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PUBLIC ENEMIES

Casting The Film
"One rule I learned from Walter Dietrich: Never work with people who are desperate.” —John Dillinger

When deciding upon the actor who would portray the principal outlaw, Mann turned to a performer known for immersing himself in his roles.

He found the complex character he needed for his interpretation of John Dillinger in Johnny Depp. "Deep in the core of Johnny there's a toughness,” commends Mann. "When we started talking about it, he said that he had been interested in Dillinger for a long time and that Dillinger reminded him of some people from his past. He had Dillinger in him; that's something I sensed. Everybody has these dark currents inside of us, but to be able to reach down in a movie and plumb those depths and bring that up…that's courageous.”

Depp explains his long interest in the gangster: "Funny enough, when I was a little kid, there was a long period where I was fascinated with John Dillinger. No particular explanation why, I just was; he struck my fancy somehow. But looking back on that initial interest in Dillinger and the fact that it's carried through for the majority of my life, it was his character. It was who he was as a man…back at a time when men were really men. He was, for good or ill, exactly who he was, without any compromise whatsoever.”

For Mann, the challenge of preparation is "…trying to make 1933 come alive. And be alive just the way it's alive for you right now in 2009.

And that meant not just how things looked, but how people thought. How men courted women in 1933. How ex-convicts thought about life and their fate in 1933. What the material world meant to those who were hungry and denied. The desperation on the streets.” Press gather to see Dillinger as he is transported by the police. In preparation for the shoot, Mann, who had decided to film in some of the actual locations where the story took place—like the Crown Point Jail, Little Bohemia and the Biograph—was able to provide Depp with the actual clothing and personal articles of Dillinger.

Depp was able to spend time in some of the haunts frequented by the "Gentleman Bandit” and handle weaponry the man had used. Also informative were his personal experiences. "I read many books on him, but aside from all the research, more of it had to do with an instinct and understanding of the man,” Depp notes. " I related to John Dillinger like he was a relative. I felt he was of the same blood. He reminded me of my stepdad and very much of my grandfather. He seemed to be one of those guys with absolutely no bull whatsoever, who lived at a time when a man was a man.”

The actor continues: "I think Dillinger had some idea of what he was doing. I believe he had found himself and was at peace with the fact that it wasn't going to be a very long ride…but it was going to be a significant ride.”

From his rise as a golden boy of the FBI to his need to get his hands dirty if he hoped to catch Dillinger, Purvis was just the complex part that Christian Bale was eager to tackle. The actor was particularly interested in the conflict he believed existed within Purvis.

"He had such accolades in the press as a hero and was regarded so highly,” offers Bale, "but I think Purvis was very conflicted about the direction that the Bureau was taking in its effort to become efficient.”

Bale extended his feelings about that conundrum to Purvis' capture of Dillinger and the ruthless tactics pushed by Hoover. "There may have been no satisfaction for Purvis to pursue Dillinger,” he adds. "In my interpretation, I felt that by the time they got him, Purvis must have believed he had to compromise himself and his own values so much that he was questioning who was the loser here.”

As does Depp, Bale engages in extensive

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