinger really was in, for him to be shocked awake by gunfire, and see the ceiling that Dillinger saw, and to look out the window to see where this attack was coming from, was phenomenal. Same too with the Crown Point jail, it had been abandoned in ’74, was falling in on itself.

There’s some stuff on the Internet now, that has some footage of what that looked like when we first went there. We restored it, because you couldn’t invent a place that was like that. He didn’t take six or seven people hostage, he took seventeen guards hostage with that little wooden gun he’d carved. It wouldn’t have been credible if we’d put that in the movie, so we had to tune it down. The Biograph, for him to die on the same piece of real estate that the real Dillinger did. I’m most interested in how you think and how you feel if you’re an actor. So if it’s those things that provoke that belief, or the suspension of disbelief in the moment for the actor. And so too with the text.

The periodicity of the courtroom, just to take a lighter scene, the feeling of zeal in Purvis. I think that audiences are quite brilliant perceptually, we’re smarter than we even know. And we spot things that are wrong, we feel wrongly about them, and sometimes the intellectual conclusion doesn’t even land. We perceive the patterns, and things in the far distance, we recognise truth-telling style in the visual, even though we don’t know it.

Where licence comes in, like I said, he didn’t go into the Detective Bureau the day of the Biograph, he went into it three days ahead. Baby Face Nelson didn’t die at Little Bohemia, he died exactly that way, with exactly those people in exactly the same shootout, but it happened about a month later I believe. Or I might conflate characters, Makley is really two characters who did the same job, Charles Makley and Russell Clarke. The key thing for me is authenticity – how they thought, why they thought the way they did. And with that, we do a lot of work with period psychology. How to come onto a woman. How did Dillinger know how to come onto a woman? We imagine he went to movies to try and find out.

Part 1: Marion Cotillard

Part 2: Johnny Depp

Part 3: Michael Mann

Public Enemies review

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UPDATED: Public Enemies – Press Conference Part 2 – Johnny Depp

Posted by LiveFor on July 1, 2009

I was going to do them in order with Michael Mann after Marion Cotillard, but then I thought I would do the actors first and the director last.

With all dictaphones at the ready Johnny Depp walked into the room. Yep he is as cool in real life as you expect him to be. Waistcoat, glasses and just looked cool. Walking to the podium he stopped and looked at the poster of himself. “It is entirely too large!” he proclaimed. You can see it in the footage I took below, the photos are also by me. Always near was the white haired Jerry Judge – Depp’s long time assistant, minder and friend.

John Dillinger is an absolutely bona fide folk hero, but what was the draw of playing this outlaw whose name is virtually synonymous with the gun-slinging American past?

Well, first and foremost, when I was like 9 or 10 years old, I had a fascination with John Dillinger, I don’t know why – and probably not a healthy one. I think it was something about the twinkle in his eye; there was something mischievous that intrigued me. But, in terms of taking on the role, the idea that the guy was called Public Enemy Number 1, but, if you really think about it, was never an enemy of the public. That I found intriguing and challenging.

What is it about this character of John Dillinger that you think fascinated the public? And, famously, he died after watching Manhattan Melodrama, what would be the film you’d like to watch before you died?

[Laughs] If I had to see a last-ever film, it would be Withnail & I. Without a doubt, no question Withnail and I!

I think, especially with a guy like John Dillinger, if you think about where we were in 1933 – well, it’s not unlike where we are now. The banks were sort of the enemies, and it was taking the knees out from under everyone. Displacement was a kind way of putting it – their lives were being ripped from them. And there’s JD, who arrives as one of those people who’ve been ten years in prison for some youthful, ignorant, drunken crime. Ten years, and he arrives on the scene in the ultimate existential arena, and says ‘I’m gonna stand up against these people’. So I think, for me, what’s fascinating is the guy who says ‘I’m not gonna take it’.[In reference to a short scene where JD sings the country standard The Last Roundup, after a jail break] First Sweeney Todd, and now this, it was almost as if you were looking to crowbar in some singing…

 

I almost broke into dance… I just might now!

Why not? Just wondering if you’ve been bitten by the singing bug?

I’ve only been bitten once, and it was an indirect bite. No, no, no. I sang the one time on Sweeney because, well, basically I had no choice.

But you sang well in this. I know it was only a few lines….

Oh, yeah! I do sing in the film – is it in? I haven’t seen it!

Any recording contracts come your way yet?

You know, some people better stay in their own little arena. [laughs]

How did you research for the role? Did you watch previous films about him?

I certainly had a strong memory of Warren Oates’ John Dillinger in the John Milius film [Dillinger, 1973]. But, I hadn’t seen it in years. I do remember there was a certain palate that was limited. And I thought there were more colours to be offered – without being too esoteric about it. If you think about the information that has come out since – some of Dillinger’s own words have surfaced. So there’s a bit more to the story, a little more dimension. And that was what I was hoping for, to add some of that.

Stephen Graham [Baby Face Nelson in Public Enemies] over here is our rising star – how did you two get on?

We hated each other, and we fought constantly. [assembled journos laugh] I think he’s magnificent, one of my favourite actors of all time. What he did in This is… [journos, in unison, ‘England!’] England… absolutely destroyed me. What he did, and what Tomo did in that film of Shane Meadows’, took me to my knees. He’s someone I’m going to fight to get… I’m going to force him to be in every film I do – even at gunpoint!

You’ve mentioned you’ve not seen the film, and did a double-take at the poster as you came in – do you not like looking at yourself? And what’s it like now that you’re a big star?

If I can avoid the mirror when I brush my teeth in the morning, I will. I find security and safety in the most profound degree of ignorance. If you can just stay ignorant, almost everything will be ok. Just keep walking forward, and it’s ok to notice things, and look at things, but, to judge things will bog you down. So I don’t like watching myself in the movie, because I don’t like to be aware of the product, I like the process. I enjoy that. That [pointing at the oversized poster] is… not my fault. I didn’t do it!

In terms of your success, can you get your head around it? Did you think your time had come?

I went through 20 years of basically what the industry defined as failures. So for basically 20 years I was defined as box office poison. And I didn’t change anything in terms of my process. That little film Pirates Of The Caribbean came around, and I thought yeah, that would be fun to play a pirate for my kiddies, and all that stuff. And I created the character in the same way I created all the other characters, and… nearly got fired. And thank god they didn’t, because it changed my life. I’m hyper, super-thankful that radical turn happened, but it’s not like I went out of my way to make it happen.

You’ve played a lot of real-life figures in Blow, and Donnie Brasco, and now in Public Enemies, what attracts you to that? And, who do you want to play next?

Yeah… who would I like to play next. I don’t know, Carol Channing, maybe. I do like Carol Channing, very much! I mean, in the digital age… you can almost do anything. I could play a 12-year-old girl at this point – in the digital age!

But approaching someone like John Dillinger, as opposed to Jack Sparrow, is it as in-depth?

It is, it’s even potentially more so, because of the amount of responsibility you have, to that person who actually did exist. There’s some sense of responsibility to their legacy. With John Dillinger, there’s an enormous amount of information on the guy – we know where he was at 12:02, when the banks were robbed. But there’s a great gap with regard to who he was. There’s footage of him, there’s endless photographs of him – but there’s no audio. There’s just an attitude. So, that was the dig – how do I find this man, how do I find the way he speaks. And what made the connection for me was that John Dillinger was born in Indiana, and raised in Mooresville, Indiana, which was 2 hours from where I was born and raised. It was at that point that I thought – ah, I hear his voice now, now I know him, I know what he sounds like, because it’s not all that different. He was my grandfather, who drove a bus in the day, and ran moonshine at night. He was my step-father, who did time at Statesville Penitentiary. I knew his voice then.

Looking at you in this film, you don’t seem to have changed much over the years. Do you have any particular skin-care regime?

[Laughs] Clean living. Oh yeah, most definitely. I say if you could avoid wine, I’d do it. And liquor, definitely. Avoid liquor. Most definitely don’t smoke – anything. And stay in your room. And watch a bit of reality television, that’s how I do it.

Looking at the extraordinary range of characters that you’ve played so far. Which has been the closest to you personally, and which has been the furthest away?

Well, the furthest away – oh boy, probably a couple of them. But, furthest away… might be Willy Wonka [laughs]. Let’s hope that’s the furthest! Closest to me, this would be horrifically revealing, wouldn’t it? There’s probably three, Edward Scissorhands, John Wilmot from The Libertine, and maybe Dillinger.

There’s a great attention to detail in the film, in terms of shooting in real locations. How does that affect your performance, to know you’re in a location where Dillinger himself was?

That was one of the amazing things that Michael Mann provided us with, that level of authenticity, to be able to break through the exact doors that John Dillinger broke though. As opposed to shooting on some soundstage because it was cheaper or handier to the studio. Michael was a real stickler for that thing, and I will thank him forever for that. To be able to go and fire my Thompson out of the very window John Dillinger fired his Thompson out of during the gun battle at Little Bohemia. You can’t put a price on that thing. To be able to walk in the same footsteps as he took, to walk outside the Biograph theatre, and land exactly to the tiny millimetre where John Dillinger’s head fell, in the alley near the Biograph was magical. I mean, you almost feel him arriving. Not to be moony or spooky, but there were moments when I felt his presence, moments when I felt a certain amount of approval from the guy. When you’re going to that umpteenth detail, something’s going on.

How did you find working with Christian [Bale]? Are your acting styles quite different?

I don’t know if our acting styles are that different…

Christian tends to stay in character, and kept up the Southern accent between takes…

Oh, yeah, that kind of thing. Yeah, well I don’t do that. But, if you have to do that, that’s ok. I enjoyed our – basically – one scene together, besides when he and his cronies croaked me outside the Biograph [laughs]. Yeah, it was the scene in the jail cell, and I enjoyed it very much, it was like, how’d you describe it, like a great sparring match. Two guys in there with a similar respect for one another, trying to present different angles to each other. Obviously he’s a very gifted actor, and very talented. When we saw each other, which wasn’t very much, we talked about our kids, just talked about being dads. And that’s where we really connected.

Could you tell us about Michael Mann – how was his style of directing?

I think, ultimately, Michael’s style and my approach did complement each other. There are moments where, when you’re building something, there will be things discarded – things will get broken along the way. So it wasn’t right off the bat the easiest, but in the long run, what we were able to figure out together, was that, he presents something, he’d present something – we’d find a happy middle, and we’d get there. And we always got there. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Michael, as a human being but also as a filmmaker – he’s not joking, you know. He truly means it.

Then it was my turn to ask a question. The last one of Johnny’s press conference. Nervously I asked:

How difficult was it to let go of Dillinger once filming finished? And which character over your career has it been hardest to say goodbye to?

There’s been a few. The funny thing is, you really don’t say goodbye. There’s a little chest of drawers in here [points at chest], where you can always access these guys. I’m not sure if that’s healthy, but they’re there. Saying goodbye to Dillinger was tough, because it was like saying goodbye to a relative. The most difficult to say goodbye to? Well, Scissorhands was rough. The safety of allowing yourself to be that honest, to be that pure, to be that exposed. That was hard to say goodbye to. Wilmot, Lord Rochester, on The Libertine, was incredibly tough, because I felt like it was a very intense 40-something days where I had the opportunity to be that guy. And I felt a deep sense of responsibility, so it was like a marathon. And then, in the end, it was like the light goes out and it’s black.

There you have it. One of the biggest stars in the World today answered one of my questions and was looking straight at me when he did. Never thought it would happen to me, but an amazing experience. Depp was funny, charming and coolness personified.

UPDATE: Here is some more video from the press conference. You can briefly see the back of my head round about the 1:39 mark, oh and Johnny Depp is there as well.

Part 1: Marion Cotillard

Part 2: Johnny Depp

Part 3: Michael Mann

Public Enemies review

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Public Enemies – Press Conference Part 1 – Marion Cotillard

Posted by LiveFor on July 1, 2009

Yesterday I was at the Public Enemies press conference in London. It was fantastic. It’s not everyday you get a chance to listen to Michael Mann, Marion Cotillard and Johnny Depp talk about their films. I was also lucky enough to ask a question of both Marion and Johnny. Who would have thought it!

They each came out separately and we had about 20 minutes to ask them questions. I will start of with Oscar winner, Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose) and post Michael and Johnny’s later today.

Before each one we were asked to keep our questions relevant to the film. A bit of a shame as I wanted to ask Marion about her work on Christopher Nolan’s Inception. Oh well. Marion looked lovely in a long green dress. All of them came across as happy, confident and they all seemed to enjoy the questions. I managed to get a photo of them all, but the one for Marion was very blurred so I couldn’t use it.

Why did you say yes to Public Enemies?

Because I’m a great fan of Michael Mann and when he asked me to star I couldn’t believe it and I was very happy. I met him and read this beautiful script.

How was it doing the American accent and how did you prepare for that?

It was a technical issue and it was very hard. When I started I thought it was not possible at all, but I really tried to do my best. Fortunately Billie was half French, although she’s not supposed to have French accent.

It’s very technical. You really have to work and work. Practice and using your whole face, jaw, tongue, body in a total different way. It was very interesting. There were hours and hour in front of a mirror with my vocal coach because you don’t think how you speak.

There were so many men in this film. How did you feel being on set in one of the few female roles? Did you feel excluded?

No, absolutely not. Michael Mann has a great respect for women. He’s surrounded by women in his life and I think that is why the women in his movies are very strong. They really have strong personalities and they have a very special place in all his movies so I felt really welcome.

Michael asked you to meet some gangster’s wives and girlfriends. How was that?

They were actually convicts wives some of them were not with gangsters. They were all so generous to share their stories, the very painful experiences they had. We spent a few hours together and it was very emotional because they were very emotional going through the full story of their life.

More than their stories and they were important, but what they felt when they told me their stories. They went back through all those feelings, fear and extreme pain because you don’t know what’s going to happen when you are alone. Some of them had kids

*at this point Marion was distracted by one of the Dictaphones in front of her causing her to laugh *

I could see and feel their pain and fears because you don’t know what’s going to happen the next day. It helped me a lot. You gather some emotions and feeling. It creates your character.

You said you didn’t know anything about Dillinger as all so you must have done a lot of research to find out about him. He’s an American folk hero. Is he known in France at all?

I’m not very sure. I think that my generation doesn’t know Dillinger and yeah I didn’t know anything about him. I didn’t even know his name. The first thing I read about him was the script and the book, Public Enemies. I didn’t do a lot of research about him. My research was more about the period, the American history, and the Indian history because Billie Frechette is half [Menominee] Indian. I really wanted to know about American culture and Indian culture. I knew about the era I learnt at school about the crisis in the Thirties, but I didn’t know that much about American history. What I read about Dillinger was just the script and the book. I watched a lot of pictures of him, but my research was on the Thirties and the American culture.

I never talked about Dillinger with anyone. He may be well known with French people.

Was the experience of working with Michael Mann more than you anticipated?

When I met him, right away, when I came in his office I felt that there was a connection between the two of us. I don’t know how to explain it. I really love him as a person and a director. I wanted to be perfect for him. I wanted to give the best of my best. I don’t know if I did. He was inspirational.

Then it was my turn. I was the gentleman in the third row!

What was it like filming the interrogation scene? How much preparation did you have to do?

The difficulty of the scene was that when you have a very emotional violent scene to do you think of the technique and I had to keep the mid-western accent. It was very difficult, as I had to let it go but at the same time not think about.

I love extreme scenes. I would say that after this kind of scene I feel empty but also fulfilled. I think it may feel like when you do sports and you have a competition like the 100m. After that you feel tired and empty but fulfilled because you did something that was intense. I really love it. It’s not difficult but it is technical.

How deeply did Christian Bale and everyone stay in character? He apparantly kept his accent on between scenes

I didn’t work with him too closely. When we were filming everything was in the Thirties. I think there is something that stays with you while you film. For example if you have an accent you keep it between the scenes, as it is hard to get there. Sometimes it is better to stay there even when you are not shooting, because if you totally get out of it to come back is the same journey. Before I did La Vie en Rose I thought it was dangerous to stay in character and more than that I thought it was kind of ridiculous. I had a judgement because I didn’t know that it’s really hard to go back there. After that my opinion, it was not even an opinion it was a stupid judgement because I didn’t know what I was talking about. Now I know I didn’t force myself to stay in character. It was easy. I couldn’t stop between takes because it was so much work to get there. I really do understand this now.

Thank to Marek at Way to Blue for inviting me and for MPC for the screening.

Part 1: Marion Cotillard

Part 2: Johnny Depp

Part 3: Michael Mann

Public Enemies review

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Public Enemies, 2009 – Movie Review

Posted by LiveFor on July 1, 2009

Director: Michael Mann
Starring: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Stephen Dorff, Billy Crudup, Channing Tatum, Stephen Graham, David Wenham, Jason Clarke, Emilie De Ravin
Running Time: 140 minutes
Score: 8 / 10

This review by me. Check out my report from the press conference.

John Dillinger. He seemed unstoppable and in the 13 months from his release from prison to his death he lived for the moment and became a legend. Paroled in May, 19933 and by July 1934 he was dead.

Michael Mann’s Public Enemies tells the tale of Dillinger and his pursuit by G-Man Melvin Pervis, the inspiration for the look of Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy.

My first thoughts on the film – It was good, but not a masterpiece as some are calling it. However, after watching it again that may change for the better, hell it may change while I get my thoughts sorted in this review. The reason being the way it was filmed.

Let me explain. We are all used to films from that era to have certain look and feel to them. That period sheen were you know, not just from the cars and costumes that you are looking at something from the past. The look that film can give you. However, Mann used HD cameras as he did with Collateral. As you know this has a contemporary immediacy about it. It can remind you of a home video or a documentary and lots of the shots in Public Enemies had a hand held look to them as you follow Dillinger and his gang on numerous bank robberies. What I am trying to get at is that this film seemed as if it was shot back then but with todays technology. It’s unlike any other period film that I’ve seen in that regard and it took me a while to get used to it. I found myself enjoying the film more as it went on. Hence if I watched it again I would probably get more out of it.

With that out of the way, let’s get on with it. Depp as Dillinger is superb. You get him straight away. He’s got out of prison after a lengthy sentence for a minor teenage crime. The world around him is full of colour, fun and opportunity and he wants it all right now and to hell with tomorrow. Johnny Depp plays him with a devil may care smile and you can see why the public loved John Dillinger. He played the PR thing before it was invented.

What got me was how cool he was under pressure. From walking around the Dillinger Task Force offices surrounded by photos of himself to breaking out of Lake County Jail with a gun he carved out of a chopping board he just didn’t seem to care what happened to him.

This Lake County breakout was one of my favourite scenes. Depp with his wooden gun takes a few guards hostage before driving out of the prison in the warden’s own car. The audacity of the man was amazing. If you feel that it was a little far fetched it turns out that Michael Mann toned it down from reality as in real life Dillinger took 13 guards hostage but Mann felt the audience would find that a little hard to believe!

The fact that this scene and many others were filmed at the actual locations where events took place makes it all the more realistic. It also went someway in helping the actors play the roles. Little Bohemia Lodge where the FBI surrounded Dillinger and his gang only for them to get away once again. The Biograph theatre in Chicago where Dillinger watched his final film, Manhatten Melodrama (where Clark Gable basically plays Dillinger), was renovated for the film and when Dillinger meets his end in the film, Depp falls in the exact same spot that Dillinger did.

Marion Cotillard is great as Dillinger’s girl, Billie Frechette. She has that wounded innocence that was seen in A Very Long Engagement and in an interrogation scene with the FBI she is wonderful. Like many of the actors she is not actually in the film for that great a length of time, but she lights up the screen every time she is.

Christian Bale plays Melvin Purvis. Hand picked by J Edgar Hoover (a great portrayal by Billy Crudup) the straight laced G-Man finds he has to bend his strict moral code to bring Dillinger to justice and you can see it cutting him up as the film goes on. Bale, as usual, plays it well. He oozes professionalism as the man who tracked down Dillinger and then the frustration as he escapes once again. There is no Batman growl, but he did keep the accent all through the shooting of the film.

Bale and Depp only have a few minutes of screen time together – Mann seems to like doing this with big names, Pacino and De Niro in Heat had a similar amount of time together – but they do it well. Two sides of the same coin. One buttoned down and in control, the other living for the moment, but both keenly aware that they are losing friends and that one day soon only one of them will still be alive.

Around these three big names are numerous other great actors. Many of whom are only on screen for a short time – Stephen Dorff as Homer Van Meter, Channing Tatum as a blink and you’ll miss him Pretty Boy Floyd, Stephen Graham (This is England, Snatch) was brilliant as Baby Face Nelson, David Wenham (300, Australia), Jason Clarke, Emilie De Ravin and many more. All of them were great. Yet sadly not enough time was spent on getting to know some of them. Some of the characters were long time friends of Dillinger, yet you don’t get a chance to know them before they disappear never to be seen again.

The look of the film is spot on. Everything looks authentic – cars, guns, clothes, buildings – and Mann directs with his usual aplomb. The gunfight scenes are all gripping and loud. This is to be expected from Mann whose gun battle in Heat is still one of my favourites.

My main problem with the film was that I felt curiously uninvolved in the first part of the film. This may have been due to the way it was filmed as I mentioned at the start, but it also felt as if you were dropped into the middle of things and then moved quickly to the next scene and then the next, before things settled down a little after the first third. This may have been intentional though to get you into the hectic life of the Dillinger gang, but it did make it hard to get a handle on the characters.

The look and feel of the film did remind me a lot of Arthur Penn’s Bonnie & Clyde.

It was 140 minutes in length but it flew by and I felt a little extra time spent on some of the minor characters would have added to my enjoyment. I definitely want to see it again though as I would appreciate the film more now I know how the HD camerawork affects the look of it all.

Don’t get me wrong, the film is well worth seeing especially if you are a fan of Mann’s previous work. Plus Johnny Depp is always great to see. Be prepared for the curious effect the HD has on the period look and you will enjoy it all the more.

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Public Enemies

Posted by LiveFor on June 30, 2009

I’m back from my Public Enemies trip to London. I’ve seen the film and it is great and I thought the press conference was fantastic. I had the opportunity to ask Marion Cotillard and Johnny Depp a question. So weird to have Johnny Depp talking straight at you.

I will post the full report and my review of the film tomorrow.

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Off to London to see the Depp

Posted by LiveFor on June 29, 2009

There won’t be many more posts today and tomorrow as I am heading off to London. It is the Public Enemies screening and press conference tomorrow so I will be reporting on that late tomorrow or Wednesday.

I would schedule some posts for while I am away but the blogger scheduling system is cabbaged for the moment so schedule denied! Plus I don’t have a laptop with wifi so can’t post while I’m away.

Stay tuned for more updates as and when – If I get on a PC with internet access in London then I’ll post more.

Hope your Live for Films withdrawal isn’t for too long.

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