On July 1, I saw Public Enemies at the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation's premiere, held at Eastgate Cinemas in Madison. The auditorium was filled with busloads of people who'd made the trip from Columbus to see their neighbors, their main street, and -- just maybe -- themselves on the silver screen.
Portions of Public Enemies were filmed in Columbus and in other places around the state, with many local folks cast as extras. A few days later, after the lights came up and the parties died down, I caught up with some of the extras to see what they thought of the final product.
First things first -- I wanted to know if they made the final cut. Jennifer Taylor, an extra who was part of scenes shot in Columbus and Darlington, gave an exited "Yes!" Taylor spotted herself on film four times. While she was happy about being so visible, she says, "I wish that I could have given some of those shots to my extra friends who were with me [at the premiere] and didn't get to see themselves. We all put in an extreme effort those days of filming and everybody deserved to be in it."
Mary Beth Ring, along with her husband Tom, was an extra in scenes shot in Columbus. Ring didn't make it into the film, though she saw a flash of her husband in a police car. Still, she was in good spirits about the whole thing. "We at least got to be chosen as the extras and were a part of it and have pictures to prove it and friends that we met," says Ring.
So, all vanities aside, what did these extras think about the film itself? Mary Beth Ring seemed a little let down; she was hoping for a little bit more plot. "It seemed that the movie was more concerned with close ups of Johnny Depp and Christian Bale than actually telling the story about John Dillinger," said Ring. "Not that these guys are bad looking," she added. "Anyway, we'll still be buying copies of this when it comes out on DVD."
"It tends to focus more on the emotions of the characters," Jennifer Taylor agreed. Taylor liked the film and suggested it might be Oscar material, but offered a warning to theatergoers: "Be prepared for jerky, hand-held style camera filming."
Taylor, who is susceptible to motion sickness, was a bit nauseous throughout the film. She also was bothered by Marion Cotillard's accent. Despite the help of a dialect coach, her French accent was prominent enough to be distracting. Cotillard's character, Billie Frechette, hailed from northeast Wisconsin.
Thinking over her entire experience, Jennifer Taylor expressed a little bit of disappointment. Some of her scenes weren't in the film at all, and it's hard to see all that time and hard work down the drain. But as a visual artist herself, she's turned her experience into a metaphor for the creative process. "Sometimes you have to spend a lot of time on something which you will never use, to get you to the point of creating something even better."