EW: How did this movie come about?
JD: It came at the time of the writers’ strike. A wave of fear gripped the industry. And out of nowhere this script arrived with a note: ”Michael Mann would like to talk to you about playing Dillinger.”
EW: What was your reaction to hearing that?
JD: Well, certainly intrigued. Intrigued by both Dillinger and Michael Mann. It’s always interesting to get in the ring with a director and explore their process and see what does it for him.
EW: And what does it for him?
JD: The details of the details of the details. [Laughs] They should invent a word to describe it, because it’s not just details, it teeters on microscopic obsession with every molecule of the moment. Which is admirable, you know? You got to salute that.
EW: So what details of this character did you try to latch onto?
JD: The interesting thing is, John Dillinger really became a criminal almost by accident. The two main ingredients for his initial incarceration were ignorance and youth. There are moments in life when those two walk hand in hand in a very tight grip. When he went inside, the world was one thing, and when he came out, it was Technicolor. Women dressed differently. It was a different planet. Prison at that time was college for criminals. He went in and basically learned how to rob banks. By all accounts, he wasn’t the best student initially, but he got the hang of it.
EW: What was your favorite scene to shoot?
JD: Well, let’s just say, how often do you get to stand on the running board of an old 1932 Buick blasting a 50-round clip from a Thompson submachine gun? When do you get to do that without getting into trouble for it? And with Michael, you get to do it again and again and again.