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Is Public Enemies Based On A True Story?

"Public Enemies," theĀ severely underrated 2009 crime drama starring Johnny Depp, tellsĀ the story of the final days of John Dillinger, the famed outlaw who was once known as Public Enemy Number 1. It features charismatic performances from an all-star cast, but as with any film that purports to recreate actual events, fans couldn't help but wonder if what they saw was the same as what really happened.

In "Public Enemies," Dillinger (Johnny Depp) is a seasoned criminal whose ability to elude the authorities and escape from prison is highlighted right out of the gate. As the tale evolves, viewers see FBI agent Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) ordered to take over the hunt for Dillinger by future FBI director J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup). That chase leads them both across America, from their starting point in Indiana to a hotel in Arizona, where Dillinger is again captured. After a successful escape leads them back to the Midwest, Dillinger ultimately comes to his legendary end outside a Chicago theatre.

With a central figure whose notoriety and general story arc are as well known as Dillinger's, moviegoers almost expect the story depicted in "Public Enemies" to deviate from the real-life chain of events, but it is ultimately a fairly faithful adaptation. Here is everything that fans need to know about "Public Enemies" and the true story of John Dillinger.

Public Enemies is based on a bestselling book about criminal icons

To get some of the specifics out of the way, fans of the film should know that, yes, John Dillinger was a real person. He died outside of a theatre in Chicago and was pursued by an FBI agent named Melvin Purvis, who did so on behalf of the man who would later become a famous FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover (via FBI). One way or another, "Public Enemies" is based on a true story.

So, how accurate are the events depicted in the movie and to what degree do they replicate what occurred historically? "Public Enemies" is based on a bestselling non-fiction book by Bryan Burrough called "Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI," published by Penguin Random House. Using that text as source material helped "Public Enemies" build a story rooted in truth and supported by research.

The film went to great lengths to recreate specific moments as close to reality as it could, including filming scenes at the exact locations they occurred. For instance, Dillinger's climactic death scene was shot in front of the historic Biograph Theatre in Chicago, right where the famous criminal died, per Chicago Tribune. While any film might include some necessary storytelling deviations from the historical record, the plot of "Public Enemies" generally sticks pretty close to the true tale.