Sunday, January 18, 2009

Public Enemies: Film based on book by Temple native

By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer

This summer's Johnny Depp film has ties to Temple.
Set for release on July 1, 'Public Enemies' is based on a book of the same title by Bryan Burrough, a 1979 graduate of Temple High School.
The Universal Pictures production will be Burrough's first cinematic credit, and he's very excited.
'It's awesome,' Burrough said. 'I can barely believe all this is happening.'
Published in June 2005 by Penguin Press, Burrough's non-fiction book discusses the development of the FBI and what he calls the golden era of crime.
'In 1933 and 1934, the country had some of its best outlaws,' Burrough said. 'People like Ma Barker, John Dillinger and George 'Machine Gun' Kelly were in the headlines.'
It's also the time J. Edgar Hoover came into the spotlight. 'There were so many people to put behind bars,' said Burrough, a longtime journalist for Vanity Fair. 'I wanted to tie all of it together.'
The movie is a historical action-thriller starring Depp as Dillinger, the legendary Depression-era bank robber, and Christian Bale as Melvin Purvis, the FBI agent who's after him.
'No one could stop Dillinger,' reads the movie synopsis. 'No jail could hold him. His charm and audacious jailbreaks endeared him to almost everyone in the American public.'
But Hoover, played by Billy Crudup, and Purvis have a score to settle. They name Dillinger as America's first Public Enemy No. 1 and try to use his capture as a way to boost the reputation of the fledgling FBI.
The transformation of 'Public Enemies' from book to film started in early 2006.
'HBO wrote a screenplay to do a miniseries,' Burrough said, like it did in 1994 for his 'Barbarians at the Gate,' a book about the financial fall of RJR Nabisco.
But the HBO 'Public Enemies' miniseries never happened.
'Time passed, and interest was lost,' Burrough said. 'But Michael Mann - the guy who directed the Barbarians TV movie - liked the screenplay, so he struck a deal with Universal Pictures and went about buying the movie rights. And that's pretty much how it happened.' (Mann also directed 'The Last of the Mohicans.')
Burrough's pleased with how well the movie mirrors the book.
'The movie's not 100 percent historically accurate,' Burrough said. 'But it comes pretty close. The director (Mann) had a real commitment to get everything as right as he could.'
As an example, Burrough talked about the part of the filming process he got to witness.
'In the scene where Purvis and Dillinger have their showdown, Mann got every detail right,' Burrough said. 'He filmed the scene on North Lincoln Avenue in Lincoln Park in Chicago, the precise spot where Dillinger was shot - in front of the Biograph Theater.'
There were cars from the 1930s on the streets, and the 'Manhattan Melodrama' was advertised on the theater marquee, just as it was on the day Dillinger died: July 22, 1934.
'I had a fun time watching everything come together,' Burrough said. 'I even got to meet (Depp) and (Bale.) They were great.'
His presence on the film's set was at the invitation of the director.
'I was asked to be an extra in the film,' Burrough said. 'It's like a four-second spot I have at the end of the movie. If you blink, you'll miss it.'
He plays one of the dozens of reporters who want to get a look at Dillinger's dead body.
The author is looking forward to watching his cameo on screen this summer at the film's Los Angeles premiere.
'I hope to be able to take my parents too,' Burrough said.
He's the son of Mary and John 'Mac' Burrough of Temple. His father served as the president of the local First National Bank from the 1970s to the 1990s.
Mrs. Burrough is thrilled that her son will be in the upcoming Johnny Depp movie.
'I'm so very proud of him,' Mrs. Burrough said. 'I can't wait to watch it.'
The family's also excited about the publication of Burrough's new novel, 'The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes.' Available in bookstores Jan. 27, the book chronicles the lives of Texas' most wealthy and influential oil men - Roy Cullen, H.L. Hunt, Clint Murchison and Sid Richardson.

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