Johnny Depp Reads interviews...

I'm so grateful that we've been able to visit with so many authors and people whose work is in some way connected to Johnny Depp! These interviews also appear on our forum.

Our first interview took place in January, 2005 and the most recent appeared in February, 2008. Thanks to all who made each interview and Q&A happen.

I continuously seek interviews with people connected to Mr. Depp and his projects, and am anxious to share who we will visit with next.

The JDR Interviews

Who we've talked with...

John Michael Bolger, PUBLIC ENEMIES co-star

Photo by Michelle Martin used with permission

Slight spoiler warning!

As you all know, NY actor John Michael Bolger, who played Lt. Johnson for four seasons on "Third Watch" was cast this year as Chicago cop Martin Zarkovich, a pivotol role in this summer's blockbuster "PUBLIC ENEMIES."

John came to everyone's attention when he was seen quietly and unobtrusively greeting the fans on location, day after day, night after night. John was second only to Johnny as he was there too, giving and giving.

Here's a youtube clip of John on location

I want to thank Rachel and Jill for their kind assistance. Thanks to Elizabeth Herzog and Michelle Martin the kind use of their pictures!

John Micheal Bolger website:
Click here: John Michael Bolger Online

John Michael Bolger can be reached at:

I hope you will see the humble and giving man that is John Michael Bolger. He spoke with me openly and from his heart, and was very generous with his time. I thank him sincerely.

JohnnyDeppReads talks with:

John Michael Bolger

JDR: So John, tell me a little about your book "Stoop to Conquer".

JMB: What a nice question to ask. I was born and raised a Catholic and went to Catholic school and the nuns taught me penmanship and I always knew when I was a kid that I wanted to be an actor and it took me a long time to get around to it, I didn't start til I was twenty seven years old, but I always knew in the back of my mind that I was going to use this penmanship someday! And I wrote a book, I started it in 2001, it took me seven years to write it, it's a coming of age story about Hell's Kitchen - where I lived in 1980, seen through the eyes of one kid, Frances Doonan. About these seventeen year old kids growing up in 1980, just a coming of age story. I wrote it, it was hard, it was painful, it was cathartic, it was revelatory and now I'm hoping to get it published, hoping to somehow get it related to the movie when it comes out. I'd love that. It's also got "movie" written all over it. It's also a book about something, like a message to kids that their whole life doesn't happen in one summer or in one month or in one age. You have a long road ahead of you if you can somehow get through those tender years, ya know?

JDR: So is there a little bit of a personal element there?

JMB: Absolutely, absolutely.

JDR: We are all about reading (on jdr) so when you are published we'll have it for one of our book discussions.

JMB: Thank you very much.

JDR: Would you be so kind to talk to us then about it?

JMB: Absolutely, I'll talk to you any time you want.

JDR: You are wonderful! Are you still living in the Hell's Kitchen area of NY?

JMB I am.

JDR: It's sort of a community in transition?

JMB: It is, but what it's becoming, I sort of miss the old neighborhood. I miss the funk!

JDR: You've played a lot of police officers in your career as I look at your listings on IMDb!

JMB: That's very astute of you! :) But ya know, I'm not going to complain because it pays the bills and from stereotype, I can do so much more than that, but not as of yet.

JDR: They LOVE you as a policeman, so many roles!

JMB: It's because I've got this Irish mug, and I think my Shakespearian trained voice doesn't help the situation either. (he laughs) But like I said, I'm not complaining! If they want to keep casting me that way? Cool!

JDR: You were in Third Watch..Law and Order...really good roles in the series.

JMB: I was in Third Watch for four years, I've been very blessed, I've been extremely blessed. I hope the blessings continue. As you know, you have a nice knowledge of the industry, you can work non stop for years and then not work for years, so you've just got to somehow keep your foot in the water and remember your swimming strokes.

JDR: Talking about keeping yourself in the water, you have done a boat load of TV work, and I'm looking at the number of years that you have put into your craft and then BOOM comes this huge Michael Mann film!

JMB: I'll tell you a great story, at the age of twenty seven I got sober, quit and got fired at the same time from a job that I had worked in for ten years, since I got out of high school. And decided to pursue my childhood dream to be an actor because I always loved James Cagney and I always just wanted to be an actor. But I never told anybody, I never was in a school play, I never did anything. I knew inside, I knew deep inside that someday this is where I would end up, I didn't know how I was going to get there, but I knew I would end up there. And apart from getting fired by my public service job, I started to enter in the world of taking acting classes and going around the Actors Studio where I eventually became a member of the Actors Studio. My very first professional job was on a show called "Crime Story" - Michael Mann and Bonnie Timmermann was the casting director. That was twenty years ago. That was one of the better received "Crime Stories," people had always said to me during that time that Michael Mann loves you, Michael Mann loved that episode, he loves you. In the time since, I've told my representation that you've got to get me into that Michael Mann project, he loves me. Twenty years later? I'm back with Michael Mann. He gave me my first break in television and this is a big shot for me in this movie. So...look at that. There's a French word "la ronde" which means full circle and it's just like a full circle to me. It's like back to the beginning again.

JDR: What's up next for you?

JMB: I have no idea.

JDR: Isn't that the wonderful thing about acting though? You never know when that next phone call will come and your whole world will be changed again?

JMB: I humbly wait at the end of the line. This has been a wonderful year for me, I can't complain, I can't sigh or I can't moan in any way. Just working on that film alone, I have good thoughts and hopes for the film and who knows.

JDR: Judging my what we've seen and heard this film could be very well received. You are going to found by a whole new audience out there that didn't know you existed, didn't see your years on TV.

JMB: Yeah I'm excited about that.

JDR: Do you think that might open some new doors?

JMB: You know, I hope so. I've been plugging away at this for quite a while and the thing about entering into the acting world when you're a bull in a china shop is in the beginning in my case, you don't know what to do, you don't know what NOT to do. I've probably made a few mistakes along the way, but I hope what it shows people is that if you have perseverance and tenacity and you're willing to grow and you're willing to hang in. 'Cuz it's about hanging in, believing in yourself which can sometimes take a person a whole lifetime to just be able to say that. Even upon saying that you still have doubts. I'm excited about the fact that I know Johnny's got an incredible following so I'm excited about the fact that my face is going to be seen by a whole lot of people, on Johnny's back, which I am happy to do.

JDR: This is such a cross marketable film...all the fans of Bale, Depp, Tatum, older people who lived the depression...

JMB: I also think to add to your thought, the times we're living in right now are so similar to those times, and I'm sure that Universal and Michael and everybody's aware of that. Even while we were making the film, while I was doing my own personal research, I went my God this could literally be a story told today. Also there's an incredible boatload of actors as well. Growing up I loved the old Warner Bros. films, like I said, James Cagney...there's just so many characters, mugs and faces and energies, it's going to be interesting, like a big pot of soup.

JDR: You just brought up doing your research, tell me what kind of research that your did to play Det. Martin Sarkovich?

JMB: When I first went into the part, I knew that there was a book, I understand that you've interviewed the writer of the book.

JDR: Yes, and he's a very nice man.

JMB: I went and read the book and ate the pages and then because of my extensive background of playing police officers, there's a mind set that police officers have, so I sort of have that. And then when I got to Chicago there was a lot of material available to me from Michael and from the research team. And then believe it or not, I had these wonderful things happen to me like one time when I came from New York, because I wasn't there for the length of the film, I was there about five different times for big periods of time but then I would leave and come back. One time I came in and got picked up at the airport by this big, older driver and we got to talking on the way in and there was snow and there was traffic and he said to me...yeah what're ya doing?...and I said well ya know I'm working on this film "Public Enemies" and he said "oh yeah" and it turned out that his father there on the night of the shooting, his father was a Chicago cop. So I had little magic things happen to me like that and it turned out that his father knew Zarkovich, so I had these incredible, wonderful. mythical mystical things happen to me. Then this character I played had a nickname, he was called either the "peacock" or the "sheik" because he dressed very well, he too the money and likened himself to be a gangster and a swell dresser with the madam girlfriend. I was walking through Madison, WI where we were filming and I walked into a store, a boutique and before I left there this lady said, I'd like to give you something, and she gave me a peacock feather not knowing...not having any clue. So that peacock feather? I clipped it and wore it on the inside of my pocket through the whole filming. I just had things like that happen to me that put me right there. I'm also a method actor so I was really into Zarkovich, there are still aspects of him peeling away from me. I'm trying to put him to rest, you know we literally had to take these people out of their graves.

JDR: Had you ever played a character that was real person before Zarkovich?

JMB: No, this was the first time.

JDR: Is it harder to capture someone who was a real person?

JMB: It is, because the way I go about it is that I'm aware of the fact that this was a human being and I felt my responsibility was to try to play him as fairly and as honestly as I could... and a responsibility to his soul, if that makes any sense. There were a lot of things about Martin Zarkovich's story that really disturbed me personally because be betrayed. BUT he betrayed Dillinger for the love of his life. And there were a lot of extremely painful moments for me personally during this film portraying Zarkovich realizing the tumult and the pain and the hell that this man went through and ended up living the rest of his days in. It was quite an interesting journey and it took a lot of me.

JDR: I was going to ask you about playing someone who while he loved his Anna Sage, he was basically a dirty cop.

JMB: Yeah he was a bad dude, a bad dude. I believe the only person who meant anything to him at all was Anna. He was just a bad dude. It was interesting because I remember hearing an interview by Anthony Hopkins who I think's a wonderful actor and he was doing a mini series for ABC playing Adolph Hitler and about three days into the filming the producers called him up and told him that he was making this guy likeable and I remember Anthony Hopkins saying every person has a person who likes them and there's got to be a likeability as well as evilness, the bad as well as the good to make a well rounded person. So I kept thinking about that, even though Zarkovich just a prick, I'm sorry, I don't know how else to say it. But there was something that was likeable about him too, he was some mother's son. The internal tug of war was unbelievable.

JDR: So how did you come home alone and work through this character after filming all day?

JMB: When you work the way I work, it's better that I came home alone and wrestled with the demons, you're a smart woman to ask me that question because I'm still wrestling with some of Zarkovich. I'll carry him for the rest of my days and there were moments ......whew....there were subtle moments in this film that I will never forget, ever. Where nothing had to be said and nothing had to be done, I just felt it deep in my core that will always be there.

JDR: In talking with you today, I have to say that so much of what you share are like what Depp shares as an actor, he like you and Anthony Hopkins say that they strive to make something of an unlikeable character likeable because as you've said, that character has someone who loves them. Depp did that with murderer Sweeney Todd, found a bit of him that people saw as a human being.

JMB: Johnny and I didn't get to spend a lot of time together because it was just insane ...but we liked one another, I am sure of that and we connected and we had a couple of scenes together and whenever we saw one another we were very warm to one another, there was a connection for sure, I am sure of that. When it came time that we were coming to the segment of the shooting I would weep. I would just weep. Because I felt so bad. The way I was brought up, the way I was raised and the way I live my life is that the one thing you do is you have honor, you do not betray anybody. And you do not betray your friends and it still irks me, because I know that Martin Zarkovich after the whole thing was said and done they ended up deporting Anna Sage and he ended up living his life sort of in silence, he never spoke about it again and sort of drifted away. There's a great story "The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allen Poe, he must have lived in his own cask of Amontillado, that's the part that haunts me. I remember looking at Johnny and I uttered under my words "I'm sorry kid". When you look in his (Johnny's) eyes there's a whole reservoir of humanity there. And it was killing me. It killed me. It killed me. Plus Anna Sage was the love of Zarkovich's life..there was a whole lot going on, that I (my character) was afraid for her sake and our safety. I just went back to my religion and I just thought about what Judas Iscariot must have felt like for those pieces of silver...he ended up hanging himself. It was deep, I took it to a deep level, I hope it shows.

And I have to add on a personal note, that this man was completely open and giving, I did edit out some personal chit chat between us, but other than those things, this is exactly what he said to us, the fans. Towards the end of the interview is a special message that he wanted shared with you all, his fans. So John, I am fulfilling my promise to you with humble honor.

JDR: Let me ask you a different type of question, do you know why I wanted to talk with you?

JMB: I don't.

JDR: It didn't have anything to do with Depp, but it did. It was when I saw a clip of you on youtube saying so many really gracious things to the fans. Next to Johnny, you were the one who was out there with the fans after filming day after day. Being such a gentleman to the fans who were there, you gave of yourself. I said to myself that I wanted to try to contact this man, that this man was kind to the fans and we thank you for that.

JMB: Thank you, as I said to the fans, without them, I'm nobody, I'm just another John Doe on the street. And those fans were my safety net. I knew that whenever I came back from wherever I'd been, if I fell, that they'd be there for me. And I knew that their love and their support and their smiles and all their faces were all apart of the experience. I would see them, they were just a whole part of the experience. They kept me going so many times that you don't know.... My credo is I've never met a fan I didn't like, if somebody is going to take the time to walk over to me or say hello to me or smile at me or look for my know actors, we're all little kids who didn't work our stuff out so we're trying to work it out now, we're turning our pain into art and the fact that anybody would go out of their way on the planet to be nice to me or get my attention then they can approach me any time they want.

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JDR: YOU are quite a remarkable gentleman!

JMB: Thank you very much.

JDR: May we speak about Michael Mann? You've worked with him in television and twenty years later in the movies, is he the same man?

JMB: When I worked with him in television he was the executive producer he wasn't the director, although he was around. Do you want my opinion of Michael Mann?

JDR: I'd love to hear what you'd like to share with us!

JMB: My opinion of Michael Mann is George Patton on top of a jeep driving through the snow with bullets flying. I would work for this guy anywhere, anytime, any place, for any amount of money, anywhere. I don't know anyone else's opinion and I frankly don't care about anybody else's opinion, this man treated me with respect, gave me an incredible part, put me in a great position and I have never seen a dynamo and this isn't and actor sucking up to a director. The job's done. I've never seen a man like this in my life. We were out one night filming on the famed, fabled Lake Michigan and within four seconds the weather went from being pristine to like the end of the world. And I watched this man running with equipment in the wind, this man is "first in and last out" he was, if he called me right now and said "John start walking to Chicago, I've got something for ya" I'd say, Karen, I gotta go. That's my opinion of Michael Mann. I can't say enough about Michael Mann and that's the truth, that's from my heart, that's not hoping he'll hire me again. I mean that. Michael Mann is one of THE most passionate, driven people.

I want to tell you as I'm talking to you right now I'm looking at a poster that's been on my wall my whole life and it's called "Public Enemies"'s a James Cagney movie that I've had in my possession forever. And I'm in a movie called "Public Enemies" I mean you can do the math any way you want. Michael Mann... I got to stand there and watched him in the most unbelievable situations whether it was ego or weather or demographics or logistics or all of the above at the same time coming down with the unknown, he handled it. He handled it with aplomb and grace. The man is the bomb. And I mean that. The man gave me permission, what do we look for in life, we look for an "atta boy" - we look for permission, we look for somebody to take notice of us, we look for somebody to see us across a room.

JDR: So you feel that as an actor, the way he treated you enabled you in the role?

JMB: ABSOLUTELY! And you know he's got a method to his madness, he knows exactly what he's doing. He would have you psychologically set up to be right where you were supposed to be without even knowing it. It was just brilliant what he was doing and he couldn't have been more graceful with me, sometimes he wouldn't talk, he'd just come over and put his hand on me and that was enough. A lot of people in this industry need to realize first that we're blessed when we get to do this and second we have a responsibility to humanity because we get to portray the human spirit, we go where other people don't get to go. And that there needs to be a little more respect for the craft and a there needs to be a little more respect for people called directors because they're the ones that are ultimately going to put it all together in the end and that doesn't just pertain to this project, it pertains to every project I've ever done. Michael Mann ran a first rate, first class operation, where we didn't want for nothing, we didn't need for nothing, we were treated like gold. All the way, first class from the beginning to the end. Given everything we needed to live, everything we needed to be creative. Everything, everything. The top, the best...cameramen, costumers...everything was the best.

And I hope Michael Mann gets the Academy Award for it, he has quite a body of work and he deserves it for this.

JDR: Well Universal has this film as it's tent pole film next summer, so I hope there's a big push for the film at awards time.

JMD: Gee I'm feeling like Will Smith all of a sudden! (we laugh)

JDR: Zarkovich was a bad dude, but was there any joy there at all for you?

JMB: Let me see, my first scene in the movie, there was a lot of joy because I was awaiting him and I was with her (Anna Sage) and I knew once I saw him we were going to get a pile of money and I was going to be able to eat steak with baked potatoes, carry on, buy a new suit, act like a big shot and treat my baby nice and life was going to go along swimmingly. That's about it though. From there on it was a battle for Zarkovich's soul.

JDR: As an actor knowing the outcome, was it that much harder for you?

JMB: I tried to sort of hypnotize myself that I didn't, that I was going to go moment to moment. And you know it was so disjointed for me, it wasn't like I was there and we did it chronologically so I had to sort of psych myself up. Zarkovich was with me all the time and when I would come back to NY, he was with me and people would say to me "what's up with you?" and it was too much to explain. Colleen Atwood, the greatest costume designer on the planet, when she would give me some of these clothes, shoes and just these little things, like the I tried to take it moment to moment, I tried to imagine what he went through. It's in your soul, it's a deep, dark place. I always look at acting as if it were an Olympic swimming event and there's three types of actors, you have the first type of actor who wears the speedo, looks great, dives in the water, barely makes a splash, swims end to end, comes out, doesn't even look wet. Looks great. You have the second kind of actor, wears the speedo, looks great, but does something else in the water, does the butterfly, breaks it up a little bit, then you've got the actor that I am, that I think I am, the actors that I really care about you show up, you're probably not in a bathing suit, you find the deepest end of the pool, you dive in, you make a really big splash and you hope that people wait for you to come back up. If that makes any sense to you at all.

JDR: That makes great sense and so that also gives me a question, what swimmer is Johnny Depp?

JMB: He's my swimmer. Absolutely my swimmer.

JDR: Can you give something about him, a one word description maybe?

JMB: Soul. Soul. Soul. You look in eyes and there it is. Right there. There's no mistake in why he's a movie star, he's a gorgeous guy, he's got the suave, he's got the look, he's got the grace, he's got the moves but...when you look deep in his eyes? There's the soul. It's like a mine of gold. And that's what Tim Burton and anyone who uses him, they know. It's his soul, it's right there.

JDR: I hope that we can visit again maybe when the movie comes out? You've been such a great man to talk with!

JMB: I would like that very much! Now, could you do me a favor?

JDR: Yes of course!

JMB: I would like you to give my love and my best regards to all the fans and tell them that the brightness of their eyes and the depth of their smiles will stay with me forever and that I wish them well and I hope that we meet again.

JDR: I will get great joy out of doing that!

JMB I mean that. While we were doing this film, I mean we worked inordinate hours, there were people all around at the hotel, the Starbucks...and they got to know me and I got to know them and then we knew each other by name and they would see me like sleepwalking, staggering through the street. It's just part of the process, the hours, it's just part of the deal, no complaints. There were just fans there, the things they said, they'll never know.. little things they said, or did.

JDR: They will know because I will tell them.

JMB: It's the people who you remember along the way, that may say something to you or change your course. The fans, where ever we went? There they were and they'll never know how much they played a big part in keeping me going.

JDR: I promise you, they WILL know it because I will write it for you. Fans react to you because of what they got from you. You gave to the fans. It's an interaction. You shared with the fans and that's why I wanted to talk to you.

JMB: One of my favorite sayings comes from William Faulkner when he accepted his Nobel Peace Prize in 1956, I think, the year I was born, he said "when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tide less in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.". And that's something that keeps me going.

JDR: You've just portrayed a tortured human spirit.

JMB: Yes, one of them, and I'd like to put him to rest. Life is pretty simple, you're born, you learn integrity, dignity and compassion, sense of humor, some grace, manners and you're gone. You hope maybe you left a mark.

**This interview is copyright © 2004-2008 and may not be reprinted or reposted in any form without permission. Please use a link back to share. Thanks

Ellen Poulsen, author, DON'T CALL US MOLLS

I was fortunate to be able to speak with the wonderful Ellen Poulsen about her fascinating book "Don't Call Us Molls" telling the stories of the women of the Dillinger gang.

Clinton Cook Publishing Corp. Copyright c. 2002 by Ellen Poulsen

Please find some time to look around on her site, it's fabulous and full of information and photos and all sorts of things about these women, who didn't want to be called "molls."

I am grateful to her for her generosity of time and information!! And I thank her also for her patience in seeing this here on JDR.

JohnnyDeppReads talks with Ellen Poulsen:

JDR -This is one amazing book that you've written! Thank you for speaking to me about your book "Don't Call us Molls"

EP - Thank you for your interest, I appreciate that.

JDR - There's been a lot of interest in the women of the Dillinger gang lately because of the Depp film Public Enemies. So many people have read your book and we are discussing it on JDR.

EP - That's really funny, because when I thought of writing the book back in 1986, somebody said to me "oh and there'll be five people who will read it." Things have changed a lot since then, there's a lot of interest in Dillinger and that era now.

JDR - And with this movie being filmed, your book is right up there with the good books about Dillinger and his gang. Being a Depp fan site, we are primarily women of all ages reading these books and waiting for this movie.

EP - Count me in as a Johnny Depp fan, I love him!

JDR - There are so many people now who have no recollection of the depression. Can you speak about the women with these men? How or why did they cling to these men who were very obviously gangsters?

EP - I think that the money factor was an important one, but I don't think it was the ONLY factor. You see, for some of them like Pat Cherrington who was one of the women hanging around with John Dillinger's friend Red Hamilton, it was definitely economic need that motivated them to seek out men who were "gangsters" if you want to call them that or guys who were involved in crimes. Because they had a lot of primary needs that weren't being it was a very common thing for them (the women) to go to the dentist after they got a boyfriend like that. Also Pat Cherrington had a series of operations, she had a lot of problems in her stomach and there was no health insurance back then, in fact the social blankets that we have now really didn't kick in until Franklin Delano Roosevelt's administration. They didn't have things like social security, etc. They didn't have the things that Americans take for granted. They had to find some way of getting by, of getting the things that they needed. But the thing is, a lot of women were in the same boat in those days - they didn't have any money and they needed things. Why did this particular group end up with gangsters like Dillinger? I think the roots of that are just in who they happened to know. Like Evelyn Frechette, who was John Dillinger's girlfriend, was going out with men on the fringes of crime as far back as the 1920s. And she had no interest in the boys who lived on the reservation. You know she was a Native American and she was of the Menominee tribe, she was a bad apple, she had a bad reputation within the reservation for being a woman who liked to run around. So she ended up in Milwaukee and Chicago and she married a man who was sitting in the county jail waiting to be shipped to Leavenworth and she married him, and so she was already involved with the criminal element when she met John Dillinger.

I know there was some hype, she told some newspapers that she didn't know who he was, but I'm sure she did. A lot of times these women ended up with people like that because of family relationships. There were three sisters who were involved in the Barker Karpas gang and they were as young as sixteen years old when these girls started going out with men like this when they were so young. It was almost impossible for them to change the core, you sort of brand yourself as a loser, more or less, when you start going out with men who have prison records or who are going into prison or committing crimes, so they had no real way out once they got involved in it. Something really interesting is that a lot of them were what I call "sister acts" because one sister would go out with a gangster and then her sister would go out with another gangster in the same mob and sometimes even a third sister would go out with someone because the mobsters liked women of that element, women who could be trusted not to talk, not to tell police anything, women who could stand up under pressure if they were arrested. So there was such a combination of factors there. I think the final factor was sometimes that they started out so young and so innocent with these men, before these men really became the big gangsters that we know. For example Baby Face Nelson was basically dealing in stolen car parts and he was a real low level criminal in Chicago when his girlfriend got pregnant, she was sixteen. By the time she had two children she was nineteen and he was public enemy number one and she went to jail on a federal harboring charge. So I mean they started out as just dating guys from the neighborhood and they ended up as very, very notorious women who probably never had a chance to live down their reputations.

JDR - As I read your book, I was struck by the idea that Evelyn for instance, bought fine clothing and jewelry and had a little dog with her. Stepping away from the fact that these guys were criminals, it's like these guys were the rock stars of their time and the women were their groupies. You pointed out that when they had money they got dental and medical care, yet as a group they could be rather outlandish and didn't always blend in as much as they could have. And yet so often they had to just walk away from these things.

EP - Also they sent money home, I don't know if that was guilt...but that was also a part of it, to help out relatives who were also indigent. But you know that they all weren't extremely poor. I know that Evelyn was, only because I personally visited her home on the reservation, and even as recent as ten or fifteen years ago it seemed very much an impoverished place. Although very proud in tradition, and not to be disparaging at all in saying that, it's a wonderful culture but economically they didn't seem to be really up and coming. But they weren't all extremely poor. Mary Kinder was pretty much a middle class person, the house that she lived in in Indianapolis was a fairly nice house by middle class or working class standards. Not all came from poor, poor backgrounds but I guess enough of them did.

EP - That's a very interesting observation, that these men were the rock stars and the women were their groupies.

JDR - Thanks! These women weren't just hangers on because these women loved these men. These women were absolutely with these men. I remember where you talk in the book about the women buying the cars for then, Evelyn driving the car for them.

EP - Oh yes!

JDR. I just loved the pictures that you found of them! They are fabulous! How did you find them? (go here to see many of her vintage photos )

EP - Thank you very much. Well, I collected for such a long time that I guess I accumulated them over the years, if I found out that something was going up for sale. Those pictures pre-date the e-bay revolution or being able to find things online. I used to be able to walk right into the Associated Press wide world because I lived in New York City and I could look through the boxes (of photos) of that era and you see them reproduced in the books but you can't imagine how beautiful those photographs were in print form. Because the photo journalism of that era was magnificent, they really took some incredible black and white photos.

JDR - There is a part in your book where you talk about John Dillinger's niece Mary, and the fact that his sister took pictures and brought them to Dillinger so that he could have them. BUT on the back she had written that they were to be returned to her. Were these returned?

EP - Mary Gallagher was his niece. I don't know for sure if they were returned to her. I know that there were attempts made to get photos back for family members. Sam Cowley, the FBI agent who was in charge of eveything was killed by Baby Face Nelson and Melvin Purvis was demoted and eventually fired, yet I don't know who would have been in charge of getting those pictures. I have my doubts that they got those pictures back through regular channels. I know the Dillinger family had a lot of stuff that they sold over the years to the museum. But that's another chapter in Dillinger lore.

JDR - While we are speaking about pictures, there's a fabulous picture in your book with three women, I think Pat Cherrington is in the middle...

EP - Yes that's fabulous!

JDR - Yes the clothing and the demeanor and the stances of the women ... these are women that you don't want to mess with.

EP - That's right!

JDR - Was there anything about any of these women shooting anyone?

EP - Oh that's a great question! I don't think anybody's ever asked me that question. That picture actually has one of those "sister acts" that I was talking about. The big lady, Opal Long? Her sister is Pat Cherrington. Shooting anybody? You know there was a mythological story about a woman named Kathryn Kelly and she wasn't in the Dillinger gang but she's part of that school, she's the wife of Machine Gun Kelly, and she's one of those. like Evelyn Frechette, there's such a mystique around this particular woman. She was rumored to have shot her husband, her first husband, and he was found shot to death and there was a suicide note that said something like "I can't live with her or without her"..something like that, she was always rumored to have been the one to have shot him and left the suicide note. BUT I have to stress that's never been proven. All we know is that he died, he was shot and there was a note and most people attribute that to Kathryn Kelly. But as far as any of the other ones ever taking a gun and shooting it at another person? No, I can't really say. The only instance where it's hotly contested is Ma Barker, another woman from that ilk. In fact in "Don't Call Us Molls" there's one or two chapters in the back devoted to Ma Barker and at her death, she was killed in an FBI ambush. She was purportedly found with a smoking gun. That again has been disputed by historians. I'm just trying to pick my brain to see if I can think of any other instances In terms of getting these men, particularly the Dillinger gangsters, out of tight spots, the women more or less drove the cars when they had to or they very quickly packed up and got themselves out of these hideouts. They weren't really the ones who used the fire arms to any great extent. There's another exception of course, Bonnie Parker, who is considered to have been a "loader." There was an interview that was in "Playboy" magazine by one of the gang members of the Bonnie and Clyde gang, he said that she was a "loader" not a shooter. And I know that she did manage to shoot herself one time with a firearm. She shot herself in the leg. There really isn't any instance of these women acting out violently with firearms.

To get back to the Dillinger gang women, they were more or less along for the ride, they figured the kind of jobs that they had to do, they rented apartments, they opened safe deposit boxes to keep stolen money in, they were in charge of communication - like sending telegrams because in those days there wasn't any email, or make a telephone call.

JDR - Towards the end of the book, you wrote about speaking with Evelyn's last husband.

EP Yes, I spoke with Art Tic, he was also a Menominee.

JDR - What a fabulous opportunity to talk with this man, what was he like?

EP - He was very nice, some of the things he said were kind of off the wall. He said that she liked wearing skirts, that she never wore slacks. And some researcher friends of mine found pictures of her wearing bell bottoms! (we laughed) Well, so much for that.

JDR - We had been wondering about that quote on the forum, as we had seen some of the pictures coming from location and we know that the costumer, Colleen Atwood, is always as accurate as possible.

EP- YES! She contacted me and I sent her a book.

JDR - She (Colleen) has "Billie" in slacks in what looks to be several scenes including one scene where the Evelyn Frechette "character" is dressed in mens wear in order to meet John Dillinger.

EP I can't comment on that because I didn't see it, but is it a kind of wide legged, sort of a pajama?

JDR - Yes, it appears to be maybe a pajama, a wide legged pant and a raincoat and a hat, perhaps she's trying to somehow disguise herself?

EP There is a photograph that didn't get into "Don't Call us Molls" but it did get published in a book called "Dillinger:Dead or Alive" by J. Robert Nash and that publishes a photograph of Evelyn Frechette wearing a raincoat, a sailor cap and pants. So maybe the costume designer copied it right from that, her hair is a bit longer in that picture and it's assumed that the photograph was taken sometime in the late 1920s. In fact, in that picture Evelyn is standing with a man who's got a gun sticking out from beneath his jacket. So that was kind of proof positive that she always had a taste for men from the underworld. In fact there's another photograph that I have somewhere, which again I got this after I finished the book, where Evelyn is standing in that same outfit and she's standing next to a girl friend of hers that was mentioned several times in the book Vivian Warrington. That's the lady who was friendly with Evelyn up in the reservation as it's mentioned several times in the book and Evelyn is posing in that same outfit next to her friend Vivian, that was identified to me by somebody I spoke to at the Menominee reservation. So obviously that outfit (in the film) was taken from real life.

JDR - Was there anything that you learned about Evelyn that surprised you in any way? That may have been out of character? A juicy tidbit maybe?

EP - It's said that Evelyn used to snatch ashtrays from places she'd been.

JDR - Polly Hamilton, I think she's kind of an interesting character, she wasn't around as long as the other women, she came in and then took off and disappeared. What happened to her after John Dillinger was shot?

EP - Well apparently she did, the woman in red, Anna Sage, tried to keep Polly's name out of this. She actually got Polly out of Chicago and they went to Detroit for a while to get away from the heat. And then Polly and Anna Sage had a parting of the ways and Polly went back to her home and laid low for a very long time and ended up coming back to Chicago and marrying a salesman and lived in the "old town" section of Chicago proper for the rest of her life. And lived completely anonymously. The same life style was adopted by Opal Long, who was the heavy woman in that photograph. Opal Long married a man who was very loosely identified with the Dillinger era, he was a newspaper man who was friendly with Pearl Elliot who was the prostitute who was harboring John DIllinger. She married this man and lived in Chicago anonymously and it's interesting that they all died between the years of 1969 and 1971, they all died around the same time and Opal Long is buried in Chicago under a different name and Polly was cremated so there's no grave to visit for Polly and they were able to live anonymously. It's amazing that they were able to do that. Polly got completely out of the Dillinger loop, Anna Sage did not. Anna Sage was deported, but Polly didn't have such a sterling background. She was a prostitute and she worked as a prostitute for Anne Sage. They both had a very long record. And because of Anna Sage's connections, because she was very friendly with Sgt. Martin Zarkovich, she was able to have her records... she never did any was sort of like a revolving door situation. She never had to face the music for anything that she did until she got involved with Dillinger.

JDR - While you were writing about these women was there a favorite of yours?

EP - (she laughs) Over the years my favorites have come and gone. When I was a little girl I had this interest in them and Mary Kindle was my favorite. She was the girlfriend of Harry Pierpont, but that was basically because she was quoted quite eloquently in John Toland's book " The Dillinger Days" and that was the book. Dillinger people didn't have much to read in those days. Basically " The Dillinger Days" and Joe Pinkston's book "A Short and Violent Life", and both of those books quoted Mary (Kindle) so much that she just came across as a very colorful, very tough, wise cracking person and I think she was, that was confirmed to me by Jeff Scalf who was John Dillinger's nephew. He went to visit her and brought her flowers and she took the flowers out of his hand and she threw them on the counter.

I think my real favorite is Patricia Cherrington, of course we all love Evelyn, that goes without saying but Pat Cherrington, the lady in the picture, in the middle with the cigarette. About two years ago a couple of my fellow researchers and some sympathetic people to her, chipped in and we put a head stone on her grave in Chicago. On my website you can see information about that and so that's what we did for Pat Cherrington. I went to visit the grave many times in Chicago and it always seemed so forlorn. They used to put a traffic cone on her grave site because people wanted to see where she was buried. So we went from a traffic cone to a monument and we put a cross on it. At around the same time some family members contacted me and I got their permission to do it. I don't think I really needed it after so many years but it was nice to get their blessing. We determined her religion was Baptist. The only reason I know this is because her sister's the big gal, her prison record - which amounted to one page - indicated that she had been a Baptist. So we felt that it was OK to put a cross on her grave. I thought she was a very sympathetic person, I think because she had a child and I think that it was poignant that she had to go through this whole life style, to use a new catch phrase, as a single mother, she had to leave the child with her sister quite a lot and with other people, her gangster boyfriend Russell Clark, his family took care of her child.

JDR - Well it's good that somebody stepped up to take care of the poor child caught in the middle...

EP - Yes, thank you, she was a poor child caught in the middle and it's an interesting testimonial to the families of the these desperados, that they were human beings. I mean Russell Clark's mother had Pat Cherrington's child living in her house with her in Detroit. You know Russell Clark was one of the gang, it's that the family members of these gangsters were not bad people and they were pretty much victimized big time because of what happened to their loved ones.

JDR - We've all seen the small news reel clip of John Dillinger's father speaking and you've written about how painful it was for John Dillinger to see that in the theater, to see his dad reading basically from a script about his son not being a bad person.

EP - Evelyn spoke about those clips in one of those interviews she gave with the Chicago Herald and Examiner "my Life with John Dillinger", she said that it was very hard for him to see his father in that news reel. I wonder if it brought it home to him too just how much he was going to lose, to be killed or brought to justice.

JDR - You can't even begin to imagine what went through their minds, I think these are all tragic people, who were just kind of caught in a web at a time and a place, especially during the depression.

EP - I agree with you about that. And the poverty went back before the depression.

JDR - These were just very poor people.

EP - With no access also to education. I always said Bonnie Parker, who was a talented poet, had she had the means in those days to maybe, I like to say, come to New York, live on the lower east side, take some courses, lead a fulfilling life. She was a creative woman who had no outlet and I think that she saw in Clyde an opportunity for the big creative splash that she had to make. Bonnie's been called a drama queen by some of the men I know who have written books about Bonnie and Clyde. And I bet you'll understand, I always say that was a gross put down because a drama queen is kind of disparaging.

JDR - She was in a way, trapped, no way out, no way up. There she was and along comes Clyde, thug that he was, and paid attention to her.

EP - And gave her a way to express herself you know with all of the fast cars, and the guns and the shoot outs and she wrote these poems about life on the run with Clyde and they were very evocative first person accounts of life on the run, and I think that her life would have gone another way. Our era, for all of the things you could say about the bad things that are happening in the world today we definitely have more opportunities than these people had, economic or opportunites for education and the lack of education is a factor. But you know something, they were not really illiterate women, I mean they wrote letters and some of them are pretty funny to read.

JDR I really like that you put those letters in your book. I remember reading old letters that my grandmother wrote her sister at about the same time, and their phraseology back then was so different than what we say today. That's the way they wrote, that's they way they talked...they were farm people.

EP - Evelyn was educated in the Indian school and she had a nice way of writing, they all were literate and they were basically, I guess, grade school educated or basic high school, without any real vocational training. But that was pretty much the norm for a lot of people in those days.

JDR - You've been so generous with your time today, I don't want to take up too much more of your time.

EP - No, as long as you want to talk.

JDR - You are quite nice to do this.

If there was one thing that you wanted people to understand about these "Dillinger" women what would it be?

EP - I think that for posterity the most important thing to remember is that they paid for their crimes, I don't know that that sounds too Eliott Ness. That they paid, they paid in spades. For the most part, they were very loyal to their men, they didn't really buckle under and spill. The women who were with the Dillinger gang, through thick and through thin all shared the same characteristics: they were all loyal, none of them caved in and gave information to the police and I feel that given the spirit of the era that that was a positive trait. And trust me, I am not anti police, my father was a police officer, I'm a law abiding person but I believe that because they were loyal to their men they suffered extreme consequences because J. Edgar Hoover, who was in back of all of the prosecutions, the federal harboring prosecutions that took place had the power to decide where these women served their time. So if they helped the FBI they went to a country club jail, they went to Alderson, if they didn't they went to Milant? which was a men's penitentiary with a steel barred annex for women. So because they were loyal to their men and to their gang they suffered HARD time, they served federal harboring sentences, most of them did. When they got out of jail, they were not free to resume their lives because Hoover at that point embarked upon a smear campaign. He ghost wrote a couple of books, I'll give you the titles if you want, one was "Ten Thousand Public Enemies" and one was called "Here's to Crime", in those books he wrote essays about women like Pat Cherrington and Evelyn Frechette and Delores Delany, who was a teen aged girlfriend of Alvin Karpas. He smeared them so badly and they had to go through life with that type of slander and libel directed at them after they served their time, after they were paroled and when they tried to start a new life. And as a result of that they were almost forced to remarry or to get married because they had to change their name. The psychological repercussions affected some of these women so badly! I mean Evelyn was one of the lucky ones, she married, remarried. Marie Comforti was Homer Van Meter's girlfriend and she was dead by 1944 of cirrhosis of the liver. Vern Miller's girlfriend Vi Mathis, he was another one of those midwest crime wave characters, not associated with Dillinger, she was dead by, I think, 1939. She died in an abusive relationship. They suffered and they paid.

JDR - Do you think that John Dillinger was abusive towards Evelyn?

EP - NO NO! I can say unequivocally he was not. And I'll tell you why. When I went up to the reservation I spoke to some of Evelyn's family members and I have never revealed their names because I never got written permission and didn't want to have any problems, but one in particular vehemently told me that he hated that Warren Oates movie and fifty percent of that movie showed him pushing her, roughing her up, kidnapping her at one point and this particular relative of Evelyn Frechette was very agitated about that film and he said that he wasn't mean to her, he didn't treat her like that, he said if anything he was afraid of her. And this wasn't a great nephew or somebody who only heard the stories passed down. This was a direct relative who had spent time with her and knew her, knew her intimately, and so I got it from the family and that was collaborated for me by the woman who I spoke with.

We soon ended our conversation and I thanked Ellen Poulsen for her generosity with her information, her knowledge and her time with us!

Bryan Burrough, author, Public Enemies

This interview was originally posted on our main forum on Feb 26 2008:

I can't begin to tell you what a great guy Bryan Burrough is! We sent him a ton of questions and below you will find his answers! I originally contacted him back in December and he was so gracious to wait until I was able to get the book read and our questions together for him! Truly one of the nicest authors I've had the pleasure of visiting with!

This is what he said to us:

BB: First off, thanks so very much for the opportunity to chat with you and your many, many readers. You've got a fascinating site, full of good people and thoughtful observations. I'll do my best to answer your questions, plus any others that might come up. Karen, here's what I have so far. I'll try to finish later.

I really appreciate that he's offered to continue our dialogue and discussion a
s we go on! Byran! You're the best!

JDR: There are a ton of people out there who didn't grow up hearing parents and grandparents talk about living during the depression, bank failures, soup kitchens, etc. Can you speak a bit about why you think the times affected the way people literally embraced and cheered for Dillinger and some of the others?

It's so hard for people raised in recent years to understand what people went through during the Depression. The level of poverty, the level of hopelessness, there's just been nothing like it in America ever since. People thought it was the end of the world, and in a way it was. The world people had come to know, the America they had come to know, was simply gone. In its place was a world where all hope seemed lost, where there was simply no sense that the country would ever go back to what it had been before.

At times such as that, people look for hope wherever they can find it. In some small way, Dillinger and his criminal brethren gave hope to millions of Americans that there really was a way to fight back. People weren't just depressed, they were angry. Very, very angry. And the John Dillingers of the world seemed to be acting out the nation's anger. Dillinger never hurt most Americans. He hurt the banks. And that's what people wanted. They wanted a way to show the wealthy and the powerful how hurt they were, how lost, and Dillinger, who seemed like an exceedingly nice bank robber, became a symbol of fighting back.

The kidnapping and subsequent death of the Lindbergh baby caused a change in Federal law, can you tell us how that affected the new FBI and how it affected the gangs? Why did it make a difference for law men?

The Lindbergh Law, which gave the FBI responsibility for tracking down interstate kidnappers, gave the Bureau its first chance to engage with criminals the country actually cared about. Until its passage, the FBI had never really accomplished anything of note; most Americans had no idea it even existed. The Lindbergh Law made the FBI relevant. Engaging with armed kidnappers transformed the Bureau into a far more professional outfit than it had been, much to the consternation of criminal gangs. For years criminals like Machine Gun Kelly had only hick sheriffs to deal with. In 1933, for the first time, the Kellys of the world found themselves facing a federal police force with seemingly unlimited resources that could track them across state lines. For the first time, there was no real place for criminals to hide. That was the genius of the FBI.


You grew up in Texas learning of crime sprees of Bonnie and Clyde through your Grandfather. You have a friend who's great uncle was murdered by Clyde. This story is in your roots. How did your grandfather brought in to be involved with the Barrow gang? Did he live to read your book or know of your research?

My grandfather, John Vernon Burrough, was drawn into the hunt for Bonnie and Clyde in a very peripheral way, as a deputy sheriff in rural Northwest Arkansas who manned roadblocks set up to apprehend the Barrow Gang at several points in 1933 and 1934. I can remember him telling me how frightened he and his buddies were at the time, wondering what they would actually do if that car coming over the rise had Clyde Barrow behind the wheel. Would they be brave enough to shoot? Would they be killed? The Barrows whisked through Northwest Arkansas on a regular basis. Much to his relief, my grandfather never came face to face with them. But they remained very real to him, even in later years. John and my grandmother Mildred knew two people Clyde killed in Arkansas. They knew their families well, and I can remember how both of them would grow silent sometimes when I brought up the subject for the umpteenth time. Clyde wasn't a symbol to them. He was a murderer, and a frightening one at that.

While we are speaking of Dallas' own thugs and original drive by miscreants, Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, these were pretty low level hoodlums. Clyde was a murderer and Bonnie ended up with Clyde out of boredom. Do you think they would have been important enough to be a part of your book, had the 1967 movie not been made?

Thats a great question. Bonnie and Clyde certainly loom large in the American consciousness, almost solely because of that movie. Without it, they would be forgotten today. Still, theirs was a fascinating story, and I imagine it would have remained good enough to make it into the book, although, as you point out, they were very peripheral figures in the overall federal War on Crime. Hoover never thought they were important enough to seriously track.

In 2004 you did an interview for Booknotes with Brian Lamb, while talking about the 1967 film BONNIE AND CLYDE, Mr Lamb asked you "Why do movies change the facts? You replied " Because movie makers have stories that they want to tell. If you want to tell the facts, you make something called a documentary.
Mr. Lamb then asked; "So they don`t have a responsibility to the truth?" and you answered: "It`s great when you get -- if you get movie people in that discussion, they will inevitably come around to the explanation that they believe that their idea serves as the spirit of the truth. One of the great examples would be the movie -- an FBI movie, "Mississippi Burning," which showed the deaths of the three Civil Rights workers in Mississippi. The facts were not correct. But I remember listening to the director say that it serviced -- it was true to the spirit of the story. And I think that`s inevitably what you find."

My question is, how do you hope that Michael Mann and his movie makers stay "true to the spirit of the story'? What do you wish for people to say about your story? Did or do you have any script input?

I've read the script, and while I shouldn't say anything about it, I will say I like it. I didnt have any input, nor did I expect to. That's not the way these things work. Obviously, there's always going to be a different viewpoint between a nonfiction writer and a moviemaker. In my experience, what you hope in these situations is that a filmmaker sticks as close to the facts as possible. In this case, I think you will see a movie that not hews close to the spirit of the book but the historic facts. In fact, I think this may end up being the most factual of any Depression-era gangster movie ever made. Did I use the word `facts' enough for you?

What do you think Johnny Depp could or would bring to the role of John Dillinger?

The key to the real-life Dillinger, what made him a `special' criminal, was his likeability, his charm. Whatever you thought of what he did in life, and he did kill at least one man, there was no denying his charisma. Mr. Depp has that in spades.

What intrigued you about John Dillinger?

His accessibility. Unlike some of his peers, you could get a sense of who John Dillinger actually was. Part of this was the fact that Dillinger was the only major Depression-era criminal who was arrested, and allowed to give press interviews, during his crime spree. So unlike Pretty Boy Floyd and Baby Face Nelson, one can not only view footage of the real Dillinger, but read his words. So not only did he have charisma, it was a charisma you could see and feel. If not for the interviews he gave at Crown Point, I'm not sure Dillinger would have been so well-liked by the public.

When researching Dillinger, who was the closest person to him that you were able to interview?

No one, really. I mean, this was seventy years ago. The one person who was present during much was this, who I did interview at length, was Melvin Purvis's secretary, Doris Rogers. She gave invaluable insights into the FBI agents, and to a lesser extent the criminals.

While reading PUBLIC ENEMIES, I got the feeling that not only was your book a comprehensive telling of that 20 month crime wave, but that you also had another purpose. Perhaps an homage to the FBI men that Katherine Kelly termed "G-men"? Why?

Well, first and foremost, you just want to tell an important story accurately. To the extent I had secondary aims, yes, I wanted to shine some light on the FBI agents, because by and large none of them had ever received any credit for what they did at the time. They were the real heroes here, not Dillinger. Sometimes that gets lost in the telling.

Recently in Vanity Fair you said you were still "feeling like a fifth grader at a Hannah Montana concert." How's that feeling holding on? :))

Oh, golly. You know, Karen, I've sold probaby two dozen books and Vanity Fair articles to Hollywood, and I've had exactly one made into a movie, 1994's ``Barbarians at the Gates,'' made for HBO. At this point, I'd just be thrilled to see a movie actually made. But to see it being made by Michael Mann, with people like Johnny Depp and Christian Bale, well, that's really just too much to ever hope for. I've been surprised by how emotionally involved I've gotten, how exciting it all is. For instance, I'm still floored that they're calling the movie ``Public Enemies.'' I had always assumed they would call it something else, and I guess they still could. Right now, though, it just feels like I'm kind of floating through this. I'm surrounded by dozens of friends and family members who are as well. I guess we're going to have a big party here in New Jersey when (and if) the movie comes out. That'll be fun.

The Kansas City massacre happened trying to free one man and he was killed as well as many others. What happened there and what did the FBI learn from this?

I think what happened there, and I didn't get into this in my book, was that at the moment the gunmen yelled for the lawmen to freeze, one of the lawmen's guns went off. The assasins panicked and opened fire. This was the theory in a great book you could pick up, ``The Union Station Massacre,'' by Robert Unger. I do think Verne Miller was accompanied by Pretty Boy Floyd that day, a contention I lay out in Public Enemies.

The first car I bought for myself in the late 1970s was a Chevy with a huge V8 engine. Ahh those were the days. That car moved. Many people today don't understand the power behind a V8. My dad grew up in rural area in the depression and used to use the term "good dirt roads" all of the time and I didn't understand what that meant until I actually saw and drove on a "good dirt road". How did the vast number of new good roads and fast cars aide or encourage the 20 month crime spree? What all was happening then to help their ease of movement?

As I say in the book, the crime wave of 1933-34 was really the result of technology outstripping the legal system. The bad guys had V-8 engines and Thompson submachineguns, while many lawmen were still toodling around in hand-cranked Model T's with ancient pistols. It took a while for the lawmen to catch up, and when they did, it was pretty much curtains for the bad guys.

Alvin Karpis. Probably the least known of the group, served the longest time in prison, ghost wrote two autobiographies and died in Spain in 1979. You approached the widow of his ghostwriter. You've said that because of that you were able to "uncover tons of new stuff"...what new stuff? What was the best bit in your opinion?

Yes, I managed to read more than a thousand pages of interviews Karpis gave around 1969. They brimmed with new insights into the gang's inner workings, including incidents where Karpis interfaced with the Chicago Mob and Baby Face Nelson. The new material didnt change the broad outlines of his story, but allowed me to tell it with much more nuance than before.

Little Bohemia. 1 FBI agent and 1 civilian killed. 0 criminals captured or killed. Good grief. Not great numbers. What went wrong with what should have been easy? Head 'em up... move 'em out.

Little Bohemia was the result of inexperience, haste and a woeful lack of planning. These poor FBI agents had no idea what they were walking into, and once they found themselves confronted by armed gunmen, they had no idea what to do. What resulted was a comedy of errors -- a comedy, that is, excepr for the fact that men were killed.

Melvin Purvis. Now there's a story. Good guy, young, eager. I got the idea that you liked him. What can you tell us about Purvis? Is history treating him fairly?

I loved Purvis as a character. An extraordinarily good man, earnest, hardworking, well-intentioned, but way, way, way out of his depth when pitted against John Dillinger. Purvis had never been trained for this. He was only 29, for pete's sake. His Achilles heel was his obvious love of publicity, which ultimately led to his departure from the FBI in 1935. History, at least the movies, has generally been kind to Purvis. In fact, I daresay Public Enemies is the first retelling of events to suggest that Purvis was so overmatched. What you have to say about Purvis is that he always gave his best, but in the end his best just wasnt good enough. It's sad that, having been hounded by Hoover for years after his retirement, he ultimately committed suicide. His family always blamed Hoover for that.

The Chicago mobs were pretty much ignored by Hoover, Purvis and the FBI. Why the immunity?

Well, the easy answer is that the FBI had no obvious jurisdiction for fighting the Chicago Mob. That was up to the Chicago police and, at times, the Treasury Department. The truth is that the FBI had a devil of a time tracking down Dillinger, a single bank robber. Hoover had to have known his men simply weren't ready to take on a whole mob.

Speaking of Chicago mobsters, why does most of the action seem to be in St. Paul and not Chicago?

Great question. St. Paul, it turns out, was the capital of Midwestern crime during the 1920s and 1930s, and for a simple reason. It was something called ``The O'Connor System,'' named after the St. Paul police chief who started in around 1908. Basically, the St. Paul cops made a deal with criminals: As long as they didn't commit crimes in St. Paul itself, they would be left alone. As a result, St. Paul became a safe haven for scores of bank robbers, including Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, Alvin Karpis, the Barkers and Machine Gun Kelly. FBI files actually indicate it was a top St. Paul cop who initiated the Barker-Karpis gang's two major St. Paul kidnappings.

It's been 5 years since you wrote PUBLIC ENEMIES, if you were to write it today is there anything you would add, change, leave out?

Oh, golly. Well, the book is awfully dense, especially the early parts. I committed the sin of falling in love with the subject matter, which happens. In fact, the manuscript at one point was far longer. On my editor's urging, I cut it by a full 25 percent to make it move faster. I know it's not the easiest read in places, but all in all, I wouldn't change a thing. I've written four books and just finished a fifty, and this was by far my favorite. I wish I could write it again!

We are grateful to Bryan, who continued to be available to us for questions. We thank him!

Rob Kidd, author, The Young Jack Sparrow Series

Cover image copyright Disney Publishing
This was originally posted on our main JohnnyDeppReads forum on February 24, 2008. I'd saved it for Oscar Day!

I've been saving this interview for Oscar Day! In honor of AWE's Oscar nominations!

We are grateful to Rob Kidd and the Disney Press marketing staff who kindly arranged this interview right before Christmas. I was able to sit down and visit with Mr. Kidd, who was very generous with his time and I really appreciate his openess to our questions.

Rob signing our book for a giveaway! Thanks to our CaptainJackSparrow for going to the book fest and getting our book signed by Rob!

Pic owned by captainjacksparrow

JDR: I’d like to thank you Rob, for signing those books for us while you were down in Austin, we really appreciate it!

RK: It was great fun!

JDR: I understand that you are not a Disney Imagineer, so how did you get connected with this great book series?

RK: I actually work with Disney Publishing I’m an executive editor with Disney Press. Right before “Dead Man’s Chest” came out we decided we wanted to publish books in Jack Sparrow’s world, do a universe expansion type of thing. We took it in all kinds of places we were should we tell contemporary stories and there was a time when we thought about telling stories as Jack Sparrow as a really young kid-- an eight year old or so and there’s some of that in the most recent book when he meets up with Keith and they go back and visit so his early youth. But we decided that that was too young and we wanted out readership to be a little bit older so where we ended up was with him as a teenager and he would still live in the world that he exists in the films. The other thing that this helped us to do is that we were working really closely with the studio, it helped us stay away from where they were going with the films. Because we didn’t want to give away anything that would happen in “Dead Man’s Chest” or “At World’s End” came out and we also didn’t want to do something in the books that would contradict the films so we didn’t want to write about anything in ‘At World’s End” that would prove to be false. So we were looking for authors-kind of going crazy trying to do it and it was getting so complicated because there was a lot of liaisons with the studio and everything had to be kept under wraps (he laughs here) –don’t want to let too many people in, that we decided that we’d just write it here.

JDR: That’s certainly an economical way to get it done…sort of keeps it all in the house. (More laughs)

RK: It was a great group effort with lots of people sharing their input. It wound up really working out well for us.

JDR: It’s a wonderful series! And it’s a very entertaining series. To paraphrase Capt. Barbossa from the first POTC, those were some might long words you used in the books and we’re not but humble pirates. Are you looking to attract an older kid audience that way?

RK: It’s funny that you should quote that line from the film because that’s part of where we pulled that aspect of the series, from when you watched the films, there is this play on a lot of big words…wanting to acquiesce Jack using egregious and so we thought that was really part of the world of the films and it served the dual purpose of being able to make this a series worth reading where you can get into a classroom and kids’ll be hooked because they really like Jack and they like the stories and at the same time they’re introduced to some more complicated words. I think hopefully if I did my job right it will allow them to feel less intimidated when they read works of literature, classics, stuff that they are being assigned in school.

JDR: I think that’s great, anything that gets kids reading a book and in turn gets them to a dictionary is good! You talked about being on the set, were you able to work with screenwriters Ted and Terry?

RK: I spoke with Ted and Terry at one point, but we didn’t work directly with them, but the way that we worked with Ted and Terry is that we have a contact (“we” meaning Disney Publishing) at the studio and then they deal directly with Ted and Terry and everybody else on the production team. So whenever we had a question about storyline, wanting to make sure that we weren’t going somewhere that might conflict with a screenplay, we would go to the studio, and the studio would go to Ted and Terry and clear everything. It just made it easier as we had tons of questions for them and also for the partners, like the toy group and things like apparel so that everybody was on board with POTC and the Walt Disney Company, so they would take all the questions to them at once and then they would get back to us.

JDR: Did you actually get on the set?

RK: Yeah, I was on the set a number of times less for the Jack Sparrow series because I was also working on the tie-ins. So we really needed to see what the sets looked like and how they operated, if you are going to describe a scene, it really helps to be there and watch it being shot. So that really helped a lot on that end, of course it also brought me into the world of Pirates which inspires the book.

JDR: You just mentioned tie-ins? Can you tell us what those are?

RK: I meant the books that come directly from the films, we did a few storybooks and the junior novelisation and stuff like that. I didn’t write those but I was editorial on them.

JDR: OK Rob, you’ve left your readers hanging here on #9 and I understand we have #10 – 11 -12 to come. When can we expect #10 and also when can we expect the series to wrap up?

RK: Book #10,”The Sins of the Father” is due out Dec 18. (Update, it is available now!)

JDR: And the wrap up for the series will come when?

RK: The 11th book “Poseidon’s Peak” is scheduled out in April and then #12 is following on the heels of #11, probably July.

JDR: So when #12 ends, there will be a gap of Jack’s life between book #12 and POTC:COTBP. Will there be any fill in there for us?

RK: Yeah the plans are to try and fill in all of that time with different formats, the Jack Sparrow books are chapter books, they are geared for eight to twelve year olds, but we made a very conscious effort to make sure that they crossed over the way that comic books cross over, where a kid could read it and enjoy it but then there’s also a huge adult fan audience. As we move forward we’ll be taking different aspects of the timeline of Pirates of the Caribbean films and applying them to a certain readership so next up is a series of books called “The Legends of the Brethren Court” which I will be editing and will be written by a great writer called T. T. Sutherland, who did the adaptations for “At World’s End” and that’s going to be a six book series and it’s basically going to examine the lives of the Pirate Lords and that will launch August of 2008 and those books will be a little bit longer, they’ll be probably for (ages) twelve and up, where as Jack was for eight to twelve and of course adults will hopefully enjoy them as well. And then we also will be going back and revisiting the whole crew of the Barnacle, with a tentative title of “Young Pirates of the Caribbean” a younger Jack will be in them, but it will give us the opportunity to visit more with some of the other characters like Arabella and Jean and Tumen and Constance and the others from the Jack Sparrow series.

JDR: You managed to tie in a lot of things in the series from the movies. Like Jack’s paprika, the pirate skeletons from the ride, the upside down boat thing, etc..was that a specific idea that Disney wanted included or was that you?

RK: (laughs) No that was me. When we first started thinking about the series, when I was out in LA and went down to Disneyland and I took a boat ride through the POTC and with an Imagineer and they took me through first with all of the lights on so I could see and really point out all of the details (of the ride) and then we went through with the lights off, I was looking for things that could be folded into the books, like they did in the film with the dog and the keys,. things that people who were fans of the ride would appreciate. What we wanted to so was make sure it felt like a cohesive whole in that whether it’s a book or the ride or a movie there are common elements that tie them all together so when you see stuff like that, it’s done for a reason and I’m glad that you caught on to that upside boat … it kind of got stuck into the book.

JDR: About the timing of the books’ releases, you had to be careful about releasing the new characters and release of the movies so as not to give anything away plotwise?

RK: Yes, and then things like Tia Dalma got pretty tricky as she was introduced in the second film but it’s revealed in the third film that she’s Calypso so we kind of had that fore sight, that was this weird balance like now it’s OK we can write her into the books, but at the same time we have to be careful, there are things about her that people can’t know about. So it was a little bit tricky there for a while.

JDR: I am a history buff and I noticed that your books contained a lot of historical references, is that you again, trying to educate kids?

RK: That’s exactly what that’s all about, when we just felt like this was a really good opportunity to get kids excited about things that they might otherwise not be excited about. The hope was that maybe if they are reading something about Montezuma that maybe they would then think to themselves that Montezuma or Cortez really existed, if they hear about them in school they’ll make that connection and say I read this Jack Sparrow book and he was in there too and it just might make things that they are supposed to be doing, things that they are doing in school…it might make them more exciting and in addition to that especially with Cortez, there’s that connection with the gold of Cortez in the films. There’s always a historical conflict going on simultaneously with the supernatural conflict in all of the Pirates films and so we wanted to make sure that they were also grounded in the real world and in history to some degree to remind readers that this isn’t a separate world all together, it’s our world and the conflict between the new world and the old world and the natural and the super natural and all that kind of stuff. The primary reason was to help prevent kids from thinking that history and big vocabulary words weren’t cool.

JDR: Do you know if Johnny’s kids have read or seen your books?

RK: I hope they have and that they like them, but I don’t know.

JDR: When the entire series has been published, can we speak again?

RK: Absolutely, that way we can talk about the follow up series, too!

Mark Salisbury, author, Sweeney Todd

We have had so many great opportunities here at JohnnyDeppReads and last week we were given the chance to ask SWEENEY TOOD author Mark Salisbury a few questions. Keep in mind that Mark attended the SWEENEY TODD premiere last week and also moderated the SWEENEY TODD press conference the next day, I think we are very blessed that he found the time to visit with us over the weekend.

I asked our members if they had any questions for Mark and many sent in ones that were very similar so I tried to combine those, and I added some myself. I knew that Mark’s time was very limited so I trimmed the numbers down to the questions that I thought would best represent us as his readers.

Many thanks to author Mark Salisbury and to Titan books for so kindly arranging this wonderful opportunity for us!

JDR: You have quite a long working history with Tim Burton and his projects, I think starting with the original "Burton on Burton" and with the "Planet of the Apes" and also "The Corpse Bride" books. How did your relationship with him come about?

MS: I first met Tim back in 1988 at a Beetlejuice/Warner Brothers Christmas party while he was shooting Batman in London and interviewed him for the first time shortly after. I met him again a couple of years later when he was promoting Edward Scissorhands in Rome. Then in 1994 I pitched the idea of doing Burton On Burton to Faber, approached Tim, and he agreed.

JDR: Since your books have been non fictional works, including books on comics and comic screenplay writing, would you ever consider writing a screenplay?

MS: I finished a script at the end of last year with a friend of mine who writes comic books. We got a lot of positive feedback on it, which has encouraged us to write another one.

JDR: What has been your favorite book project? Can you envision yourself doing more books like this about any of Tim's future projects?

MS: Burton on Burton was and continues to be the most fun because I get to hang out on Tim’s sets.

JDR: Is there a more memorable part about the making of ST and writing this book?

MS: My first day on set was when they were shooting part of The Contest between Sacha Baron Cohen’s Pirelli and Sweeney and I broke into a huge grin just watching it on the monitor and hearing the musical playback, and that smile didn’t leave my face throughout the rest of the shoot. You could tell, even then, that Sweeney was going to be something special.

JDR: Since you were on set during filming, do you enjoy that part of your research process? How did you decide what ended up in the final book version?

MS: I love spending time on film sets, seeing a movie being shot, watching the creation of moments big and small. Martin Amis once called being on a movie set (and I hope I’m remembering this correctly): repetition followed by boredom followed by more repetition. And in a way he’s right, but I still love it. And despite many years of visiting film sets I’m still amazed that a movie ever gets made, such is the small amount of footage shot each day.

JDR: How long were you on set? Filming happened earlier this year, ended sometime in May and your book was published a short seven months later. That sounds like a pretty short time frame. Is this the norm for you?

MS: I probably spent around two weeks on set in total, maybe more, spread across the shoot. “Making of” books tend to be very last minute, and while there was talk of a book throughout shooting, I didn’t get the go ahead till sometime in August and the book needed to be finished by September in order to meet the printer’s deadline to be in the shops before Christmas.

JDR: What was the first step in making this book happen? Did the book turn out as you'd envisioned it when you began it, or did it evolve into something different as you went along?

MS: Because of the fast turnaround (see answer above) there’s not much time for the book to evolve as such. You find the spine of the story first, then fill in the body of the book as it were. As someone who buys a lot of “making of” books, as well as having written a few myself, it’s fair to say these books tend to follow a certain structure but each film is different and each book must reflect those differences. In Sweeney’s case, the musical aspect was hugely important, so it became the thread for this story…

JDR: Do you have any idea what prep work Johnny did for the slashing scenes? Practices on dummies...that sort of thing?

MS:I have no idea. But I would think not.

JDR: I know that you've written a few books on comics, movie monsters, comic script writing... did you know that Johnny's production company owns the rights to Arvid Nelson's "Rex Mundi" graphic novel series? Any chance that you might be involved in that project?

MS: Funnily enough, I’d forgotten they’d bought that. And seeing as I’ve never read it, I’ve just ordered myself a copy from amazon.

JDR: What's up next for you?

MS: I’m currently in the midst of another script with my friend and there’s the possibility of a book project that I refuse to divulge any details about it in case I jinx it.

JDR: And our final question to Mark was: Who is the one person you would like to interview or write a book about?

MS: I’d have loved to have interviewed Billy Wilder, but sadly didn’t get the chance.

Our sincere thanks to Mark Salisbury for his wonderful answers and his time during such a busy period for him!

Keith Buterbaugh, actor, Sweeney Todd National Tour

JDR had the distinct pleasure in being able to sit down with actor Keith Buterbaugh who was at the time portraying the despicable Judge Turpin in the National Touring Company of SWEENEY TODD. This interview was published in JDR on October 31, 2007.

I thought it might be nice to be able to visit with a musical actor who could help us understand a bit of Mr. Sondheim's music and a bit about the musical SWEENEY TODD. Mr. Buterbaugh is an original cast member of last year's Tony Award winning Sondheim musical COMPANY. He was most generous with his time and we thank him and the National Tour for granting us permission for this interview.

JDR: Mr. Buterbaugh, I've read your biography on the ST site, this is your third Sondheim musical. First was Passion and then Company and now Sweeney Todd, is that correct?

KB: Right.

JDR: Can you tell us a bit about who you played in Passion and what the character was like?

KB: I played Giorgio, he's a young soldier, who gets caught between two kinds or types of love and his exploration of what real love is. Giorgio is in love and having an affair with Clara, and then finds himself in love with Fosca, who no body could imagine being involved with. Its two types of relationships.

JDR: So is he the good guy or bad guy?

KB: I guess you would call him the good guy.

JDR: So he's just caught in a bad situation?

KB: Right, there's really no bad guy. Maybe someone may argue that Fosca is the bad person in Passion. But she's actually the character who brings truth to the play.

JDR: OK let's change plays, in COMPANY (which won the Tony), you played Harry! Harry's an interesting fella. With COMPANY you have a mix of musical genre; you've got a "musical" that's made up of "revues" that are strung together with a through story line. Is that an accurate description?

KB: Yes. COMPANY started out as a series of short stories or vignettes, actually five or six vignettes that were character driven and in order to put them into a coherent book form they were basically all brought together by the Central character of Bobby, who was experiencing each of these five vignettes in different places and circumstances.

Click here: - Video Feature
(Video with Keith and Sweeney Todd and Company director John Doyle talking about Sondheim's Company)

JDR: COMPANY is a bit of a different vehicle, looking at what SS has written, all of his works haven't been dark. Many have been funny! FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.

KB: Yes! Very funny and clever, incredibly clever. He has a great sense of humor. Look at his take on life! After meeting the man and having spent a little bit of time with him he’s obviously highly intelligent…and he has a great sense of humor…really great! He finds some of the greatest humor in the darkest situations, I mean look at SWEENEY TODD! Even in COMPANY- the humor of some of the vignettes between couples.

JDR: So you've done three Sondheim musicals, most of your characters can be characterized as good guys most of the time.

KB: Then there’s Judge Turpin, he is the antagonist of the show. But he thinks he’s doing the right thing, the moral thing.

Photo by David Allen

JDR: About Judge Turpin. When you look at the play and the characters, Judge Turpin should be the sanest of the lot. He’s a man of power and supposedly someone in a well respected position in the community. But he is the sickest twist in the lot. How do you get into a character such as that every day?

KB: John Doyle’s direction helped a lot with that because of John’s take on it. When you look at previous interpretations of the show, the Judge is most commonly portrayed as this well respected guy, and immediately they go with this dark side of him, but what’s the real side of him? Not the side that he presents to the world or the outside. A lot of actors tend to go immediately to what he really is. So to answer your question, how do I approach that? (Director) John Doyle’s approach on that was that he always felt, and I find this fascinating - that the Judge Turpin character should “seem” to be the nicest the nicest guy in the world. And he should be cast that way, as this nice John Kennedy-ish type character when you see him on stage and first hear him, you should think “Oh my God ..we should make this man the President. WOW! This is the guy who pulls up next to in his Beemer and waves you a smile and shakes your hand and offers you his parking place. A man’s man. Everybody loves this man. You go that direction so that when you peel off the layers, and there are many layers, you get down to really what he is, that you realize Oh my God this is a man who cannot be trusted and yet you did. You immediately want to trust this man and you immediately want to be embraced by this man because he’s such a charismatic, nice, kind, handsome wonderful person to be around. And you realize HE’S NOT. And that’s what’s really frightening about the character. I think it’s interesting that Sondheim, with the lyrics and Hugh Wheeler with the book (script) really flesh that out, it’s really a comment on the people in this world who live a double standard. They portray one thing and this hypocritical – he mentions something in the text “cuts across the throats of hypocrites.” It’s such a hypocritical character when you look at what he practices is not what he preaches. And he doesn’t even know it.

JDR: When the play has ended and you are off stage, do you feel like you need a bath after playing Judge Turpin or are you able to walk away from him completely?

KB: Nah…you walk away. It’s acting. (He laughs)

JDR: But for those of us who aren’t in the theater world, we find it hard to imagine playing someone like this character. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to talk with you, someone in the cast of SWEENEY TODD, so maybe you can help us understand this play and these people.

KB: We’ve had a few talk-backs with people in the theater and students and they ask that question a lot, how much of you do you bring to your character? Especially with someone like Judge Turpin or Sweeney who’s murderous! And I find that to be a really great question because as an actor, what you have to do is, you have to go to that place in yourself that can identify with those ugly things. You have to do that. If you don’t? Then you’re going to get a very general interpretation of the character. So I had to, as an actor, go to those places within myself – that can identify with what is in Judge Turpin’s head and I’m still going there and still fleshing it out and looking for new things. I was telling some of these students in talk-back that I’ve got to look, I’ve got to look at my own lustful nature. I’ve got to look at my own compulsive nature. I’ve got to look at those ugly things that are a part of my life that I experience and really delve into it – really let it come out and explore it. You can’t just look at it and say he’s a compulsive, lustful character. You’ve really got to look at it yourself and how I identify with those particular negative, if you want to call them negative, traits. Not just the positive traits, but the negative traits, you’ve got to look at them in yourself. That brings it more to the front, so it’s more of an expression of things that you have experienced yourself as well.

JDR: I believe you have a preteen daughter yourself.

KB: Right.

JDR: By the math that’s given to us in the play when Sweeney’s sent away, Johanna is one year old.

KB: Johanna’s sixteen (in the story).

JDR: The story is set back in the late 1800s and it was not unheard of for young women of that age to marry. So, we are looking at a character who is just a few years older than your daughter in real life. Does that bother you?

KB: No, it doesn’t, but it’s one of the things that I had to look at. It’s one of the things in my life that I had to look at and wonder what it would be like for a man my age to lust for and pursue a young woman who’s only a few years older than my daughter and it was something that I was able to look at because I’ve got a daughter who’s not far from that age. So there’s my point. You’ve got to look at your own life and deal with what you can with the process of fleshing out this character with what you can. That was one of the things that I was able to look at. What’s really interesting is when I do the role from night to night, for instance the other day we did a matinee show for nothing but high school kids. And as I started into the scene, the one scene where I try to seduce my ward (Johanna) -I suddenly as the scene started, I suddenly became terrified. I was terrified. I was on the verge of tears also, doing a scene because I realized oh my God what I’m about to show these kids...some of them out there are actually experiencing right now. And I felt really because I knew I was probably churning up some terrible things in some kids out there. I felt very responsible for that. After the scene was over and we came off of intermission I told the stage manager how uncomfortable I felt doing it to that audience and he said “But Keith, you are communicating something to those kids that needs to be communicated.” I said that I don’t know about that. Do I really want those kids to have to feel that again? I’m not sure.

JDR: Could you see or feel any reaction from the audience?

KB: No, of course we can’t see the audience, but I’m sure it was very uncomfortable for some of those girls out there in the audience.

JDR: There have been and are several versions of the play. Some of them have removed or skirted around Lucy’s rape by Judge Turpin. Does that scene take place in your version of the play?

KB: It’s not removed, but it’s not acted out, the story is told through the narrative.

JDR: Can I ask if the Judge’s self flagellation scene is in your John Doyle version?

KB: It’s in, but there’s no flogging, I do an indication of it. It’s really not about that.

JDR: There’s a piece of music that happens in that scene…

KB: It’s called the Mea Culpa and that’s in. I do the Mea Culpa, I do the song and I do the text. What’s beautiful about John Doyle’s production is that you don’t have to.…he’s stripped away a lot of the visual reenactments. He lets the words do the work, so it’s still there. And it’s still in the character.

JDR: Good, I think it’s an important part of the scene, the audience has to hear him say those Mea Culpa words.

KB: Oh yeah. You can’t eliminate it, the lyrics are very important…they are incredible lyrics. Actually Sweeney Todd was the first musical I ever saw.

JDR: When a friend heard that I was going to be able to speak to you for JDR, she wanted me to ask a question.

KB: Sure, go ahead.

JDR: Keeping in mind that we are really anticipating the Depp version of Sweeney Todd, this question has more to do with film rather than live theater. Once a film has opened there is no altering it. When you do live theater do you find that you the actor are affected by the vibrations or feedback that you get from an audience? How does that help or hinder you?

KB: Absolutely you feel it. I never find it hindering me because what’s beautiful about live theater is that you need to feel that. If you are NOT feeling that it’s not because the audience isn’t giving it. If you’re not feeling it, it’s because you are not open to be receiving it. So if I get to a show where I realize I’m not getting anything from the audience I realize it’s not the audience’s fault. It’s mine. And what I need to do is listen and that’s the beauty of live theater, if you’re really listening to your other actors and you’re listening to the energy. When I say listening to the energy, I don’t just mean aurally, I mean really being in tune with the energy you’re getting from your fellow actors and the energy you’re getting from the audience. If you’re really doing that it will affect your character, it will affect your performance in a positive way. It will cause you to do things or not do things, and whatever those things that you are in direct relation to the energy that you’re getting back and forth. And sometimes it will be interesting stuff and some times it won’t, but as long as you’re open to it? It will always be something! As long as you’re open, as I call it, you will sometimes strike gold, something will happen that you didn’t see coming. And that happens because as an actor you were in tune with the energy you are getting as an actor from the audience and with the energy you are getting from your fellow performers.

JDR: Being Depp fans, the one remark we hear from Depp’s costars, crew members and directors is the same thing that you’ve just shared here. That you have to be open and react to your fellow performers. I believe I read somewhere that Sondheim said that (and I paraphrase) once actors go before a live audience that they then bring the audience in as a third person. That things change and you have to start readdressing what you are doing.

KB: You always have to, with my performance and with the amount of film work that I’ve done, it’s completely different and it’s the same. That’s one of the things that I love about live performance is that it IS so live. It IS right out there, but like you said with Depp – and you see it in his performances. If you’re not really communicating with the person you’re talking to, if you’re just doing your lines with a preconceived notion of how they should be done, it’s dead and it’s a very obvious thing that Depp is a pro at that, to be able to make each take…each take is going to be different provided the person is really feeding you the lines, that you’re really having a conversation. It’s just that the feedback is more immediate in live theater than in film and that’s what I like about it.

JDR: Can we talk about your background a little bit? As we’ve said, you’ve done three Sondheim shows and COMPANY won the Tony last year for Best Revival. You’ve played both the Phantom and Raoul in PHANTOM OF THE OPERA on Broadway and in the National tour. You did THE KING AND I, Ravenal in SHOWBOAT and PASSION as we’ve already touched on. You’ve done some opera, some regional things, some films. As an actor with a lot of different kinds of characters, do you find yourself drawn to a particular kind of character? If all things were equal, and you didn’t have to look at the money or convenience in playing a role…what role would attract you the most?

KB: I would go for the role that allows you to stretch in the most, that would allow you to explore the most facets of a character.

JDR: Would that be one reason why you chose to accept this tour? I know you have family at home while you are on the road for several months.

KB: Yeah, it’s a great role! It’s an incredibly complex role. I’d choose the most complex character. It’s like chewing up scenery, that’s one of the reasons Phantom was such a great role, he’s so complex! You go to every emotional precipice that you can think of. The same is true in many ways of Judge Turpin.

Photo by David Allen

JDR: Change of thought here, what intrigues you about Sondheim music?

KB: Oh so many things! I remember from day one when I started out and I was singing Sondheim a long time ago for some reason I just loved singing his music and when you try to figure out what it is, it’s a combination of things, his lyrics are brilliant. Every time I do a Sondheim song, sometimes I find them easy to learn and sometimes I find them very difficult. Mea Culpa’s one of the most difficult songs I’ve ever had to learn, ever.

JDR: Why is that?

KB: Because there is nothing general about it what so ever. It seems random and that nothing fits into a pattern and nothing does, then as you work on it and sweat over it you finally figure out there IS a very subtle pattern to it – there is a specificity to it that makes sense and once you lock in on that? It’s like oh my God, of course, that’s the way it has to be. BUT when you’re first learning it, you can’t get it, it’s so complex. Then as you work on it and work on it. What I like about it is that all of his lyrics, all of his music is very specific. And you’ve GOT to find the specificity of it – once you do, then it locks in and it’s almost like a stream of consciousness that his music has and once it comes tripping out on your tongue and you’ve learned it then you’ve found the specificity. And you realize that there’s no other way that it could be. The only other writer/creator who does that with words is Shakespeare. After you do Shakespeare you’re like of course, there’s no other way to say it. It can only be said with those words, those words were right on the money. He’d probably be humbled and embarrassed if I said this to him but I find Sondheim’s stuff to be very similar in that regard. It’s incredibly specific. And that’s what I like about it, it has a flow to it that makes perfect sense. I remember doing a Sweeney Todd review, like a cabaret show way back when I was down in Miami…it was two hours of Sondheim material and I remember having to cram it in in fifteen days and learn it. I remember sitting in a room eight hours a day going over (it) and learning, learning, learning. Some of the Sondheim stuff came so easily because it just happened to fit my speech pattern and fit my speech sensibilities other numbers didn’t and therefore took me forever to learn. So once you’ve learned Sondheim material, at least for me, it trips off the tongue, very easily-very easily, it’s very singable, makes perfect sense and just goes (insert singer making rapid clicking sounds with his voice LOL). And that’s what I love about his stuff.

JDR: I think of Sondheim as a wordsmith.

KB: He’s an incredible wordsmith and also an incredible musician, and the way he combines the words and music is brilliant!

JDR: One of the reasons I wanted to talk with you, someone in Sweeney Todd right now, is that there is a whole group of people who will be seeing YOUR national tour show of Sweeney Todd as background for the Depp/Burton film and as a guess, I’d say a majority don’t know or didn’t know this musical before the Depp project was announced. They don’t know Sondheim’s work either.

KB: Well, it’s the medium too. With a film, you can have multiple millions of people seeing it, when you talks about musical broadway you can reduce that audience tenfold, maybe more. It’s the nature of the media.

JDR: Many Depp fans have never seen a musical of this kind, and many have never heard Sondheim music before. A class where Sondheim is teaching a young actor to sing “My Friends” surfaced and we were all enthralled with what actually went into learning to sing a song. This is why I wanted to be able to have someone from the National tour speak to us. The lyrics of the song are the equivalent of dialogue in a play.

KB: Yes and it all comes down to whether the story is told. It will be up to Tim Burton and his direction. The story is there in the lyrics, Hugh Wheeler and Stephen Sondheim fleshed that out. It’s got it’s problems, Act II has it’s problems, it’s hard to follow in some instances because it is so complex. It’s the ability and where with all for someone to be able to tell a story. A great story teller can take this material and tell a story. Tim Burton is a story teller. I’m looking forward to it, my expectations are really high.

JDR: What is your run time, subtracting intermission?

KB: 2:15, maybe 2:20

JDR: Sondheim was quoted as saying that the movie will run about 1 hour 45 minutes. Do you think things will be cut or shortened and still tell the story?

KB: Yes, I actually talked to Sondheim and talked to him about the movie. I asked him how it went over in London. I mistakenly said to him “How did it go with the rewrites?' He said “Rewrites? Rewrites? REWRITES?” as if I had insulted him. "You know what I mean" I said laughingly, I asked him "what kind of changes?" He replied that things had to be shortened to work with film length.

JDR: Sweeney Todd’s been around since 1979 and people keep showing up to see it. You’ve got this new John Doyle Tony Award winning production. 30 years after the original production it’s a movie. It’s gruesome, it’s dark, it’s bloody. What makes in intriguing to audiences still?

KB: It’s a fascinating story! Really when you stop and think about it, what makes anything great is a great story! Then you take the music, which is incredible, that’s married to a great story, a great book so you take those two elements and…BANG! You’ve got a masterpiece!

JDR: I’ve heard people make a comment over and over about Sondheim’s works, Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, Assassins …that they are “typical Sondheim.” What do you think that means? Typical Sondheim?

KB: It’s not fluff. I think that’s what they are saying. If it’s “typical Sondheim” it sure isn’t going to be fluff, is it? It's going to be intelligent and it's going to make the audience think. It might be dark humor, it might be uncomfortable, but it will be insightful. I think that’s what they are referring to. And I’m glad it’s not fluff, I find him incredibly humorous, amazingly insightful, he gets right to the nitty gritty and sometimes it’s hilarious, sometimes it’s ironic and sometimes it’s incredibly sad, but it’s never uninteresting.

JDR: If you could play any one Sondheim role, who would it be?

KB: Well Sweeney, obviously. Or George, from Sunday in the Park with George.

JDR: Are you happy with the show?

KB: I’ve been with the show for two months now and I am not even close to figuring it out. It’s a daily discovery for me and that’s what I love about it.

JDR: Do you think the other cast members are having that same sense of discovery?

KB: Yes, even the ones who were with the Broadway version of it, they’re coming up with it, they’ve been with it nine months on Broadway and another two months now. I still think they’re finding new stuff because that’s just the nature of it. That’s what makes doing this kind of work fun. When you stop finding new stuff it becomes a tedious bore.

JDR: Your role as Judge Turpin is being played in the film by Alan Rickman...

KB: Which I can’t wait to see. I adore his work, I can’t wait to see how he went after this character.

JDR: I have to ask this because we are Johnny Depp forum. What do you think about Johnny playing Sweeney?

KB: There’s a part of me that would say it’s completely miscasting and a part of me that would say it’s dead on. I think that’s just the beauty of Johnny, the man, God bless him, is one of those actors who can do just about anything. And that’s what I love about him, so when I see him cast in a role and I go “huh?” and then I think “of course!”

JDR: Good actors seem to seek out parts that make them stretch. That’s what you’ve done with Turpin, you’ve had to stretch out of your comfort zone.

KB: That’s one of the drawbacks about doing film. You’ve got to do your research way ahead of time, before you do your performance, so in a certain sense when you are doing film work you are really working before the film, and then you lay down your performance and it’s a wrap and that’s all the further that it goes. With theater you just keep doing it over and over and it gets more and more subtle and by the end of the run, provided you aren’t checking out, you’ve got an incredibly fleshed out character, which you can’t do on film…unless you are spending months before the filming preparing. Which good actors do! Sondheim makes it so easy for the actor/singer that what he puts down on paper, once you’ve figured out the complexity of it, it is easy. He makes it easy on the actor. That’s what I love about Sondheim material, because it’s so natural for me and to many other actors too.

JDR: What advice can you give to some one seeing your play or the movie?

KB: Go into the theater awake! Don’t zone out as you do with so many movies. Wrap you brain around the show. The audience has to participate.

JDR: This has just been a pleasure, to have you sit down with us and share your thoughts about Sweeney, Sondheim and the Judge. We thank you so much for giving so generously to us. Thank you…

KB: My pleasure.

JDR: Whenever our JDR people come and see your show, could they get their programs signed by you afterward?

KB: Sure, absolutely! Come to the theater and make lots of noise.

****************Check for a town close to you! Note** National Tour site webpage was taken down when the tour closed.

So, when you all go, if you have a chance, go to the stage exit and wait politely for them to exit, and when you ask Mr. Buterbaugh to sign your program be sure to tell him that you read his interview with us here on JDR! Please let him know that we appreciated his time and also his performance!
Photo of Mr. Buterbaugh used with permission.
Photos from the SWEENEY TODD National Tour credited to David Allen, used with permission