Wednesday, May 28, 2008



Walking east from the DePaul "L" stop Monday evening, BEN happens past a lengthy bundle of live power cables on the north side of Fullerton Avenue guarded by a burly SECURITY GUARD.

BEN (to self):
That's odd. I wonder if they had a power outage.

Crossing Lincoln Avenue and heading north on Halsted Street, BEN passes another SECURITY GUARD, then several PEOPLE wearing radio earpieces. The street is lined with open trailer trucks full of equipment. It is unmistakably a location shoot.

BEN wonders idly what movie, TV show or commercial would choose to shoot in the middle of the congested Lincoln Park neighborhood.

Suddenly it hits him: a big movie production now filming around town is Public Enemies, a historical crime drama starring Johnny Depp as the Depression-era Chicago gangster and Public Enemy No. 1 John Dillinger.

BEN is no historian, but even he knows Dillinger was famously gunned down outside the Biograph Theater, with a "woman in red" involved somehow. The Biograph stands 200 feet away from where BEN is now walking. Clearly they're about to film the day Dillinger met his fate.

You guys doing the Johnny Depp movie?


So John Dillinger's getting killed tonight?

Not tonight. We're just setting up. He'll be here on Thursday. Maybe Christian Bale too.

Cool, thanks. Good luck with the movie.


Pff. Who said writing a screenplay was hard? That was nothing. 119 more pages and I've got a bio-pic script of my own, albeit one of utterly no interest to anyone but myself.

I was headed to my regular card game, where I learned that many of the businesses along Lincoln Avenue have been handsomely paid to close up shop for the duration of the movie shoot.

It reminded me of a few years ago when Ocean's Twelve filmed scenes in downtown Lake Forest, the Chicago suburb where I work. The production company wrote a huge check to the owner of the local florist shop to move her entire operation off-site in the height of wedding season and reconstruct her store to accommodate a camera crane and crew, all so George Clooney could spend twenty seconds buying some flowers.

And who knows how much they had to pay Metra, our local commuter rail system, to stop the trains from coming through town on a Saturday afternoon. No wonder so many movies cost $100 million these days.

Back on the Johnny Depp front, I've had two female friends ask me recently in separate conversations whether I wanted to join them to "stalk Johnny Depp." They each used that phrase.

Despite their somewhat disturbing use of the word "stalk," I knew what they meant. My friends are normal if star-struck people who mean no harm, they just want to catch a glimpse of a heartthrob movie star and maybe get a snapshot or autograph.

Lake Foresters were the same way: even wealthy, jet-setting sophisticates struggled to get within panting distance of Clooney, and the lucky few who happened to visit Starbucks when Julia Roberts did were the envy of many.

In my ongoing role as a real-life Leonard Zelig I've met my share of famous people, and between that and me not having a uterus and all, I took a pass on skipping a day of work to drive 40 miles out to Aurora to try to see Johnny Depp from behind a barricade.

But you're on notice, oversexed young women of Chicago: Johnny Depp will be filming tomorrow right in your backyard, and maybe Christian Bale too (he's Batman, you know). Once the stars get there you probably won't be able to walk right through the location as easily as I did, but by all means, have at it.

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