Kind of a long blog today but kind of a big story. It was a little over a year ago that Universal Studios landed in little old Columbus to film a major motion picture called Public Enemies. There was a lot of buzz in Wisconsin about this movie thing as I recall. Then this kid shows up and he likes Columbus. He called himself Adam and he was a location scout for Universal. Adam was like 20 and turned out to be a great guy with a huge task on his plate. Transform Columbus into a movie set in a matter of weeks. Things happened quickly and before long there were movie people everyplace. This went for weeks as everyone in Wisconsin speculated on where Public Enemies would be filmed. The all time coolest thing about Columbus is this town kept it a secret for weeks. In the meantime every town within 50 miles that saw a strange car drive through town was yapping to the newspapers and TV stations about being selected for the movie. Columbus wasn’t even on the radar but we knew better.
Columbus is home to a significant Louis Sullivan designed bank building and the story is Universal was attracted here to stage a John Dillinger robbery of that bank. A couple weeks passed and we were surprised to hear that their interest had shifted across the street to the former First National Bank building. We were fortunate enough to purchase this property something like nine or ten years ago. The movie thing just bumped from really fun to awesome.
Things happened fast from then on and the plan was in place to close the entire four block area of downtown Columbus and turn it into a movie set. If I recall the staging took about 3 weeks so Columbus was crawling with set designers and workers transforming us into Greenville Indiana. A city that fell victim to John Dillinger in a 1930’s bank heist.
The bank was transforming too. The entire front entrance of the building was removed and rebuilt to resemble a bank entrance someplace else. Greenville Indiana I suppose.
The photo above was taken the day before filming at this location. Seems to me they were filming on another street the day this photo was shot. Filming on one street. Crews finishing up last minute details on another.
Dickason Boulevard was the staging area for all of the equipment needed for filming. Cameras, lighting, props, wardrobe, sound equipment, food, you name it. The street was lined with tractor trailers and the roving small town it took to unpack it all and make it ready for service.
The day of the bank robbery filming was pretty interesting. We were fortunate enough to be in the building watching it happen. To be totally honest it was somewhat boring after take 20 by the extras. I think I fell asleep for the next 20. Incredible the amount of time that goes into shooting one scene. There was the little incident when the door of the bank building jammed as everyone was trying to run out. That was good for a laugh as everyone smacked into each other.
The inside of the bank building was taken over for the entire day by equipment, props, directors, and of course movie stars. Johnny Depp and the rest of the Dillinger gang entered the building sometime around 1:00 in the afternoon. I was sitting in a chair waiting this thing out. We grinned at each other and did the typical dude/dude greeting “how you doin”. Watching him do his deal the rest of the day was entertaining and Mr. Depp struck me as a really nice guy.
Inside it was quiet, relaxed and pretty much a non event. Outside it was a zoo. Not to mention really cold.
The getaway car was parked just outside the door. The robbery was shot so many times I lost count. Run out the doors, shoot the Tommy guns, jump on the car and speed off. Turn around, come back and do it again.
The movie is expected to be released in July. Public Enemies stars Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, and a bunch of other big stars who I wouldn’t know anyway. It was directed by Michael Mann and is expected to be a big summertime bell ringer. I told all these folks next time they shoot a movie in Columbus to make it a little earlier time period. Late 1800’s would be nice with some horses and carriages.
I wonder if they lost my phone number?