May 11 2008

On the set of Public Enemies

Published by Dave Innes at 11:48 pm under General

A couple of months ago, I was at a Books, Brushes, & Bands for Education practice at ‘O Bannon School on a Thursday evening with my only son Joshua, with whom I am well pleased. I got a call from my good friend Ken Baker – Chairman and CEO of Hammond Neighborhood Crime Watch City-Wide. The caller I.D. on my phone read “Deb’s Gun Range” where Ken works part-time, and where I go, on occasion, to sharpen my skills and precision with a firearm. Getting the call from Deb’s wasn’t unusual in the least. What was unexpected, however, was why Ken was calling.

Three representatives from the Casting Department from the film, “Public Enemies” were in town. They had been looking around in East Chicago, Crown Point, and Northwest Indiana in general and had stopped to eat at the Kennedy Café. They were at Deb’s to take a gander at the Tommy guns. “Public Enemies” (THE FILM) is being directed by Michael Mann and is based on the book “Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-1934” by Bryan Burrough. Michael Mann is famous for such projects as, “Miami Vice,” “Thief,” “Manhunter,” “Last of the Mohicans,” “Ali,” “Collateral,” and more.

Ken Baker literally begged me to come over and meet these people. I live very close to Deb’s and was able to grab a fedora and an old leather jacket from home first. Ironically, I’m a HUGE fan of the fashions, music, and films of the 30’s and 40’s and what I picked to wear has never really gone out of style. When I walked in to Deb’s, both Ken and Deb – almost in unison – said, “Well, it’s about time, Dave!” Ken grabbed my arm and took me to the back meeting room of Deb’s to meet the casting representatives. For some reason, we hit it off immediately!

We chatted about my 25+ years in local media for cable television, WJOB radio, the Calumet Press newspaper, a city newsletter, videos, voice-overs, etc…, along with interviews with Claude Akins, Betsy Palmer, Tony Orlando, Davey “The Monkees” Jones, and the cast from Jean Shepherd’s “A Christmas Story” to name a few. After a good hour, they took a photo of me. I gave both Ken and Deb a heartfelt hug for practically begging me to drive down there in the first place, and then I drove back to band practice.

The following Tuesday at around 9:30 A.M., I got a call from one of those casting representatives asking me if I wanted to read for a part in the film. They wanted me to dress like a reporter, and they wanted me there on Friday. I agreed, and immediately called Greg Easton who runs the theater program at Gavit Middle/High School – asking him if I could sift through his wardrobe department for some 1930’s “reporter” clothes. I was at Gavit for close to an hour, eventually finding a vintage blue suit with pin stripes and a white tie with blue stripes. Greg Easton, a classmate of mine from Morton High School and a good friend for a long time, told me, “Good luck, Dave! Just be yourself!”

Thursday morning, I got this crazy “It’s going around” 24-hour flu bug. Friday morning, I became the poster boy for “Dead Man Walking” loaded with Day-Quil, Alka Seltzer Cold Plus medicine, and enough vitamin C to build an orange grove. I called my fraternal twin brother Brian and asked (PLEADED WITH) him to drive me to Chicago for the “read.” Fortunately, his Green Hornet-like “Black Beauty” vehicle had heated seats – which kept my teeth from chattering on the way up there with the chills and shakes of the flu. When we arrived, the same three casting representatives greeted me enthusiastically and seemed really pleased with what I was wearing. I had also worn the same fedora from earlier with a small white card that read, “PRESS” stuffed inside the ribbon above the hat’s brim, along with my old Press credentials form WJOB/CALUMET PRESS.

I filled out a card with measurements for shirt, suit, pants, and shoe sizes. My height varies, however, depending on how long my Brillo pad-like wolf hair is at the time. They took my photo again, and then led me into a room to read about three lines of dialogue. I was with two other gentlemen. However, I was the ONLY one dressed like a 1930’s reporter. Everything was videotaped. After we were finished, I was leaving when I heard, “It was really good to see you again, David! We’ll be in touch!” These kind words came from my three casting representatives that I met at Deb’s Gun Range, persons that seemed to be looking out for me every step of the way.

On the way back to Hammond, my brother Brian said, “Man! You look absolutely horrible! Oh, and, by the way, how do you think you did?” My response to him was, quite simply, “I felt like I did okay – considering I was running a temperature.”

Once we got home (AND, NO, HE DIDN’T ASK ME FOR GAS MONEY EITHER), I drove to my mother’s house and had some of her world-famous “This will make you feel a whole lot better” chicken noodle soup. Actually, I think it was a bowl of Ramen noodles with a few shots of whiskey thrown in during the boiling process. The following week, I explained everything Monday morning to my Parks & Recreation partner Leroy Harwell, Jr. about meeting the casting people, reading in Chicago, collapsing over the weekend, etc… We have become very good friends and he started rooting for me immediately! And, I didn’t share the “possibility” of ever being called back for another “read” or the remote chance that I would land a role in this movie – that was now to begin filming in Crown Point, Indiana, with everyone. I’m blessed to share an office with him.

On Tuesday, my cell phone rang. It was a (312) area code, so I figured it was either a bill collector or the casting department in Chicago. The conversation went like this: “Hi, David! We’re thinking of casting you as an “extra” in Crown Point, Indiana. Shooting will probably be for three days or so. It was really nice to meet you!” I told them that that would be absolutely fine. Thursday, however, was a completely different story. Here is how THAT conversation went: “Hi, David! Forget about Crown Point. Michael Mann REALLY liked your “read” and is writing a part for you. Expect to be getting a call very soon with another offer. It’s going to be a good one, so we suggest that you take it! Again, it was so nice to meet you!”

One hour later, I got a call with a completely different area code: “Hi, David Paul Innes (MY FULL NAME THAT I HAD PRINTED ON THE MEASUREMENTS CARD). We are offering you the role of Hoover Reporter #2. It’s a scene in front of the FBI headquarters with J. Edgar Hoover and Melvin Purvis. I’ll need your e-mail so that I can send you the offer – and so that you can send me all of the pertinent information that we need on our end. Have a great time, David!” Now, you have to understand that when my cell phone rings in the office, I have to run out into the Civic Center gym to get a strong enough signal to have a remotely-normal conversation where I can hear them, and they can hear me. And, sometimes that’s kind of difficult, especially when we have volleyball, basketball, ballroom dancing, and about a hundred other activities going on.

I ran back into the office, told Leroy the good news, and then logged on to the Internet. There was an offer I couldn’t refuse in Madison, Wisconsin.

The entire script for “Public Enemies” was Fed-Exed to my home, with script revisions arriving every couple of days or so. I found my part, eventually drove to Madison, Wisconsin (ITS CAPITAL DOUBLING FOR WASHINGTON, DC) to get fitted for wardrobe, and then drove back there on Sunday May 4th for the “shoot.”

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My hotel was absolutely beautiful. My room number was 915, conveniently the month and date of my birth. I had probably the BEST steak of my entire life in the hotel’s restaurant that evening. The restaurant manager was very nice – so much so, that he let my waitress take a picture of us as I was washing dishes to pay for a meal I would have never been able to afford. The other reporters (THAT I WILL KEEP NAMELESS) were in the same hotel and we were told to be ready at 6:00 A.M. on Monday May 5th to be picked up and taken to Base Camp. This is where I had my own trailer. I couldn’t believe it. I found my wardrobe inside. It was then that I realized, “You gotta be kidding me! I am going to be in a Hollywood movie,” the same movie that only a few people knew about.

I was taken to the makeup and hair trailer. You have to realize that I have had a flat-top haircut for a number of years and I was told close to eight weeks ago to NOT cut my hair. My hair had gotten so long – and so thick – that it had become increasingly hard to sleep. As soon as I rested my head on my pillow, my hair became a series of tiny springs that would pop my head back up. I would wake up in the morning and look in the bathroom mirror, only to find an image of one of those “troll” dolls, or someone that had just discovered electricity. Seriously, I couldn’t wait to get my hair cut for the movie. Unfortunately, my hairstylist only cut the sides and the back. I guess that the men of the 1930’s had their hair long and greasy on top. Regardless, he told me to come back after I put on my fedora so they could be sure they had enough of the wolf-like hair cut – and so that the hat would stay on all day.

Finally, in full wardrobe, we were taken to the capital (FBI) steps. We rehearsed for a good two hours while the camera operators, sound guys, video play-back technicians, and a bunch of other crew members set the necessary “shots” up. The scene was supposed to take place in October. It was at least 75 degrees where we were at, and wearing all of those wool clothes and overcoats made it feel like it was 100 degrees. I met Christian Bale (MELVIN PURVIS), Billy Crudup (HOOVER), and Director Michael Mann. They couldn’t have been nicer.

All of a sudden – just before we were going to start “shooting” the scene – I felt a good amount of sweat dripping down my back getting cold and clammy. Yes, here it is! My BIG Hollywood moment! And, I fainted, going down for the count! Michael Mann, watching everything from the video play-back tent, saw me going down and ran out to me – literally catching me before I hit the ground. In seconds, a crew member put a bag of ice on my neck and I was given, oh, about a hundred bottles of water. I didn’t completely lose consciousness (THANK GOODNESS), but they let me sit on a “crane camera” that was directly behind us, shooting a point-of-view shot from our perspective of J. Edgar Hoover and Melvin Purvis. Michael Mann kept saying, “David! Are you feeling okay now?” First of all, how cool was it that HE caught me, that HE was so concerned about my well being?

Right after this incident happened, everyone on the set got water. Crew members brought out umbrellas for shade, more ice bags, etc… Another “reporter” told me, “Man, Dave! It was a good thing that you fainted because everyone was literally “dying” from the heat.” About 10 minutes later, I was given a tiny microphone the size of a pinhead. It was strategically placed under the knot of my necktie. The wire was then ran under my shirt collar, down my back, and then into a receiver that was clipped on the back of my pants – directly in between my 1930’s suspenders. The scene went splendidly. The conversation I had with Christian Bale’s character went very well.

After plenty more takes, and about 700 more bottles of water, they changed camera angles to go behind Hoover and Purvis, “shooting” toward us. Old-time photographers with old-time cameras were also added. The photographer directly behind me looked like a 1930’s version of Daily Planet photographer Jimmy Olson. This next round of takes went great too. Michael Mann asked me to ask Christian another question, not in the script. Off the top of my head, I asked, “Mr. Purvis, what do you plan on doing regarding the recent string of bank robberies?” Mr. Bale smiled ear-to-ear and pulled out a piece of paper with authentic, patented, world famous Melvin Purvis quotes – one of which he would be using as a response to my question. Michael Mann told me that the question was a very good one, but that he would prefer “wave” of bank robberies instead of “string” of bank robberies. “String” was a little too modern for the 1930’s.

We broke for lunch at around 2:30. As we were going to the buses and vans that would be taking us to eat, I personally thanked Christian Bale for everything. He was such a nice guy. It was then, as we were walking down the capital steps, that I asked him if he would sign something for a good friend of mine in Hammond. This friend was in a few scenes for the new “Batman” movie that had been doing some filming in Chicago last summer. Without hesitation, Mr. Bale signed it, shook my hand, and said, “It was nice working with you.”

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Inside our lunch tents, as I was coming back to reality for a bit, I ate like the firing squad was waiting for me at my hotel. Seriously, I hadn’t eaten breakfast, collapsed on the set, filmed a scene with Christian Bale and Billy Crudup – under the meticulous direction of Michael Mann – and I had probably one of the BEST experiences of my life. Yeah, I was hungry! I was assured that my collapse would almost certainly be in the “special features” of the DVD when it comes out after the theatrical release. We were taken back to our trailers. At around 4:30 P.M., were told, “That’s a wrap!” We took our 1930’s clothes off, put them back on the hangers, got back in the van, and were taken back to our hotel rooms. I was on such a natural “high” and exhausted at the same time.

My fellow “reporters” and I met downstairs in the lobby at precisely 6:00 P.M. and took a walk in downtown Madison, kind of like Crown Point…times three. We found a very authentic Mexican restaurant. It was, after all, Cinco D’ Mayo. We talked about our experience, how absolutely cool it was, my fainting, my recovery, and other little anecdotes that set the tone of our experiences. Back at the hotel, I called the few people who knew about my involvement with “Public Enemies” – beginning each conversation with, “I fainted!” We all met up on the 12th floor of the hotel for complimentary drinks in the Governor’s lounge. I didn’t realize that one of my new friends had a drinking problem, that is, until I saw him sober.

On Tuesday morning, I sampled everything that was on the menu for the continental breakfast. I was back on the road for the three-hour drive back home. The last toll booth attendant, right before I neared Indiana, had latex gloves on. I told her, “I don’t know if I should pay you a toll, or turn my head to the left and cough!” I returned my rental car and thanked God for always being in my corner. In the immortal words of the song, “To God, be the Glory,” let me say this: “Should I gain any praise, let it go to Calvary!”

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5 Responses to “On the set of Public Enemies”

  1. DreamCon 29 May 2008 at 7:41 am

    What an experience.

    Thanks for sharing this - you should post it on www.imdb.com as well - lots of Public Enemies fans would appreciate it and would probably like to ask you even more questions about the day.

    But thank you yet again for an interesting story. Will look out for you once the movie premieres :-)

  2. Terryon 09 Mar 2009 at 6:10 am

    Thank you for posting this. It’s refreshing to read adult commentary. What a wonderful experience you must of had. I would have fainted too. (smile) I will be looking for you in the finished product. I always suspected that Christian Bale was a nice guy, but it’s nice to hear/read someone else say it.

  3. vermontfudgeon 12 Mar 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Nice reporting! Did you know you are in the trailer? I’m forwarding what’s been posted on imdb, if you haven’t already seen it.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1152836/board/thread/132755661?d=132793475&p=1#132793475

  4. Matton 18 Jun 2009 at 11:14 am

    This is crazy Dave, I just happened to stumble upon your story. I was the “photographer directly behind me looked like a 1930’s version of Daily Planet photographer Jimmy Olson.” I held that bag of ice on your neck. Hilarious. I really hope they do a close up of you in the movie, because then at least half my face will be in it as well.

    Matt
    mgwisni (at) gmail.com

  5. Doreen Phillipson 02 Feb 2010 at 8:40 pm

    Hello Dave, Doreen Mish here from Morton.class of 77. Just stumbled upon this, and funny we just watched the movie this past weekend! What a hoot. Didnt realize you were involved in media etc. I did a 15 year stint in music/talent/promotions after moving to Houston. I was always a big fan of the Chicago gangsters, the family story goes that my great grandmother was visited by Al Capone’s guys for competing with Capones men in the moonshine business, she yelled at them to leave her alone as she need to feed her 7 hungry kids and her husband couldnt work due to any injury. They left after seeing her predicament, after all Capone was all about family. Best wishes in your acting career. Take care.

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