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 Post subject: Bryan Burrough Q&A #6
PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 12:07 pm 
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ONBC: In the Booknotes interview, you described Melvin Purvis as your favourite person to write about in the book and showed a lot of sympathy for him in the comments you made subsequently. Can I ask what was it about him that led you to describe him as a wonderful person? Also, what are the challenges in the film for presenting him both truthfully and sympathetically?

Bryan Burrough: Well, I always have sympathy for anyone who is genuinely trying to do his or her job but finds themselves over their head. It’s a problem any author can identify with! Purvis was just so well-meaning, and so undertrained and under such unbelievable pressure – I mean, how can you not have sympathy for someone like that? I think any accurate portrayal of him is likely to be sympathetic.



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 6:00 pm 
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Interesting answer. Ending up the object of Hoover's wrath, and the sad way he died, add dimensions of tragedy to Purvis as well.


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 7:15 pm 
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I think Purvis was definitely over his head and tried to do a good job. However I did get the feeling that he bought into his own publicity and rather enjoyed the attention. Of course that is what angered Hoover and led to his downfall. He was certainly used and abused by Hoover and his end was very tragic.



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 8:22 pm 
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Interesting answer....
I guess it's possible to be sympathetic toward anyone whose reach exceeds his grasp. Purvis was, IMO, unsuited for the job from the get-go. He wasn't smart enough or quick enough to think on his feet and adapt to the ever-changing scenario he found himself in. Granted, the learning curve was high all the way around; it would've taken an extraordinarily skilled person just to handle Hoover. And, of course, the buck stops with him. He put Purvis in an impossible position and laid the ground work for self-aggrandizement that Purvis may have had no choice but to follow.
I can't wait to see how Christian Bale portrays this guy!



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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2008 12:24 am 
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Somehow or somewhere along the way I got an impression of Purvis that turned me off. It wasn't his work ethic which I had to admire, seeing what he had to put up with Hoover. Its hard not to be sympathetic to an FBI agent who is 5 feet 7, frail and looked like a teenager and is referred to as Daddy's boy by the other agents . My sympathy waned when he was described as being confident to the point of cockiness with an ego and sense of entitlement. The photo of him getting off the plane posing like a model sort of turned me off along with the fact that he had a manservant. Even with this bias against him, I started to admire that he stuck to his job even after Hoover put Cowley in his position. He still continued to work with Cowley and be a team player. Considering how he died, I think there is a lot more to his story than we know, and I may be misjudging him. Likewise, I am anxious to see how Christian Bale plays him or how Mann intends him to be.



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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2008 10:17 am 
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Purvis' egotistical attitude turned me off. But his rejection by Hoover and the way he was pushed out of his position by Cowley garnered a little sympathy from me. His death was somewhat tragic too.



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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2008 11:34 am 
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Liz wrote:
Purvis' egotistical attitude turned me off. But his rejection by Hoover and the way he was pushed out of his position by Cowley garnered a little sympathy from me. His death was somewhat tragic too.


I am with you, Liz. I didn't think that Purvis was actually presented as a sympathetic character for much of the book -- perhaps a tribute to Mr. Burrough's good honest writing.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 24, 2008 7:35 am 
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I was turned off him too, because he talked the talk when he couldn't walk the walk. His behaviour with the press when Cowley was shot I found very distasteful, and found it hard to get past that. I agree very much with gemini's comments about him, and also nebraska's point because I also got that impression.
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I didn't think that Purvis was actually presented as a sympathetic character for much of the book -- perhaps a tribute to Mr. Burrough's good honest writing.

It's especially the case when we were told about him being in the top ten of heroes of people surveyed, or something of that kind, contrasted with the picture of his ineptitude and ego.
I did have some sympathy for him for the way he was treated by Hoover, who should have dealt with him after the Little Bohemia debacle and then couldn't later. Also, as Mr Burrough says, he was in over his head and wasn't adequately trained.
He isn't the only guy in the book with an over-active ego. But it will be interesting to see how much of that shows in the film. On paper, he has potentially an interesting character arc (possibly more so than Dillinger) depending on how he is portrayed and I would expet that to show through. The link and tension between the hunter and the hunted is at the heart of things, and I think both men will be portrayed sympathetically because it will make a more interesting film that way.



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