As the Public Enemies production took over the Capitol Square on Monday, crowds gathered along the sidewalks and peripheries of the set to watch the spectacle. As the morning progressed, my fellow onlookers' morning coffee kicked in and their hunger for celebrity sightings intensified. Though many in the crowd hoped for a peek at Christian Bale or Billy Crudup, others sat patiently looking for their loved ones in the swarm of cast and crew members.
Shortly before 10:00 a.m., a flock of extras costumed in full 1930s regalia walked down Pinckney Street, paused at the corner of Mifflin, and awaited further directions. A man next to me suddenly exclaimed to his wife, "Look! There's Drew -- he was there the whole time! I just didn't recognize him with the hat he's wearing."
"Hey, Kopmeier!" the man shouted.
A young man outfitted in an extra's costume of a long brown coat and black top hat turned his head, nodded and waved back.
Introducing himself, Chris Kopmeier, 56, of Dodgeville, explained his entire family had taken the day off school and work to see their eldest son Drew, 18, a senior at Dodgeville High School, work as an extra in Public Enemies.
The Kopmeiers told me of their son's interest in film and how he jumped at the chance to participate in the production, mirroring the excitement felt by many Wisconsinites at the reality of having this major Hollywood movie shot in their home state.
As the first movie to take advantage of various tax incentives available to filmmakers in Wisconsin since the first of this year, it's fitting that this Public Enemies would shoot in the state Capitol. The period piece stars Johnny Depp as John Dillinger and Bale as FBI agent Melvin Purvis, with the Madison shoots focusing on the law enforcement side of the story. Though the production shot inside the Capitol's North Hearing Room overnight on Friday and was closed to the public, the action moved outside on Monday for a pair of scenes featuring Purvis and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, played by Crudup.
The first was staged on the East Washington Avenue steps of the Capitol. From a vantage point on Pinckney Street, shortly before noon, the crowd erupted with a flurry of photography from excited fans and even shrieks of "Christian!" from some high school-aged bystanders as Bale made his way up and down the stairs.
A woman standing about 4'11" and wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt, jeans and light blue bandanna, elbowed her way to the front, holding a video camera. She introduced herself first as Sharon Thibodeau, 43, from Ohio, and then as Morgan Jacobs, 34, from Minocqua. "Is he there? Did I miss him? Did I miss Christian?" she asked frantically, wobbling the camera in front of her face.
When I asked if she was a fan, she replied, "Here, this'll tell ya," and unzipped her hoodie to reveal a t-shirt with a picture of Bale screen-printed on it and the name "Jack Kelly" emblazoned beneath his face -- a nod to the actor's character from Newsies.
Throughout the day, as the cast and crew continued to shoot the same scene, fans furiously snapped far-away pictures of Bale and were ushered around the Square by Capitol Police.
The production subsequently moved in the mid-afternoon to the Capitol's State Street entrance, where I met up again with the Kopmeiers.
"We saw [Drew] and got to chat with him a little bit," said his mother Anna Kopmeier. "But then they were kind of herded away for a rehearsal."
Stepping outside after gawking at these rehearsals in the Capitol rotunda, I saw Thibodeau/Jacobs again, jogging around the inner loop of the Square with her video camera window open, no doubt hoping for another glimpse of "Christian!"Public Enemies is shooting near Oregon in southern Dane County on Tuesday, and will be moving on to more shoots at Mirror Lake State Park near the Wisconsin Dells, Milwaukee, Beaver Dam, and Columbus through this week and next.