Did you know Johnny Depps grandfather ran moonshine on the back roads of Kentucky during the Prohibition? I thought that pretty interesting. I recently saw a documentary on the History Channel about moonshine runners, those guys had a crazy job. So of course Depp felt a connection with the character Dillinger, it runs in the blood.
''Dillinger was one of those guys, like Charlie Chaplin and Evel Knievel, that I was fascinated with at a young age,'' says Depp. ''And because of my grandfather, the character was pretty easy for me to connect to. In a way, this movie was a salute to him.''
Public Enemies is based on a novel by Bryan Burrough, it is a thriller about the early days of the FBI, and one agent's pursuit of the Depression-era bank robber whose crazy reign of stickups and near escapes ended in a hail of bullets outside of Chicago's Biograph Theater in 1934, and left a legacy as one of the most notorious criminals of the 20th century.
The movie is being directed by Michael Mann, and costarring Christian Bale as the dashing federal agent Melvin Purvis. Dillinger was sticking up and robbing banks at a time when people weren't exactly rooting for the banks. So, he became kind of a rock star back in the day. He was a criminal, but a good criminal? A criminal to look up to? Depp seems to think so.
''Some people might disagree, but I think he was a real-life Robin Hood, I mean, the guy wasn't completely altruistic, but he went out of his way not to kill anybody. He definitely gave a lot of that money away. I love the guy.''
One thing that is kind of strange about actors and Hollywood is they tend to glamorize the real life bad guys.
So what does Mann think about his actors?
''Johnny has courage and immense power. It's all about the spontaneity of the moment for him. Christian works in a totally different way. He becomes the character so totally that he's that person 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The accent, everything.''
So when he was Batman did he talk in the deep growling voice all the time? Imagine being at lunch with Bale and the whole conversation he is talking in his Batman voice.
Mann shot on the actual locations where Dillinger and Purvis made headlines, because, he says,
''when your hand touches the same doorknob Dillinger's did, it starts to talk to you.'' The director even managed to get his hands on a still-preserved suitcase left behind by Dillinger after one of his narrow getaways. ''All of the dress shirts were still folded perfectly,'' says Depp. ''It was a real insight into the guy. Because everything was ready to go at a moment's notice. It was just economical and beautiful.''
Depp even got to wear the pair of pants that Dillinger had on when he was finally caught and riddled with bullets. I guess wearing the persons actual clothing helps make an actor connect with the character a little bit more? Depp seemed to enjoy the experience.
''It was amazing,'' he says. ''And-get this-we're the same size!''
Well, I guess he was born to play Dillinger. They were the same size.