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Johnny Came Lately

Think the Public Enemies premier is nuts? You should’ve seen filming.

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by Trevor Kupfer

“Have you seen it yet?” I hope you have your answer prepared, because people from all over Wisconsin, even people you don’t know, will be prodding you with that very question starting July 2.

This comes with the opening of Public Enemies on July 1 (or June 30, for the lucky folks in Oshkosh, Madison, and Columbus with tickets for pre-screenings). It doesn’t matter if the John Dillinger biopic, a major Hollywood blockbuster, is a complete train wreck. I promise you no other film this year will get more water cooler buzz from Wisconsinites.

The reason for this, of course, is that the Michael Mann (a UW-Madison graduate) film was made right here, and big-name celebrities like Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, and Marion Cotillard were in our backyards. Well maybe not your backyard, but if you were anywhere near central Wisconsin during filming, they may as well have. Believe me. I was there.

You couldn’t go a day – nay, an hour – without someone talking about Johnny Depp. And when they weren’t talking about Johnny, they were digging deep into their brain for a tidbit that they hadn’t told in a week or so while they patiently waited for the subject to come up again. You really could hold your breath. It wouldn’t be long.

Only a small percentage of the people stricken with Johnny Fever were smitten young girls, but everyone instantly transformed into smitten young girls the very second Johnny’s name came into the conversation equation. Just thinking about how many paces away from you Johnny was, at any given moment, put sparkles in your eyes.

The most ridiculous thing about the production coming to Wisconsin was the hordes of people – literally hundreds – that lined up every day for shooting. These people were up at the crack of dawn, every weekday (did they take time off work?!), hoping to see a glimpse of filming. They did this with the full knowledge that they’d have to stand several blocks away from the action and not make noise.

This ridiculous star searching was made even more humorous by the fact that, almost daily, the newspaper group I worked at was running a story about the unexpected encounters people had with celebrities the day before. One old lady was getting ready to yell at someone for parking in front of her house when she realized that person was Johnny Depp. A bunch of stars were frequenting bars and restaurants (they get hungry, too). One night at my favorite watering hole, Stephen Dorff (Blade) and Stephen Graham (Snatch) come in, and the place goes nuts. Patrons couldn’t place the movies they knew the B-list stars from, but they went nuts nonetheless.

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