Before Johnny Depp, Warren Oates Was “Dillinger”

by | July 2, 2009 at 3:49 PM | The Movies


Johnny Depp is about to become a new generation’s John Dillinger in Michael Mann’s Public Enemies, but for a long time, hard-working and underappreciated actor Warren Oates was the only man for role thanks to his turn in John Milius’ 1973 picture simply entitled Dillinger. Oates even had a striking resemblance to the real Dillinger.

A fast-moving film on par with other classic 70s takes on the gangster era like Bonnie & Clyde and Paper Moon, it romanticizes the life of the notorious bank robber instead of going for the slow-moving accuracy that Mann’s film does, yet it remains quite an entertaining flick that some consider to be the best of Milius’ career. It also features a great supporting cast, including Richard Dreyfuss as Baby Face Nelson, Michelle Phillips as Billie Frechette and Cloris Leachman as Anna Sage, not to mention memorable performances from Harry Dean Stanton as well as Ben Johnson in Christian Bale’s role of Melvin Purvis. What it lacks in historical accuracy, it more than makes up for in action, according to one historian who praised the realistic portrayal of the Depression-era Midwest.

Watch Warren Oates in Dillinger right here on Fancast before you watch Depp step into his shoes.