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Depp's 'Public Enemies' will shoot in Aurora - in more ways than one
By Justin Kmitch | Daily Herald Staff

Johnny Depp

 

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Published: 3/27/2008 5:31 PM

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According to local lore, notorious American gangster John Dillinger kept a "safe house" on Aurora's far east side in the 1930s.

So it's only appropriate a major motion picture starring Johnny Depp that focuses on Dillinger and the birth of the FBI will include some scenes filmed here.

Paramount Theatre Executive Director Diana Martinez said Thursday that four-time Oscar-nominated film director Michael Mann has signed a two-day contract to film scenes for "Public Enemies" at the downtown theater on April 6 and 7.

Martinez would not discuss financial details of the contract but said it includes rental of the historic theater for those days and for stagehands to work with the film crew.

Production officials visited Aurora earlier this year to scout the location and spark speculation Depp and co-star Christian Bale might come to town.

Now it's a certainty.

"They really liked the historical aspects of the 80-year-old theater," Martinez said Thursday. "The Paramount is really historically accurate. We're proud of the job we've done preserving the look and feel of that time period. That's what the directors enjoyed, too."

Depp is playing the notorious bank robber in the film adapted from Bryan Burrough's book, "Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34."

Martinez believes the theater will be used as the backdrop for where Dillinger was gunned down after being betrayed by the "Lady in Red." The actual theater was the Biograph in Lincoln Park, but it's since been updated.

Mayor Thomas Weisner said he's very excited to learn the Paramount has been selected for the movie, but refrained from the giddiness he expects some will have about the possibility of seeing Depp walking their downtown streets.

"It's an exciting prospect, but we realize filming a movie is a very serious business," Weisner said. "We'll allow them to do so in an orderly way and I will personally make sure of it by locking my wife (Marilyn) in the closet."

On a more serious note, Weisner said he's counting on any scenes filmed in town to avoid the cutting room floor.

"Dillinger spent the last few minutes of his life in, out and around the theater so I'm pretty confident it will be in the movie," he said. "And that's exciting because there's not a building we're more proud of in this city than the Paramount.

"Hopefully the movie will be an Academy Award winner and will carry our finest asset forward and have it preserved in film for years to come."

As for Dillinger's history in the city, Martinez's assistant, Melissa Mercado, said a friend of her grandfather Adolf Meisch, used to cut the grass at the house Dillinger is said to have used at the corner of Front and Kendall streets.

"He owned a home on the east side but didn't spend a lot of time there," she said. "He's believed to have used it as a safe house to get away from the city (Chicago) when police got close."

The home, she said, had a detached garage, which was later found to have a tunnel built between the house and garage.

"Several years later, when my grandfather was a captain on the Aurora Fire Department, he had to fill the tunnel in when it was found," she said. "They didn't want anyone to get hurt playing in it or have it collapse on anyone."

The film already has begun shooting in several Wisconsin and Indiana towns.