EDITORIALS

Producer Kevin Misher on Michael Mann's Public Enemies

by
July 19, 2008
Source: LA Times

Public Enemies

You've probably heard the title, Public Enemies, or seen the photos of Johnny Depp on set, but I'm guessing that most of you don't know what the story is about or anything about the production. Public Enemies is filmmaker Michael Mann's latest ambitious project, a 1930's era gangster movie based on true events and individuals in history. The film stars Johnny Depp as bank robber John Dillinger and Christian Bale as FBI agent Melvin Purvis and just finished shooting a few weeks back. I came across an interesting article in the Los Angeles Times where journalist Patrick Goldstein caught up with one of the producer's on the project, Kevin Misher. It's an interesting read for those who aren't familiar with Public Enemies yet but are interested in hearing more or want to know more about how Michael Mann works on set.

Let's start with a bit of a background on the story of bank robber John Dillinger. Dillinger primarily robbed banks during the 1930's and became known as the Jackrabbit for his graceful movements during bank heists, such as leaping over the counter and many narrow getaways from police. Some considered him a dangerous criminal, while others idolized him as a present-day Robin Hood. He was pursued by FBI agent Melvin Purvis, a young agent who helped lead America into the "public enemy era," which led to development of the modern and more sophisticated FBI. Dillinger was eventually caught in 1934 when the FBI was tipped off that he would be attending a film at the Biograph Theater in Chicago, where police were waiting outside. A shoot out began and Dillinger was killed before he had the chance to escape.

If you're already concerned that the story sounds too boring and not the least bit exciting, then you're not looking at this close enough. Think Ridley Scott's American Gangster, but set in the 1930's with bank robberies and shoot outs. Producer Kevin Misher puts it all into perspective: "If you're looking for action, I don't think you'll be disappointed. We've got three bank robberies, two prison breaks and who knows how many shootouts." Universal Chairman Marc Shmuger also chimes in: "It really felt like the most exciting thing Michael's done in years. It's a seminal gangster saga, but it's also a classic doomed lovers story. They meet on the run and you know that they know that the relationship can't last, which makes the film really heart-wrenching. With that combination, well, let's face it, there's just not that many filmmakers in the world besides Michael could do that."

Director Michael Mann, known for films like Heat, Ali, and Collateral, is a very visceral filmmaker. You can read more about some of his previous stories in the LA Times article, but as for Public Enemies, Misher explains that they shot in the real life locations as much as possible. "If we could find where Dillinger walked, we shot where he walked." That kind of mentality will most certainly shine through in the quality of the film. "We shot at the Biograph Theater on the very street where Dillinger was killed, so that scene was exactly where the real events happened. All we did was change the facades of the buildings and reverted them back to period. We also shot at the Little Bohemia lodge up in northern Wisconsin, which is the scene of a famous gunfight between the FBI and Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson."

Although we won't be seeing Public Enemies until July of next year, I'm already looking forward to it. In fact, I'm expecting it to be one of next summer's big hits. I think the combination of Michael Mann with Christian Bale and Johnny Depp can only lead to great things. And the story for this whole movie is incredibly thrilling, reminding me quite a bit of Brian De Palma's The Untouchables (which took place one decade before Public Enemies). Although Michael Mann screwed up most recently with Miami Vice, his past work, including Collateral (my personal favorite), has all been fantastic. And I expect him to yet again shine with Public Enemies. We've still got a year left to go, but it might be worth it to keep Public Enemies on your mind anyway as we progress through the next 12 months of movies.

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  • Vincent
    Heat and Collateral are amazing.
  • AngelMG
    Johnny Depp RARELY disappoints, plus Christian Bale, I expect good things with this one!!! Michael Mann fucked up Miami Vice but his track record is overall impressive.
  • Something about Miami Vice stuck with me. I like the sounds of this
  • Boo-Yah
    Heat and Collateral are fantastic, throw in Johnny Depp and Christian Bale (quickly becoming my favorite actor because of the way he just seems to disappear into his roles) - this sounds like it will be a fantastic film. I look forward to hearing more about it and seeing some footage...
  • sean
    The Bank Job baby!!!! HEIST FILMS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! this does sound awesome!
  • Matt Suhu
    Yes, the trio of Mann, Depp, and Bale will undoubtedly prove successful. I really love Mann and can't wait to see what action scenes he will concoct in this film.
  • moldybread
    Michael Mann ALWAYS comes through with the best in action movies...this will no doubt be very good...
  • Keith
    "Screwed up with Miami Vice"? I completely disagree, its a great film, quintessential Michael Mann. Two strong lead males, a love story, cops and robbers, shootouts, a deep color pallet, lots of steadicam. Anyways, I had to say that. Also, I've been waiting for Mann and Bale to team up for years. Can't wait to see this. Next summer is all Christian Bale's.
  • Matt Suhu
    @8 Although I am a huge Mann fan (lol), I have to admit that Miami Vice was not Mann's best work. I loved the music and the intricacy of the story was great, but the love story dragged on way too long and the amount of action was very disappointing compared to the potential that such a franchise possesses.
  • Vincent
    People diss Miami Vice because it didnt live up to expectations. I like it but Heat and Collateral are better.
  • John
    "the story sounds too boring and not the least bit exciting" And a little bit redundant?
  • Don't know exactrly what it was about what I just read but now I am so psyched for this.
  • Jeff
    I just read the above article. John Dillinger is my great uncle and I was interviewed by both Johnny Depp and Michael Mann for the movie "Public Enemies". Johnny Depp was extremely polite and respectful of family concerns. They both asked poignant questions. I read in the article above that John was nicknamed "jackrabbitt" for his grace and atheletic attributes. This was made up by some author who wrote a book that rehashed a previous book by Robert Cromie. John was referred to as "Johnnie" according to family members and gang member Mary Kinder. He really didn't have a nickname that ever stuck with one possible exception. The only nickname that ever came close to sticking was "Gentleman Johnnie" and that was dubbed by gang member Harry Pierpont. Harry didn't like that John was kind during bank robberies. The "jackrabbit" nickname is just flat out false.
  • Scarlet
    Wow, Jeff what I wouldn't give to have a conversation with you. I am a HUGE Dillinger fan! Through which sibling are you related? What people really need to know here, is Yes this is a great combination of actors, but it is also INCREDIBLE history that is rarely taught. In 1933-1934 John Dillinger was THE most popular man in America, second to the president and Charles Lindburgh,(The American hero) These guys defined gangsters and paved the way for others, such as the ones noted in American Gangster. Who other than John Dillinger, could escape from prison with a wooden hand gun, or escape the FBI countless times? In NO WAY will this story be boring!!!! AHH I can't wait.
  • Jeff
    My grandmother Doris was John's sister. She was a half-sister; in other words they had the same father but different mothers. John's mom died when he was only three years old. John was raised by his father and a nanny. There's a misconception that John's older sister Audrey raised him. She married shortly after her mother's death and began her own family. That was one of the reasons John Sr. went looking for a new bride. It's also been falsely reported that John didn't like his step mother. Nothing could be further from the truth. No one wrote to John, visited him more while he was in prison or worked harder to get him paroled. The prison records and letters prove the aforementioned completely accurate.
  • Anthony
    I have 2 say that ever since I heard Johnny Depp and Christian Bale were to be in the upcoming movie public enemies I just cant stop thinking about it. Johnny Depp is the best actor in the world and I know his going to do a great job in public enemies. Next year is all about Johnny Depp in public enemies.
  • Scott
    Jeff, I was in the movie several times, I have a 1933 Graham that Mr. Mann liked a lot. My question is do you know about a car your Grandmother had of JD's? The story is that she had one of JD's cars over the years and the movie guys helped her get the car back? Public Enemie's has the making of one of the greatest movies. It was ah honor just to be involved. Scott

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