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Extra Public Enemies

January 17, 2012

BTT features its second "Your On Set Experience" story submitted by a fan of our website. He got to be an extra on Michael Mann's "Public Enemies" starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale in May/June 2008. Below you can read his very detailed story about his amazing time on set and find out a lot of interesting information about the whole filming process of a few "simple" scenes.


5/15/08 – I was watching the news today. (I'm not much of a news watcher.) They were talking about a new movie they were going to be filming in Chicago called "Public Enemies." They showed the sets being built right around the corner from Depaul University.

5/17/08 – So, a couple of days later I decided to drive down there to check it out. I thought it would be cool just to see how they built the sets for filming. All of the stores and shops in the neighborhood were covered over with fake shops….ie. The windows of a beauty salon were covered to look like a cigar shop, fake brick walls covered vacant shops, and a rubber mat (brick) was rolled out as the street. (I took a few pictures, you can see in Public Enemies – Chicago) When i got home I went online to look for information about the movie. I couldn't find anything… until I came across this site called where there were blogs and people talking about the filming of the movie, and the progress along with updates. It was on this site where I read a blog that said they would start filming in Chicago at the Biograph Theatre in about a week or so. So I kept checking the site everyday for updates.

5/22/08 – (This was the day they had casting calls for prisoners and prison guards. I knew nothing about this until later.)

5/29/08 – I read todays blog on It said they were going to start filming at the Biograph Theatre tomorrow night.

5/30/08 – I believe this was a Friday night. I decided to go back downtown to check out the filming at the Biograph Theatre. When I got there, the roads were all blocked off, and I had to park a couple of blocks away. I walked up toward the set, but couldn't get too close. All the roads were blocked and security was pretty tight. There were so many people there watching the filming, and it went throughout the night, because they couldn't start filming until all of the shops in the neighborhood closed. Finally around 10:00 PM they started to film scenes outside the  Biograph. I left around 1:00 AM Saturday morning, and there was still a good crowd of people still there. The scene they were filming was the "death scene" the final scene of the movie where Dillinger was gunned down outside the Biograph Theatre. When I got home (around 2:00 AM) I went back on the site and found an older blog from days before i even found this site. It said they were looking for extras to play prisoners and guards for a prison scene. There was a link to the casting agency, so I clicked on the link where it brought me to an e-mail address of the agency that asked to send them a picture along with my stats (height, weight, eye color, hair color). So, I sent my stats to the agency along with a photo, and my contact information. And about two days later they called me, saying they want to use me as an extra in the movie. I said, "Sure." She gave me a number to call for updates. I called the number everyday, I was starting to think I missed out, until I finally left a message on there voicemail.

6/6/08 – The casting agency finally called me back, and told me to be at a warehouse in Chicago on the 11th, and she gave me the address.

6/11/08 – This was the day I was told to be at a warehouse in Chicago to be fitted in a prison uniform. I drove down there in the afternoon. The warehouse was in the middle of a rundown neighborhood downtown. I was wondering if I made a wrong turn somewhere. I drove one more block and found the place. When I got there, there was a guy checking names on a list. One list for prisoners, and one for police officers. He said I'd be a prisoner and directed me to a trailor to get my haircut. After the haircut I saw a couple of other guys sitting around. They were also playing prisoners. We were all just sitting in the parking lot waiting until they got everyone done with their haircuts, then they came out and took our measurements for wardrobe. They took us through the warehouse which was filled with clothes that looked like they came from the 1930's or 40's. They brought about four of us at a time through this curtained area where there were women dressing us, and a tailor making notes of the changes they had to do for our costumes. After the fitting, they gave us a sheet of paper of their "rules" we had to go by, along with a phone number to call to see what we had to do next. About two days later I called the number and it said to report to an address in Joliet on the 16th and to wear a white t-shirt.

6/16/08 – This was a Wednesday. It was the first day on set. I drove to the address in Joliet. It was nothing but a parking lot where a shuttle bus would come and pick you up to take you to the prison. As the bus was driving us through the prison lot, you could see all the trailors of the cast and crew. They dropped us all off in front of these three huge tents where they had tables lined up for all the extras to sit. They had a full breakfast buffet. Everything you can think of to eat and drink. After we ate we all went into the second tent which was the wardrobe tent, our costumes were all lined up on racks in alphabetical order by our names. After we got dressed we had to go to the third tent which was the hair and makeup tent, where they trimmed our hair again, trimmed our beards, and made some of us look like we had bruises or cuts. They also put shoe polish on our hands to make us look dirty. After we got out of the hair and makeup tent we had to go outside to get our costumes dirtied (more shoe polish). We all then had to line up on the curb of the parking lot where Michael Mann [director] came out and split us up into four groups. Hair and makeup walked the line giving us touch ups. Some guys got extra props to either hold or wear such as hats, scarves, glasses, or bandages. We then got sent back to tent one, where all we did is wait. They then called for group one to go to set. I was in group four. A few hours later they called for group two so we got to wait longer. A lot of us fell asleep and slept uncomfortably. A few more hours group three was called. By this time we were running out of daylight. The director of photography [Dante Spinotti] finally came up to us, and took us into the prison gates to practice marching while group three was inside filming. We marched for maybe an hour before they called it a night, and we headed back to camp, where we got dressed jumped in the shuttle to take us back to our cars. I ended up staying at my moms house that night, because it was pretty late, and I had to be back in Joliet at 4:00 AM the next morning.

DAY TWO 6/17/08 – We had to be at the prison at 5:00 AM which meant I had to be up and out sometime after 4:00 AM (not much sleep). When I got to the lot, it was the same routine… breakfast, into costume, hair and makeup. Group three had to finish their scene from the night before, so we played the waiting game again. A couple of hours later they called group four to start our filming. So we went into the prison gates and walked into "the yard" while we were walking in they were filming the "breakout scene", and we got to watch the actors all run out of the jail toward a car firing their guns at guards who were shooting theirs back. The director of photography explained to us what we would be doing, but we had to stop whatever we were doing, and be very quiet when the director yelled, "Action!" We were going to be marching from the prison yard into the prison sweatshop. We had to march in the same style they did back in the 30's (hands holding the biceps of the man in front of you). Take after take, we just couldn't get it right. The guys toward the front of the line kept pulling, and the guys toward the back kept pushing to keep up, the line kept breaking, and we had to do it again. Several takes, and hours later we finally got it right, and before you knew it, it was another twelve hour day done.

DAY THREE 6/18/08 – Up again at 4:00 AM to head out and start day three of filming. Same routine (hair, makeup, breakfast, costume). We marched some more in the yard, they wanted to make sure we had it down perfectly from the night before. Take after take trying to get the march the way they wanted it. They finally got one they liked, and they yelled, "Action" and started filming us. We had to march in a circle on the yard, so they can get different angles of the march. While we were marching, we heard the prisoners yelling things at us, even though you couldn't make out much I did hear someone say "get out of my house." A few minutes later the warden came out and told Michael Mann that we needed to wrap it up, the prisoners are getting restless, because they have been on lockdown for the last three days, and he didn't want a riot. So the whole cast and crew had to move out of Stateville and head to the old Joliet prison to resume filming. They called the shuttle buses to come pick us up and bring us to Joliet. When we got to Joliet they still had guards there even though the prison has been closed for seven years, we had to show our ID when we walked in, in case one of the real prisoners tried to escape and blend in with all of us (prisoners wouldn't have an ID), and if you didn't have yours, you didn't get in. When we got to Joliet we had to wait for everyone else to move from Stateville. The cast and crew and all the gear they had to bring over. Since we had plenty of time to wait for everyone else to show up, we all just walked around the inside of the prison taking pictures. About an hour later, they started filming us marching again from the prison yard toward a door. The prison yard was a continuing scene of the march from Stateville. They had fake snow on the ground made from white insulation, and a snow making truck we walked through this snow into the door, which was a sweatshop where the prisoners worked making shirts. They were sewing machine stations, threading stations, etc. The director of photography came in and told us the scene we would be filming in the shop. He assigned us to different stations, and told us to continue to march into the building up to a post, then breakup and walk to our stations. Some guys had to grab boxes of thread, some guys put shirts at stations, some guys swept the floor. The director of photography said he didn't know how any of the machines worked, and we had to just act like we knew what we were doing, but whatever we did, we had to do it exactly the same on every take. When we finally got a take they liked they brought in the actors Stephen Dorff, James Russo, and Christian Stolte. The actors got placed in our marching line from the door entrance to the pole (it was only about ten feet). After we broke to our stations, Stephen Dorff had to grab a box of sewing string. The box was marked so none of the extras grabbed it by mistake. Inside this particular box was three guns which he handed to each of the other actors covering them with a roll of thread so the guards couldn't see. The actors then walked toward the three guards, and yelled, "Don't move." Dorff had to hit the guard. At the point that all of this was going on we had to all act surprised like wonder what the heck was going on. One guy had to stand up from his station then get pushed down by James Russo. They then took the three guards hostage, and walked out of the factory. The scene was over. It supposedly picks up at the scene we saw earlier when they were running out of the prison shooting at the guards (they dont film scenes in order of the actual movie hence the filming of the final scene at the Biograph days earlier). We all then got told, "That's it.  We're done, thanks for helping with the making of this film." We all then walked out of the factory and headed back to camp. At camp we got dressed filled out our pay forms, and walked back to the buses outside the gate to bring us back to our cars to head home. I was about twenty feet from the exit when the casting director stopped me and asked me if I wanted to stay for a few more hours to be a stand-in. I said, "Sure I've already been there for twelve hours (4:00 AM-4:00PM) whats another four." So, I headed back to wardrobe, got dressed and was back on set, but this time being a stand-in I was sent to a different area of the prison they were filming. It was kind of like a backstage area where all the actors, the cast and crew, all the trailors, managers, bodyguards, everyone important to the movie were. There were about five of us there as stand-ins, just sitting there against a fence waiting. The event coordinator came up to us, and said there's drinks, snacks in a trailor down the lot, to help ourselves. About an hour later (5:00 PM) we broke for dinner. This was the only night I was on set long enough to have all three meals of the day. After dinner I decided to walk around checking out the setup in the back area. As I started walking I saw Johnny Depp outside his trailor talking to his bodyguard, so I asked for a picture. His bodyguard said, "Not right now, not during filming." Depp said, "At the end of the night I will." I said, "Okay, no problem" and went back to hang out with the other stand-ins against the fence which by the way was only a few feet from a black curtained area with a small doorway where they were filming. When I got over there Dorff, Russo, and Stolte all walked out of the curtain to a picnic table. Dorff seemed like he was getting frustrated about something, and he couldn't find his assistant who had his cigarettes. A few minute later Depp went into the curtain to film his part. We all tried to sneak a peek at what they were filming, but couldn't see much, but we did hear it. It seemed to be the break in of the prison, and holding up of the guards. After a few takes Depp walked out, and they brought in a cart, which had a fake body molded to look exactly like Johnny Depp, a body bag, fake blood, and other props. They put blood on the body, and bullet holes through it, I'm thinking this was the autopsy scene where everybody was able to view Dillingers body. Depp was in and out, back and forth out of this curtained area. He may have been getting frustrated as well. Finally about 7:00 PM I was getting tired, I've been there for sixteen hours, and was ready to go home. Depp went back onto the set, at this time I was thinking I don't care if I get kicked out I am ready to go, so when he came out again, I was going to stop him. When he came out, he stopped right next to us to talk to some guy. I heard him say, they were heading to an apartment in Chicago to do another scene. So I knew I had to stop him to get a picture before he left. So I asked him again. But again his bodyguard said, "Not right now" but Depp said, It's alright" and I had one of the other guys who was a prisoner with me take the picture. I was the only one there that got a picutre with him. He was nice about it, but you could tell he wasn't having a good day. We've all been on set for sixteen hours now, and he had to drive to Chicago to film for another four. They finally wrapped up around 8:00 PM. But before I left I went up to Stephen Dorff, and asked him to take a picture also. We then headed back to camp, got dressed, filled out our pay stubs, and waited for the trolley to take us to our cars. I got home around 10:00 PM, and went straight to bed. When I woke up the next morning I was pretty sore. I had bruises on my arms from the marching.

7/2/2009 Yesterday was the premiere, our scenes are the first two scenes, right at the beginning of the movie.

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