Tales from the red carpet: The Chicago premiere of "Public Enemies"

from ChicagoNow, Metromix the Blog / by Matt Pais

Johnny Depp. Christian Bale. Marion Cotillard. Director (and Chicago native) Michael Mann. It didn’t cause quite the mayhem of 2007’s local “Ocean’s Thirteen” premiere (featuring appearances by George Clooney, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac and Ellen Barkin), but it was certainly a scene.

Tons of fans gathered, shrieked, took photos and waited around for autographs, with plenty getting their wish as Depp came back to sign autographs after all the other stars had gone inside the AMC River East theatre and all the press had gone home. Unfortunately neither Depp, who plays legendary bank robber John Dillinger in the film (out July 1), nor Bale, who plays FBI Agent Melvin Purvis, offered barely any interviews to print/web outlets. (Bale smiled but didn’t answer when I asked what kind of cop he’d make in real life. Perhaps that’s not the right question to ask someone who’s been arrested before? Anyway, click here for my 2007 interview with Bale, about “3:10 to Yuma.”)

I did, however, get some face time with Cotillard (Oscar winner for “La Vie En Rose”), who plays Dillinger’s girlfriend Billie Frechette, and Mann, who directed and co-wrote the film. (Plus, just because he was walking by, I snagged a quote from Evanston native and former “CSI” star William Petersen.)

What’s the coolest thing you discovered in Chicago when filming here?

Marion Cotillard: People. They were so nice. I met a lot of people and they have a lot of character. This is a city of culture. That’s what I like about Chicago. And they’re very friendly and they want to share … they’re really in love with their city here. And it’s beautiful because I didn’t know anything about the city and all the people I met really wanted me to discover their city with them.

Why do women find bank robbers sexy?

MC: Um, there are bank robbers that are not sexy actually. I think it’s about Dillinger. [Laughs] He had that class. He didn’t know any better than robbing banks. He spent half of his life in jail and I think it was a big injustice that he spent so much time in jail. He was so charismatic and also it was a very tough time for America. It was the depression and all the people … they didn’t have any money, they didn’t know how to survive without any money. And suddenly that guy goes and takes the money where it is. He was not a murderer. He was just someone who tried to survive. I think that’s why he was so fascinating.

What was it like to flesh out your character and not have her minimized like some other takes on the Dillinger story?

MC: Actually I have never seen a movie about Dillinger or the role of Billie Frechette. I think that what it great with Michael Mann’s movies is that the women always have a strong and important part in the movie. It’s not just a beautiful thing in the corner because you have to have a beautiful thing in the corner. It’s more than that. When you see all his movies you really feel the strength of the women.

Is it different filming a period movie in Chicago, compared to L.A. or Miami?

Michael Mann: No, it’s the same. You have to go out and research to find a match of what exactly it feels like. What it felt like then. What the streets looked like. What was the lighting. The streetlights were different, you know. What was on the streets?

Did you have a leg up coming from here?

MM: Absolutely. I had a sense of what things looked like. My parents were alive in that period.

Who’s a bigger crook: Dillinger or Blagojevich?

MM: Dillinger. Put it this way: Dillinger was an honest outlaw. He really went in there and he took the money. That’s a lot different than pretending you’re something else.

What’s the secret for taking down Chicago crooks?

William Petersen: Shoot ’em. That way you don’t have to try ’em.


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