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‘Public Enemies’ author rushes to Dillinger’s side

Author Bryan Burrough (above), whose book was the basis for the movie starring Johnny Depp, has a walk-on role in the film.

Author Bryan Burrough (above), whose book was the basis for the movie starring Johnny Depp, has a walk-on role in the film.

MILWAUKEE – When federal agents gun down John Dillinger in front of a theater, the man who runs up to the body is a reporter, his figure barely visible from the helicopter carrying the crew filming “Public Enemies.”

The reporter is actually Bryan Burrough, an author who has played out this scene before: His book was the basis for this summer’s film starring Johnny Depp as the notorious gangster. On the same slab of Chicago where Dillinger was shot 75 years ago, Burrough, offered the part as an extra, races to Depp’s side in the climactic scene.

“Johnny Depp goes down on the same exact piece of pavement that John Dillinger went down on,” Burrough says in a phone interview from his home in Summit, N.J. “To see what (director Michael) Mann had done with the period costumes, the period automobiles, everything looking as everything must have looked. For someone who put five years into writing about that, it just kind of gave you chills.”

Writers Ronan Bennett and Ann Biderman and Mann used Burrough’s book “Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34″ to help craft the screenplay for “Public Enemies,” out July 1. Burrough has said the screenplay is not 100 percent historically accurate, but “it’s by far the closest thing to fact Hollywood has attempted.”

As an extra, Burrough was put in makeup and costume and spent 12 hours on an overnight shoot in Chicago. He isn’t sure anyone will make him out since Mann filmed that scene from a helicopter. But, “I will be able to tell my kids: ‘See that little ant down there running toward Dillinger’s body? That is your father.’ ”

Not that he can yet be sure: Burrough said he hasn’t been able to make any of the early screenings.

“I don’t know what to expect. I assume, you know, it’s a big Johnny Depp movie opening on July 4 (weekend),” he says. “I assume an awful lot of people will go see it. I assume given the people that have made this movie, I assume it’s going to be pretty darn good. And I assume that I am going . . .to be tickled to death.”

Gannett News Service

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