Public Enemies: Interview with Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp plays John Dillinger in “Public Enemies,” directed by Michael Mann, which Universal is releasing July 1, 2009.

Long Interest in Dillinger

Johnny Depp explains his long interest in playing the legendary 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.”

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.”

On Marion Cotillard

“I was profoundly impressed by Marion’s commitment to Billie,” commends Depp. “She took so much care in playing her properly and giving Billie her fair shake. Marion worked unbelievably hard on the accent and was profoundly committed to the part. I like her very much, both personally and as someone to get in the ring with.”

Designer Colleen Atwood

Two-time Oscar-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood was charged with creating looks for the large cast—from Dillinger’s dapper suits and Frechette’s intricate costumes to Purvis’ perfectly tailored wear.


Depp offers of his experience working with the industry legend: “Colleen Atwood is someone whom I’ve had the pleasure to work with on and off for the last 20 years, and she’s just a complete wizard. She’s just amazing. With any character you have a very strong idea of who it is, especially with someone like John Dillinger. With Colleen, you don’t have to say a word; you walk into a room, and she’s already got you decked out.”


Firing Away

Depp proved to be a quick study during preproduction. “For the most part, I was carrying a 1921 Thompson submachine gun and a couple of .45s in the film,” the actor provides. “I had a lot of preparation. I’ve been shooting guns since I was about 5 or 6, so I had a pretty strong advantage in that area. Primarily, I was firing the Thompson and a couple of .45s.” He coyly adds, “When you’ve got a beast like that strapped to you and you’re emptying magazines, a 50-round drum, it’s a good feeling.”

Depp's Oscar Nominations

Johnny Depp most recently received his third Oscar Award nomination for Tim Burton’s “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” and won a Golden Globe Award for the role. Depp received his second Oscar nomination, as well as a Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild Award, and BAFTA nominations for his role as J.M. Barrie in Marc Forster’s “Finding Neverland,” in which he starred opposite Kate Winslet and Freddie Highmore.  As Captain Jack Sparrow, Depp reprised the role for a third time in “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” after “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” earned more than $1 billion, making it the third largest-grossing movie of all time. He received his first Oscar Award nomination, as well as a Golden Globe, a British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) nominations, and a Screen Actors Guild Award for his portrayal of Sparrow in “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”