Michael Mann, director and producer of the John Dillinger gangster film Public Enemies, was joined by other principals on the production team in a visit to Madison on Monday to scout potential locations downtown, including inside and outside the Wisconsin Capitol building. A publicist said later Monday that shooting is planned for Madison.
"It's great to be back," said Mann as he was examining the Capitol wing facing North Hamilton Street in the fading glow of sunset on Monday evening. The UW-Madison alumnus and Academy Award-nominated producer was accompanied by about a dozen members of his production team, many carrying clipboards as they examined the site that has been the most discussed potential location for the film within Madison.
Based on the book Public Enemies by Bryan Burrough, this film from Universal Pictures will tell a story about exploits of infamous bank robber John Dillinger and his gang during their final year in action over 1933-34, and the efforts of the FBI to bring them to justice. It stars Johnny Depp as Dillinger, Oscar-winning actress Marion Cotillard as his girlfriend, and Christian Bale as FBI agent Melvin Purvis, along with Channing Tatum, David Wenham, Giovanni Ribisi, Stephen Graham, Wisconsin native Billie Frechette and others as various gangsters, including Pretty Boy Floyd and Baby Face Nelson.
As noted by Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton's office, several rooms inside the Capitol have been looked at as potential locations to serve as FBI offices, including that of the yet-to-be-cast J. Edgar Hoover. It looks like the exterior of the building is also being considered for shots, as evidenced by the scrutiny Mann and his team were giving it on Monday. There are rumors about other locations in downtown Madison, too, but nothing else has been revealed by any building or business owner, or the production itself.
The production is not releasing much information about dates or locations of shoots in Madison or elsewhere. This is due to the inherent uncertainties and changing plans of a production of this size, as well as standard security policy.
"There have been conversations about that, but I can't tell you anything," said the film's unit publicist, Dave Fulton, about the likelihood of the Capitol being used for the film. What could he reveal? "I don't know the dates exactly, but right now we are planning to shoot some scenes in Madison," he said.
Mann and his production team were in town to see whether the Madison locations have "the right look," said Fulton. Mann, director of photography Dante Spinotti and others not only consider a potential location's esthetic qualities, but also whether it will be functionally workable for a shoot. "It may look great, but it may not be something we can film," explained Fulton. "It's a combination of a lot of things. Obviously we're dealing with a period film here, so you want it looking appropriately."
Madison was one of four Wisconsin cities visited on Monday by Mann and other crew during location scouting. One of their earlier stops was Oshkosh, which was confirmed as a location for the film on Monday afternoon. The city's daily newspaper The Northwestern reported that a large assemblage of production staff inspected several buildings in the Fox Valley community's downtown, with multiple scenes slated to be shot there.
The primary production location currently, though, is Columbus, the small town in Columbia County that's only a quick jaunt to the northeast of Sun Prairie. It was reported as a leading candidate since mid-February and was effectively confirmed by the end of the month. The community's downtown has been transformed over the last week by the production crew into an open-air set for an early 1930s town. The town Columbus will be portraying is Greencastle, Indiana, the location of a big Dillinger bank robbery.
A bank robbery scene is slated to be shot in Columbus on Monday, March 17. As reported in Tuesday's Portage Daily Register, the preparations for the shoot are picking up steam, as is pedestrian traffic and interest from residents and early visitors, who are expected to descend on the town for the hoopla.
Shoots slated for Madison would presumably require significant preparation, too, and may not be occur for some time, perhaps not until April or later. "It's as hectic as it can be," said Fulton about the final location decisions for Public Enemies as it gears up to start rolling. The entire production is scheduled to run through June, and is set to include locations in Chicago and elsewhere.