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Posts Tagged ‘Public Enemies’

Conan – Stephen Lang may be the bad guy

Posted by LiveFor on March 3, 2010

He was great in Public Enemies, hilarious in The Men Who Stare at Goats and excellent in Avatar, now it looks as Stephen Lang will be playing the big bad in the new Conan film by Marcus Nispel. He is currently in negotiations to play Khalar Singh according to Latino Review.

This is the casting breakdown for the character:

Khalar Singh is in his 40s to 50s, Asian or Middle Eastern, Central Asian, Mongol, Turkish, or Persian, open to all ethnicities; commanding in size and manner, a warlord and formidable warrior, brilliant, cruel, weathered and tanned by the many campaigns he has waged and won. He is driven in his quest to find the Queen of Acheron and has been building an empire to do so.

His goal is to find the Queen whose blood will bring life to the demonic minions of Acheron while making himself king of this hellish power. With this power, Khalar will protect his legacy against the onslaught of master sorcerer, Thoth-Amon so that his weak son, Fariq may rule after his death. While riding into a Cimmerian village to recruit his old comrade, Corin, his large collection of mercenaries slaughters them to the last soul when Corin refuses to join them. The village’s only survivor was young Conan. When Khalar’s search has finally narrowed to the likely discovery of the queen at a monastery of female monks, he also learns Conan is older and hungry for revenge…

I could easily see Lang playing that. He is a great actor and I hope he takes the role.

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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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Live for Films – 2009 A Year in Film

Posted by LiveFor on December 16, 2009

What a year it has been for film.

Neill Blomkamp and Duncan Jones had great debuts with District 9 and Moon. Sam Rockwell acted his socks off in the latter. There was animated loveliness with Up, Ponyo, Fantastic Mr Fox and Coraline, but ugliness with Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Planet 51 and Monsters vs Aliens.

J J Abrams beamed new life into the excellent Star Trek.

There was old school horror in the shape of Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell and brilliant horror comedy in the wonderful Zombieland (it had the best cameo of the year). Dario Argento’s Giallo wasn’t sure if it was a horror or a comedy.

Comic book movies didn’t quite so well this year. X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Zack Snyder’s Watchmen – I enjoyed them both though despite their flaws.

War movies hit the big time again. Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker gave us an intense take on the war in Iraq and Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds changed history for the better. That’s a bingo!

There were toy and book adaption disappointments in the shape of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra and Twilight: New Moon raked in the cash despite not being very good. Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones had mixed reviews.

Joaquin Phoenix lost the plot or is playing the long con when he quit acting to become a rap star and James Franco started an artistic endeavour by appearing on General Hospital.

Both Dragonball Evolution and Streetfighter adaptions had poor finishing moves at the box office. Terminator Salvation brought us our first proper glimpse at Sam Worthington, but left many cold and Ben Foster chased through the darkness in Pandorum. The Stath did it again in Crank: High Voltage and blaxsploitation returned with Black Dynamite fighting The Man.

The Perfect Getaway had a few twists and turns from the norm and The Cove opened my eyes to the slaughter of dolphins.

Chaos reigned in Lars Von Triers’ Antichrist. Bruce Willis went plastic in Surrogates. Gerard Butler was a Gamer and a Law Abiding Citizen. George Clooney was Up in the Air after The Men Who Stare At Goats. The Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man and Colin Firth as A Single Man confused a few while Carey Mulligan had An Education that many adored, but left me disappointed. Johnny Depp and Christian Bale were Public Enemies and Viggo Mortenson began a long walk down The Road. Audrey Tautou showed us Coco avant Chanel.

Spike Jonze sailed to Where the Wild Things Are, Richard Kelly opened The Box and The Hangover gave a headache to no-one. Clint Eastwood made Invictus. Jeff Bridges had a Crazy Heart while Terry Gilliam and Heath Ledger took us to The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Nicolas Cage began a slow climb to redemption with the aid of his lucky crack pipe in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince brought us ever closer to the end.

An Orphan scared us, In the Loop made us laugh at the political shenanigans, Paranormal Activity scared us, (500) Days of Summer and Adventureland made us happy in a sad way, World’s Greatest Dad reminded us how good Robin Williams could be while Old Dogs reminded us how bad Robin Williams could be. sin Nombre and Thirst were two of the many excellent foreign language films released and Jim Jarmusch showed us The Limits of Control.

Behind all of these other films has been the rumbling spectre of James Cameron’s Avatar. All year it has been waiting and watching and only now are we about to see whether it was all worth it (current reviews seem to say this is a great big hell yes!)

So many films watched but so many more missed. The way it has always been and always will.

That does mean that there are still many wonderful moments to be watched or to take us by surprise when we turn the channel late one night and an unexpected film has just begun – often films you would never normally watch but you end up thoroughly enjoying….and I don’t mean a bit of blue for the Dads!

I suppose that is one of the great things about movies. You will never be able to watch them all and you wouldn’t want to. We don’t all watch the same ones yet that means we all have fresh takes on each others favourite films. They can bring us together or lead to intense arguments. Did Han did shoot first?

Most of all, for the 90 minutes or more they are on, a movie takes us away to another place. Not always a nice place, but it is a break from the real world no matter what. Bad, good or wonderful they are all groovy and bring us all together.

As for me I have had some wonderful moments related to film – I got to speak to Marion Cotillard, Johnny Depp, Duncan Jones and David Sullivan. The site moved over to WordPress and has been going from strength to strength since then – thanks to everyone for taking the time to stop by and have a look.

The Live for Films Movie Club began and is still going to help share cool movies you may have missed (thanks to those on the Forum for sorting all that out).

Live for Films researcher and reporter Pamela Fruendt went along to Tim Burton’s art exhibition at New Yorks Museum of Modern Art. Many people contributed reviews for favourite horror films during Halloween including author Michael Marshall Smith (he reviewed Halloween) and director Andrew Barker (he reviewed Blood Feast).

My Wife enjoyed getting parcels full of DVDs and Posters addressed to Live for Films and I just had a ball doing what I do and have been constantly surprised that so many people seem to dig what I dig, you dig?

For what it is worth my top 10 films of 2009 in no particular order and considering the fact I have yet to see such films as Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Up, The Road and many more are:

  • Moon
  • Zombieland
  • Star Trek
  • Watchmen
  • District 9
  • The Cove
  • Coraline
  • Drag Me to Hell
  • Public Enemies
  • Inglourious Basterds

What have been your highs and lows in films for 2009? What great films have I forgotten and what should I have watched? What films do you wish you have not watched and what film did you see many time? What surprised you? What made you laugh, cry or hurl?

Now we have 2010 to look forward to. Apparantly, according to Dave Bowman, it will be full of stars.

Posted in Action, Animated, Biopic, Comedy, Documentary, Fantasy, Horror, Kids, news, Review, Sci-Fi, Short Film, Thriller, War, Western | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Jonathan Pryce is everywhere

Posted by LiveFor on October 6, 2009

Jonathan-Pryce-at-the-Eve-001Last Saturday my Wife and I went to the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool. We were off to see The Caretaker by Harold Pinter. The wonderful actor Jonathan Pryce was starring in it.

This is the guy who was Sam Lowry in Gilliam’s Brazil, Mr Dark in Something Wicked This Way Comes, Jack in Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Elliot Carver in Tomorrow Never Dies, Governor Swann in Pirates of the Caribbean and star of numerous other films, TV shows and stage plays. He was also appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2009 Birthday Honours.

He is a proper actors actor and has a cool sounding voice.

Okay, for those who know the Everyman Theatre we were downstairs in the bar / restaurant queuing up for some food before the play. I was chatting to my Wife when she suddenly stopped and pointed behind me quite dramatically before turning away. Worried I quickly spun round like a ninja…well maybe more like a man in his mid 30’s with a beard.

It was double take time. There standing in the queue was the aforementioned Jonathan Pryce (turns out he that after he graduated from RADA he joined the Everyman Theatre Liverpool Company, eventually becoming the theatre’s Artistic Director. Plus it is where he met his wife, so he was basically returning to his roots with this play).

He looked very well, bearded like myself (he was playing the tramp Davies in the play) and he was just a bloke standing in the queue waiting for some food.

Now I could have blurted out something like, “Holy Bloody Fracking Cow, Your Jonathan Pryce,” or “Holy Jabba you’re the Dude from Brazil!”, or “Sweet Jumping Jack Flash you were in that film with Whoopi Goldberg whose name I forget.”

I could have said them, but I am cooler than that. So much cooler. Oh yes. You can’t touch this man for coolness.

Thinking fast and not forgetting that I run a film blog (this small fact instantly fled my mind – I need to get business cards made up) I took a deep breath and turned back to Mr Pryce.

“You were the last person I expected to see when I turned around.” I exclaimed with a smile on my face.

“I am everywhere.” He responded with an all knowing grin on his face.

We nodded and returned back to our inner monologues before ordering food and departing henceforthwith.

Definitive proof there that Jonathan Pryce is indeed God.

That makes my tally of people from Pirates of the Caribbean that I have spoken to up to two (I spoke to Johnny Depp at the Public Enemies press conference) and chatting to people who have worked with Terry Gilliam up to three (Depp and screenwriter Tony Grisoni).

The Caretaker was excellent. Funny, chilling and a little disturbing in places. Pryce was fantastic as were Peter MacDonald and Tom Brook. I recommend it and it runs until 31st October at the Everyman.

Also check out this interview with Jonathan Pryce about his return to The Everyman…nope no mention that he met me.

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Stephen Graham to visit London Boulevard

Posted by LiveFor on July 16, 2009

British thesp Stephen Graham (Public Enemies, Season of the Witch, This Is England, Snatch) has joined the cast of the romantic drama London Boulevard for GK Films says The Hollywood Reporter.

The story revolves around a romance between a former con (Colin Farrell) and an actress (Keira Knightley). Graham will play the lead detective pursuing Farrell.

William Monahan makes his directorial debut on the film. Graham, who played Baby Face Nelson in “Public Enemies”, will portray Al Capone in the upcoming HBO pilot “Boardwalk Empire”.


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Stephen Graham to visit London Boulevard

Posted by LiveFor on July 16, 2009

British thesp Stephen Graham (Public Enemies, Season of the Witch, This Is England, Snatch) has joined the cast of the romantic drama London Boulevard for GK Films says The Hollywood Reporter.

The story revolves around a romance between a former con (Colin Farrell) and an actress (Keira Knightley). Graham will play the lead detective pursuing Farrell.

William Monahan makes his directorial debut on the film. Graham, who played Baby Face Nelson in “Public Enemies”, will portray Al Capone in the upcoming HBO pilot “Boardwalk Empire”.


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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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Holy Deacon Frost – Stephen Dorff to star in Blade prequel

Posted by LiveFor on July 7, 2009

Stephen Norrington directed the original Blade. That was a really good film, with some fine action sequences. Since then his career has been a bit hit and miss – He directed The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (check out my review to see what I thought of that).

No Norrington has spoken to exclusively about the fact that he is planning a return to the Blade franchise following his work on the reboot of The Crow.

His leading man of choice is Stephen Dorff, who co-starred as the megalomaniacal Deacon Frost in the film. Of course, Frost apparently died at the end of the first movie as Blade cut him down just as he was about to transform into a vampire god.

Dorff told UK’s The Sunday Mail that the new movie would be “a prequel to the Blade movies, Deacon’s story. It’s a new trilogy the director has created. It will [be] cool.”

Norrington confirmed the news although said the movie is “not exactly how the article describes but close.”

The director credits Dorff with coming up with the idea for the new project, which “has evolved into a very interesting story.”

While that evolution may have carried it away from the source material, Norrington tells us the film is definitely envisioned as part of the existing mythology. “The linkage to ‘Blade’ is still big in the equation.”

Presently Dorff is occupied filming Sofia Coppola’s ‘Somewhere’. Earlier this year, the actor starred in the comic-based TV mini-series ‘XIII’. He can be seen on screen now in ‘Public Enemies’.

Not sure about this one. Deacon Frost was a good character, but can he carry a trilogy? Also Blade: Trinity pretty much killed off the franchise. Can you see a prequel being succesful? What would you want to see in it?


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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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