Black Mass is facing a bit of rejection from the Boston community because they feel the movie might glorify Bulger, the famous convicted murderer and former organized crime figure, who is currently 84 years old.
Perhaps we would be amazed and delighted by the idea of Johnny Depp filming in our neighborhood but according to the Boston Globe, a local newspaper, a few people are quite disturbed because Black Mass is a movie based on Whitey Bulger, a man that is still alive and that damaged lots of families in that community.
“They’re filming this right next to all these people who lost loved ones to Whitey,” said Ivaska, who was born and raised in the neighborhood. “The fact that anyone glorifies anything to do with this guy is disgusting.” The Boston Globe.
However crowds of natives and newcomers are following the film’s staff in order to get a glimpse of the cast, specially of Johnny.
Read more here.
By IGGY POP
Photography BRUCE WEBER
Even more than the other superstars of his generation (the Pitts, the Clooneys, the Cruises), Johnny Depp has built a personal mythos as complex and compelling as his career. In a sense, he’s managed to position himself as the beatnik troubadour of American cinema. After his early roles, as the cute boyfriend in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and the cute narc on the late-’80s cop show 21 Jump Street, Depp fought against his matinee-idol image. In his first headlining role, in John Waters’s cult greaser comedy Cry-Baby (1990), the actor sent up his own pinup status, playing a high school toughie with his tongue planted firmly in cheek. And, even as he became grist of young-Hollywood tabloid mill (dating the likes of actress Winona Ryder and model Kate Moss), there seemed to be another Depp hiding beyond the spotlight, an inquisitive artist who sought out his creative heroes, including Marlon Brando, the Beats, his good friend Hunter Thompson, and Thompson’s partner-in-crime, the artist Ralph Steadman (with whom Depp appears in this month’s For No Good Reason, a documentary about Steadman’s life and work).
With his star turn in Tim Burton’s eerie fantasy Edward Scissorhands (1990), Depp began putting together the menagerie of oddballs, outcasts, and misfits (Ed Wood , Don Juan DeMarco , Ichabod Crane in Sleepy Hollow , Raoul Duke in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas ) that would define his reputation as Hollywood’s unpredictable master of disguise. And, for much of the past 15 years, those complicated sideshow characters of Depp’s have been the main attraction in a series of CGI circuses (as Willy Wonka and the Mad Hatter in Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory  and Alice in Wonderland , respectively, and as Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean series).
Now, aged 50, Depp may be reinventing himself yet again. Escaping the makeup trailer in this month’s techno-fable Transcendence, the actor plays a present-day artificial intelligence researcher whose mind is incorporated into a computer system—his character, in other words, disappears into a network of his own design.
Or maybe Johnny is just the same old Johnny—the Johnny who, with his band the Kids had a dream come true by opening for Iggy Pop in the early ’80s. The actor and the musician then met again on the set of Cry-Baby and have been friends and collaborators ever since (Pop even scored the lone movie that Depp directed, the 1997 drama The Brave). Last February, Pop, who now lives in Florida, phoned Depp, who was at his home in Los Angeles, to talk about heroes, guitar solos, getting into character, and getting away from it all.
IGGY POP: I’ve got this article that you wrote in 1999 called “Kerouac, Ginsberg, the Beats, and Other Bastards Who Ruined My Life.” In it, you mention being a teenager and daydreaming about drinking Boone’s Farm with the cute cheerleader.
JOHNNY DEPP: Oh, yeah, man, Boone’s Farm was one of the early muses. Boone’s Farm and MD 20/20. [laughs]
POP: I’m glad to hear that. Boone’s Farm was a big favorite for the Stooges, and especially for me. But, of course, now you’re familiar with some of the better Bordeaux—Cheval Blanc and those.
DEPP: It’s a ways from Boone’s Farm, for sure.
POP: You mention Ginsberg flirting with you. He visited me once but he didn’t flirt, so I’m kind of hurt. I think I was a little over-the-hill by that time. He just looked around my apartment and went, “How much did this cost?” [laughs]
DEPP: I met him when we were doing this documentary called The United States of Poetry in 1995—I was reading some Kerouac for the movie. Afterward, I offered to give him a ride home. They’d sent a limousine—back in those days it was a stretch limo—and Ginsberg got in and goes, “Wow, how much do you think this costs per hour?” [laughs]
POP: I think, later on, he was a little obsessed with that stuff. But I understand. Those guys were the quintessential starving artists.
DEPP: Indeed. Being in his New York apartment felt like you’d walked into 1950.
POP: With the little Zen tchotchkes.
DEPP: And books everywhere. He was a relentless flirt. Every time I saw him, he’d want to hold hands. It was sweet. I think he just wanted affection, on whatever level.
POP: I read that you did telemarketing. How was that?
DEPP: [laughs] I marketed pens—on the phone. But the beauty of the gig was that you had to call these strangers and say, “Hi, how ya doing?” You made up a name, like, “Hey, it’s Edward Quartermaine from California. You’re eligible to receive this grandfather clock or a trip to Tahiti.” You promise them all these things if they buy a gross of pens. It was just awful. But I actually think that was the first experience I had with acting.
POP: I too was a telemarketer. I lasted two days and didn’t sell anything. I guess it’s good I stayed in music.
DEPP: I sold one thing, one gross of pens to one guy. And then he was asking me about the trip to Tahiti and I was riddled with guilt, so I told him, “Hey, man, you don’t want these f***ing pens. This is a scam. The grandfather clock is made of pressboard. You’re not going to Tahiti. I’m sorry.” So I talked him out of it.
POP: How many cigarettes are you smoking on a daily basis right now?
DEPP: I’ll bet a thousand.
POP: A thousand a day! [laughs] That’s incredible, but you sound very authentic. I believe that.
DEPP: I’m working my way up to ten thousand.
POP: Mining that same vein, how does your future look?
DEPP: [laughs] It’s questionable at best. You’re way off the smoky treats, aren’t you?
POP: I quit at the end of the century. I had to. I came down here to Florida, which has a really zany, sleazy reputation—which is well deserved—but it’s a good place to heal up if you’re battered from New York City. I did kind of firm up.
DEPP: There’s definitely healing properties to being in proximity to the ocean and that breeze. There’s something about that Caribbean climate and humidity.
POP: You moved from Kentucky to Florida, right?
DEPP: Yeah, I moved from Kentucky to Miramar, Florida, at about 8. I think I was in second grade. I still had my Southern accent, and down there you got to experience a melting pot in full fury. All the kids I hung out with were, like, Sicilian kids from Jersey and New York. There were also the Cuban families, and those with a redneck-y vibe, so it was a bit of everything. I remember an inordinate amount of violence in Florida while I was growing up there.
POP: It’s still like that. We get on the news for it sometimes. Once I was stopped in traffic on the Dixie Highway and two guys got out of their cars and just started having at it, right in the middle of the four-lane traffic. They didn’t bother with guns or anything. It was just flesh-on-knuckle road rage.
DEPP: You won’t remember this, but I did two shows with you in Gainesville. My band, the Kids, opened for you in the early ’80s. God, you were such a hero and the f***ing show was amazing. After the gig you were walking around the club, and I was standing at the bar, all of 17 years old, guzzling as much spirits as I could to get up the nerve to talk to you. And I remember making the horrific decision in my teenage drunken state to go, “Well, I’ll just get his attention.” I started going, “I-I-Iggy Pop, Piggy Slop,” you know? You walked towards me and put your face about a quarter of an inch from mine and just went, “You little turd.” [laughs] And not only was it exactly the reaction that I deserved, but it was the one I wanted. I had a moment with you. Even though it was three words that dressed me down to absolutely nothing, I was so satisfied and happy that I had that experience with you.
POP: I’m glad I didn’t blow it by being too nice a guy there. [laughs] I actually have a scatological gift that I carry from you too. It’s a one-liner of yours. You and I found ourselves in kind of a dodgy situation once. Someone had invited us to a party that may have been more like an orgy, and we got there and found ourselves in the darkened room at the top of what looked like a very empty house. There was very little furniture. No one was there. And you looked to your left and you looked to your right, and you said, “I smell s**t.” [laughs] And that was it, out the door. It always comes in my mind when I find myself in a bad place and want to tiptoe in the other direction. I figured people from Kentucky must say that. Actually I met your family, and it’s a really nice group of people. Everybody looks very related. Like a batch of cookies.
DEPP: It might be inbreeding. I don’t know. [laughs]
POP: In the trailer for Transcendence you do the corporate pitchman thing, where you’re basically introducing the new research, à la Steve Jobs. Was there anything that you got curious about as you were researching this role?
DEPP: What fascinated me more than anything is the correlation between technology and power—the idea that a guy who is able to download his sentient being into a machine can become god, or a version of god. Religion is a fascinating black hole to me.
POP: The Church of Scientology ran a very big-budget ad during the Super Bowl, and it put forth the proposition, “What if technology and religion could be combined?” or something along those lines. The visuals looked a lot like the trailer for Transcendence. But a quirky association I had when I heard about this movie was Donovan’s Brain . It’s this cheap, old sci-fi movie that I watched a lot when I was in my twenties, about a pioneering scientist in the West who dies before he can complete his research. They manage to take his brain and put it in a large fish tank, and he becomes more brilliant than ever, but he also becomes really mean. I think the idea is that, without the moderating touch of the animal spirit, the human mind is capable of some very dangerous things.
DEPP: Absolutely. It’s really frightening. And when you see all this stuff that goes on in the commercials—the endless commercials—people yelling down your gob, “Buy this, do this, this will save you, this will fix you …”
POP: There’s a certain frenzy that’s taken over, this high-pitched, aggressive tone. It’s eaten everything; you can’t compete otherwise.
DEPP: Everything can be a reality show now. Imagine what’s it going to be in 20 f***ing years, man.
POP: I think it’s going to continue in that direction, until and unless there’s some sort of horrible conflict or problem that makes it much harder to maintain the electrical grid. A lot of the current vanities rely on some very fancy science.
DEPP: People get famous now for I-don’t-know-what. People have reality shows because they’re a Hollywood socialite, and these things become very successful and they generate a shitload of money for the company. And it’s multiplying, to where you’re literally looking into your next door neighbor’s bathroom with reckless abandon. It is like watching a fire. You can’t take your eyes off of it.
POP: I know. How did Buster Keaton come to become an actor—was he in vaudeville? What would happen to a guy like that now? How would he get a gig?
DEPP: His mom and pop were in vaudeville. I think they put him onstage in their show when he was like 2 or 3. He was able to do these amazing falls. He supposedly got the name Buster from Houdini. Houdini was on the same circuit as the parents, doing the same shows around the turn of the century. Buster Keaton, the story goes, had this really nasty spill down a lengthy set of stairs, and Houdini looked and said, “What a buster.” And that’s where he got the name. But I think Buster Keaton, in this day and age, would be … He would have walked away, probably. He was pretty smart. [laughs]
POP: His look, his gaze was not unlike the gaze of some of the more intelligent and disturbing people that you see living on the street, watching the world that they can’t break back into anymore. There’s something there in that stillness, even if it’s just that they don’t have enough calories to fight back anymore.
DEPP: I think that’s exactly it. It’s that feeling of having been in the racket for such a long time, seeing the changes that have come along over the years within the context of our industries. I think that face, with Buster, is an existential, I can’t believe this is happening sort of look. Befuddled. At a loss for words.
POP: Is it fun dressing up and putting a bunch of goop on your face?
DEPP: I love the idea of changing my look. I think one owes it to the audience, to go out there and give them something different each time, so as not to bore them to death. And I always felt that if you’re not trying something different each time out of the gate, you’re being safe, and you don’t ever want to find that place of safety. I like that, each time, before I even go in front of the cameras, the studio’s reaction will be fear.
POP: [laughs] Fear for the welfare of their money?
DEPP: Ultimately. They have those hideous pangs of fear where they go, “He’s f***ing killing the movie.” [laughs] And I can’t argue with them, because I might be. But I just know for the character that this is the right thing to do. And I’ve always enjoyed hiding behind these characters. It’s a strange thing, you’re more comfortable as a character than you are in life. You know what I mean? I could stand up in front of, it doesn’t matter how many people, as a character. But if I had to do it as myself and give a speech, I would be liquid.
POP: I remember you were marveling how Jim Jarmusch came to your nightclub and chatted up somebody, successfully, and you said, “He’s got that gift of gab that I just don’t have!” I haven’t got it either. But Jarmusch’s really got it. What a smooth operator, man.
DEPP: Some people got that ability, and I never had it. And never wanted it.
POP: Nick Tosches, is he still going strong?
DEPP: He’s still moving forward. He’s so brilliant. He’s one of the ballsiest, most poetic, and rage-filled writers, but he attacks with such calm. And wisdom. I always feel really lucky after I’ve read one of Tosches’s books, because it’s like you’ve had this experience with him. And it’s funny because hanging out with him is very much like being in one of his books. In the same way that it was with Hunter [S. Thompson]. When I hung out with Hunter for all those years, and lived in his basement in Woody Creek, Colorado, we were together a lot. I think I even referred to us as deviant bookends at one point. But you were always the other character in the book. He made you his counterpart. So, going to Cuba or being locked in a hotel room in San Francisco with him for five days, it was all true. We did end up with 17 grapefruits and 40 salt and pepper shakers, and club sandwiches packed to the ceiling. I mean—madness. It’s great to have that be real. There are those who meet their heroes and go, “Aw, f***.” And I’ve never had that, luckily. Starting with you, I was never disappointed by the people I’ve admired. And the choices I made when I was in a position where it was do-or-die were made with my heroes in mind. Like, Cry-Baby was a real important move for me, to get away from being considered just a TV actor. There was no real transition to cinema back then. And then Scissorhands was another step in the direction I wanted to go. Coming at it with the brain of a musician, all I kept thinking about back then is that you don’t want to disappoint those you’ve admired.
POP: Like, what would Marlon Brando say?
DEPP: Exactly. I didn’t want to disappoint the people who had busted down doors before.
POP: There’s something about playing guitar. It helps you. Sometimes you can see truth, I think.
DEPP: I still approach a scene as one would approach a solo. There’s nothing set or pat. I don’t know what the f***’s going to happen until I get in there. Just like when you’re in the booth and you’re playing a guitar solo, you don’t exactly know how you’re going to phrase this or that. Which I think is beautiful. That idea of chance.
POP: It’s very hard work being an actor on a film set. Grueling, hard work.
DEPP: It is hard work. But certainly I’ve heard of far worse gigs.
POP: I read you were a mechanic in your teens. What did you do, work on your motorcycle?
DEPP: I was working at a gas station, pumping gas, and they put me in the garage and made me a mechanic. I told the dude, “Hey, I know very little about this.” And he said, “Oh, you’ll just do what I tell you to do and it will work out fine.” Well, it didn’t. I changed all the tires on this guy’s car, did the alignment, put the f***ing wheels back on, pulled it down, guy got in, and his left rear wheel shot off the f***ing vehicle. [laughs] I was asked to leave, needless to say. What about you? Are you off at the moment, writing, recording?
POP: I’m doing a radio show all year for the BBC 6.
DEPP: That’s great. I’m glad you got some time off the road. I’ve been playing a lot of music lately. It’s a real lifesaver, being able to focus on my first love. It’s freedom.
POP: It’s a much more free gig, being a musician. Less people involved.
DEPP: And immediate—yeah, f***, we captured it. I suppose that’s it, capturing something.
POP: Are you playing with a bunch of people?
DEPP: I’ve been writing and recording with Ryan Adams a lot lately. Ryan is incredibly prolific and he’s just a pure soul, he’s just this being.
POP: I know his stuff. He’s really f***ing talented, really skilled, and a restless sort of artist.
DEPP: Exactly, he’s itching all the time. It’s like it’s burning to come out of him.
POP: He’s in danger. Like I was. I hope I’m not anymore. But he’s got that endangered look. Oh, boy, come on Ryan, hang in there.
DEPP: He’s got a great handle on it. And is taking good care of himself. But what a talent, man. I’m amazed by the f***er. And then, here and there I’m doing some stuff with Alice [Cooper], which is really fun. Also with Marcus Mumford, who’s amazing. But what stays in my head is the couple of times that you and I sat down in the studio and just messed around—doing the TV show in Paris that time [performing their song “Hollywood Affair”], just recording stuff in the studio.
POP: “Hollywood Affair” is very nice; it’s a beautiful piece of music. And I got some really nice cues for your film The Brave, as well. I reused those on Avenue B . People who want their Pop straight don’t like it. But there are a lot of people I can reach out and touch that way. There was feeling in the music. It was supreme for me.
DEPP: Here’s a question for you. The work you and [David] Bowie did that resulted in The Idiot —have you guys ever thought about trying something together again? I’m asking as a fan.
POP: I never say never about anything. I had great times, creatively, with him. Particularly on that first one, The Idiot. Bowie would try anything, and at that point, I would try half of anything. One night I went out and got drunk and he was bored, so he went into my bedroom and he dug under the mattress—I used to write angry poetry and hide it under my mattress—and he found this poem: “I’m on the edge / I feel like I’m about to break / Everything’s too straight and I want a weird sin / I want some weird sin.” So he wrote it up and made a song out of it [“Some Weird Sin” on Pop’s 1977 album Lust for Life]. He also gave me the title idea for “Lust for Life.” I didn’t know it at the time but it had, of course, been a novel and a film starring Kirk Douglas, as van Gogh.
DEPP: Some of those lyrics still stick in my head. I think one of the most beautiful lines ever is “That’s like hypnotizing chickens.”
POP: That’s from Burroughs. “What is this love anyway? / Well, it’s just the same as hypnotizing chickens / You just rub their belly or rub their head, and they go into a trance / That’s love.” [laughs]
DEPP: I listen to Burroughs read “A Thanksgiving Prayer” probably bimonthly. That’s my religion. I think it starts out, “To John Dillinger, in hope he is still alive.” It’s just so beautiful. God, it’s so great to talk to you, man. I miss you. I hope we can hook up sometime.
POP: Absolutely. I’ll get myself some kind of gig out in Hollywood. Or, you know, you can see my blues shack here.
DEPP: I’ve got to get you and your gal to come out to that little place I got in the Bahamas, man. You could leave your house and be on a beach in, f***, less than two hours. Anonymity is achievable there. And the heart rate slows about 20 beats per minute, within the first 15 minutes of being there. Yeah, we should make a sojourn there.
SINGER-SONGWRITER IGGY POP IS CONSIDERED THE GODFATHER OF PUNK. HE IS CURRENTLY THE HOST OF THE IGGY POP RADIO SHOW ON BBC RADIO 6 MUSIC.
Title: An Outlaw Looks at 50
Author: Brian Hiatt
Publication: Rolling Stones
Issue: July 4-18, 2013
SOMETIMES, MAYBE LATE AT NIGHT, ON LOCATION, AFTER HE’S PUT DOWN HIS guitar or closed one of the four or five books he’s reading or shut off the “trashiest television imaginable” (he’s & Honey Boo Boo man), Johnny Depp starts asking himself questions. He loves his job, has had a lot worse ones, and there’s been increasingly decent money in it – island-buying money recording-studio-in-your-house money, your-kids-and-grandkids-never-have-to-worry money. But. Is there something else you want to mess around with? Would it be good to just go somewhere and sit and think and write -not stories, necessarily, but just spew?
Today, back in his LA. office, on a break from shooting a sci-fi thing called Transcendence in Albuquerque, fresh from his daughter’s 14th-birthday party the night before, with his latest art-film-bonkers performance in a likely blockbuster (as a war-painted Tonto in The Lone Ranger) rumbling toward theaters, Depp is thinking, Maybe. “I’m lacking 50 right up the ass” he says, just a couple of weeks before the end of his forties, dragging on one of his fat, brown, proficiently self-rolled cigarettes. “I can’t say that I’d want to be doing this for another 10 years.”
Thoughts of retirement pop up “every day.” he says. But nothing is imminent. “I think while I’ve got the opportunity and the desire and the creative spark to do the things that I can do right now, I should do them,” Depp says, in his rather mesmerizing, if mumbly, tobacco-basted baritone. “And then- at a certain point, just lake it down to the bare minimum and concentrate on, I guess, living life. Really living life. And going somewhere where you don’t have to be on the run, or sneak in through the kitchen or the underground labyrinth of the hotel. At a certain point, when you get old enough or get a few brain cells back, you realize that, on some level, you lived a life of a fugitive.”
Then again, getting older opens up .some interesting roles – look at his late drinking buddy Marlon Brando. And he isn’t good at laying back. “I don’t know if I can relax.” he says. “Relax, I can’t do. My brain, on idle, is a bad thing. I just get weird. I mean, not weird. I get, I get antsy.” He stubs out his cigarette in an ashtray set on a wooden coffee table with a roulette wheel built into its top.
When Depp lets his mind go, it can go like this: ‘There’s a great part of me that has deep concerns for, let’s say, the world, as everyone does. If you’re, in any way sensitive to that stuff and you just keep taking in, taking in, taking in, you’ll drive yourself fucking nuts. You start getting into things, like – people are fighting because each one says their god is better than the other. And zillions of fucking people die. Savagely. Horribly. Innocent people. And, I mean, there’s no way – you can’t take that in as a machine and then spit it out as data that makes sense. You can’t do it. So you’ve got – you’ve got to protect – I don’t know. Protect yourself in a way, like…”
He pauses, looks up through his blue-tinted aviator glasses and laughs, recognizing the mental cul-de-sac he just hit. “What’s it all about, Alfie?” he says. “Or, ALF! Probably best to go to ALF, actually. What’s it all about, ALF?”
That might be a good role for him, I venture. “I should play ALF,” he says, delighted. “Fucking fantastic. ALF. Yeah, it should he called ALF: The Stuff You Never Saw.”
He’s a good hang. Johnny Depp, clearly. It doesn’t take long to see why his heroes Brando, Keith Richards, Hunter S. Thompson, Bob Dylan – tend to become his friends. “Johnny is just as interesting as Dylan or Brando – or me,” says Richards, who has given Depp hours of interviews for a documentary he’s working on about the Stones guitarist’s life and music – and also played his dad in the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels. “He has a lot of interests and a great sense of humor. You get drawn to guys like that. He’s basically the same as I am – a shy boy that you get a lot from. Also, we know that we have something we have to do… and we don’t know what that is.”
Depp is, at the moment, dressed like a hobo whom other hobos would worry about. On his head is a battered, ancient brown fedora with a big tear on top, like Indiana Jones’ post-refrigerator-ride. He’s thrown a shapeless brown canvas jacket over a blue denim shirt that’s open to reveal a bonus shirt, an orange-striped Henley, beneath. His jeans are huge, carpenter-cut, shredded practically to bits, with white paint splattered up the legs and duct tape covering some of the worst holes at the rear. He’s wearing a bunch of skull rings on his fingers. His brown leather boots (worn over white socks) are the only faux-distressed element of his outfit – a gift from their manufacturer, A.S. 98-, they’re brand-new but look 30 years old. He has a goatee and a mustache and many, many tattoos, some of them very recently acquired. “I’m running out of real estate,” he says.
His glasses are prescription, and be needs them badly, though they don’t do anything for his left eye. Since birth, he’s been “basically blind as a bat” in that one, in a way that’s impossible to correct. “Everything is just very, very blurry.” he says. I’ve never had proper vision.” The right eye is simply nearsighted (and lately, far-sighted). So whenever he’s acting – unless he’s lucky enough to be in a scene where his character wears sunglasses -Depp can see only a few inches away from his face.
As for the duct tape on his jeans: “I realized one morning as I was going to a thing my boy had at school – one of those things where, you know, they get up and sing a song? I had to be there at a certain time, and, of course, I was running late and I was reaching back to check and see if I had my wallet and passport and stuff. I always have a passport for some reason.
He takes the passport out from his back pocket and shows it off – it’s nearly as battered as his hat. “Fugitive.” he says, again. “And so I reached back and I thought, ‘Jesus Christ!” There was this really long tear – and there were no undergarments involved.”
At this point, he must he interrupted – this is important stuff, cover of Tiger Beat-circa-1988 stuff. Johnny Depp doesn’t wear underwear?
That’s the general approach.” he says, possibly blushing a little under the shadow of his awful hat. “And so, yeah, I just immediately looked for duct tape. I know, it’s pathetic. And then I continue to wear them.”
The pants remain the same, but there have been, as of late, many changes in the life of Depp. In his corner office at his production company, an elegant cave where crimson curtains are closed against the late-afternoon sun, he’s sipping on a conspicuously nonalcoholic beer. He hasn’t had a drink in a year and a half, though he won’t use the word “quit.” “I just decided that I pretty much got everything I could get out of it.” he says. “I investigated wine and spirits thoroughly, and they certainly investigated me as well, and we found out that we got along beautifully, but maybe too well”
He’s never considered himself an alcoholic “No,” he says. “I don’t have the physical need for the drug alcohol. No, it’s more my medication, my self-medication over the years just to calm the circus. Once the circus kicks in, the festivities in the brain, it can be ruthless.” He would make rules for himself – for a while, he’d drink wine, but no hard liquor. He was really good at drinking, had no trouble keeping up with, say, Thompson. “Maybe that’s why Hunter and I got along so well,” he says, “I’m able to continue for great periods of time, weirdly. For weeks. There’s no great point to it, ultimately. You realize that you wouldn’t treat your car that way.”
As Richards notes. Depp can be shy, in his way – there’s a reason that he always wanted to be the sideman, never the singer, in his old bands. “I’m kind of socially inept,” Depp says, laughing in a way that says This is embarrassing, rather than / know this is almost impossible to believe, given my otherworldly beauty and the fact that I’m, like. Johnny Depp. “And it was always a great crutch. Mingling at parties and stuff like that has always been, not a nice experience for me. It’s just not comfortable. Or,like, talk shows used to be in the beginning. So I found I needed to drink in those situations. Just slam a couple down and go. ‘OK. I can muster up enough small talk to meander my way through this thing and get out the other side unscathed.'”
He also had quit smoking for two and a half years, until Rum Diary director Bruce Robinson gave him a drag of a cigarillo as they finished the film. “Literally, the nicotine hits you and you’re back. If you’re a cigarette smoker, a serious smoker, then you’re a junkie. You’re a junkie to that drug.” He smokes less than he used to. going through maybe six cigarettes over the course of three and a half hours today, but it’s obviously a fraught issue: With every one of his tobacco packets, he takes the trouble to grab a Sharpie and X out the grotesque you’ll-get-cancer picture and warning box.
They show some guy with three and a half teeth and some sort of red, dangly bit in his mouth,” he says. “So that’s for the smoker to look at. OK, fine. He sets it down on the fucking table and eight kids see it. That’s cool? Jesus. There’s worse shit out there. I mean, what’s wrong with these people? We all know it’s not fucking good for you. Life’s not good for you! It kills ya! Do you know what I mean? God damn! These are the same people who are so adamant about not smoking and being around smokers. No, you can’t smoke on the Sunset Strip when you’re eating outside – however, you are welcome to all the diesel fumes and every bit of dirt and filth and dust and disease and everything that gets rifled up in the streets.”
The biggest recent change is a delicate matter: Depp’s split from Vanessa Paradis, his partner of 14 years and the mother of his two children. “The last couple years have been a bit bumpy.” he says, slowly. “At times, certainly unpleasant, but that’s the nature of breakups, I guess, especially when there are kiddies involved.”
“Relationships are very difficult,” he says at another point. “Especially in the racket that I’m in because you’re constantly away or they’re away and so it’s hard. It wasn’t easy on her. It wasn’t easy on me. It wasn’t easy on the kids. So, yeah. The trajectory of that relationship – you play it out until it goes, one thing leads to another. So for whatever reason that ceases, it doesn’t stop the fact that you care for that person, and they’re the mother of your kids, and you’ll always know each other, and you’re always gonna be in each other’s lives because of those kids. You might as well make the best of it.”
Tabloids and the likes of TMZ (or TLC, as he thinks it’s called) made much of Depp’s spending time with pal and fellow white-face aficionado Marilyn Manson in the wake of the breakup – as if he’d gone from the bosom of his family to the embrace of Satan. “Johnny and I were never drinking buddies.” says Manson. “Though he was the one who turned me on to absinthe. I will blame him for that….I guess it was some sort of fate that drew us together again recently. We were both going through some troubles in weird areas in our minds and in our lives, and being with him made me happier, and it seemed like it made him happier. You could call it a bromance.” The singer says no one was more disturbed at their renewed closeness than his own girlfriend. “It just terrified the girl I was with. Like, “Yeah, you’re hanging Out with Johnny Depp, he’s single,’ and that just meant the worst thing to any girl to ever hear. But he’s surprised that girls want to talk to him. That’s how childlike he still is, in a good way. I swear to God, he doesn’t realize.”
Depp (who’s been dating 27-year-old actress Amber Heard) has also been spending time with a friend he only recently got lo meet, in person: Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three, who had been imprisoned for 18 years for murders that evidence suggests he didn’t commit. Identifying with a fellow small-town outcast, Depp had been funding and supporting Echols’ case for years. The movie star’s house was one of his first stops. ‘Come here, fucker.” Depp told Echols, and brought him inside, where he had a meal waiting for him. (Says Depp, “I thought if I had just got out of the pokey after 18 years, I’d want some fucking Tater Tots, man. I’d want some tacos. Give me some deeply trashy food-“.) They’ve since gotten five or six matching tattoos together, including one of the crow that’s on Depp’s head in The Lone Ranger.” Whenever we’re together,” says Echols, “it’s not like you’re with a movie star. It’s like you’re home. He smells like home to me.”
Though a younger Depp was known for bouts of debauchery and hotel-room-smashing in the wake of past splits (Kate Moss, Winona Ryder), he insists that wasn’t the case this time. “In terms of the breakup, I definitely wasn’t going to rely on the drink to ease things or cushion the blow or cushion the situation,” says Depp. ‘Cause that could have been fatal. I felt it was my duty to be real clear throughout that. I had something pretty serious to focus on really, which was making sure that my kids were gonna be cool.”
Depp’s own parents divorced when he was 15, and he took it hard. So when he discusses his own breakup, he returns again and again to his kids. “They’ve been incredibly understanding, incredibly strong throughout the whole ordeal,” he says. “And it’s hard on every side. You know, Vanessa’s side, certainly not easy. My side, not easy. The kids are the most complicated. The thing is, kiddies come first. You can’t shield them, because then you’d be lying. So you can at least be honest with your kids, and you say the absolute truth to your child – that was very important to not pussyfoot around.” Not drinking helped him with that, he says, allowing him to “bite the bullet and deal with real life, deal with clarity.”
Except for his own office, the headquarters of Depp’s production company, Infinitum Nihil (it means “infinite nothing,” a reference to a Tolstoy line), are bright, airy and Internet-startup modern, with a big, open kitchen in the front. A meeting room is temporarily overflowing with Lone Ranger posters and theater displays, sent over by Disney – and that’s the least of the memorabilia here. In the hallway leading to his own office is the huge oil painting of Depp as a vampire that hung over lite fireplace in Dark Shadows. Depp’s own artwork is on display elsewhere, including Lucian Freud-style portraits of Dylan and Brando that achieve impressive likenesses with gestural brushwork.
In Depp’s office, his brown, computer-free wood desk is framed on the left by a Pirates of The Caribbean poster, and on the right, another of his paintings, a surreal and faintly creepy portrait of a faceless man in a featureless white uniform (hilariously, I later learn he titled it “Phil Collins”). There’s a hundred-year-old acoustic guitar in the corner, and vintage art-deco chandeliers hang from the ceiling. On the bookshelves are various awards, baby pictures of his kids, volumes by authors from William Blake and Nathanael West to Neil Caiman and Anne Rice. There’s even a rare copy of Bare-Faced Messiah, an Eighties L. Ron Hubbard expose that would make for interesting conversation if Tom Cruise stopped by.
We’re facing double doors open to the adjoining room, which serves as a sort of museum: There’s a Pirates of the Caribbean pinball machine with Depp’s face on it, and for no particular reason, a life-size replica of the Elephant Man’s skeleton, behind glass. Between the skeleton and the pinball machine is a headless mannequin, clad in the original black-leather-and-metal outfit Depp wore as the tragic, mechanical man-boy title character in 1990s Edward Scissorhands. It’s a recent acquisition. “I saw it there the other day for the first time,” Depp says. “I didn’t know they were doing that, and I walked in here the other day and thought, ‘Jesus. I hadn’t seen it since I put it on all those years ago.’ That was a thing, boy. You know, being covered in that. It was like Tampa, Florida. It was, like, 105-110 degrees. A million percent humidity. My hair was sculpted into this horrific tree, care of Aqua Net. And then my face was covered in rubber-mask grease paint. I lost a lot of water weight on that film. That was a biggie.”
The film, made the same year Depp left 21 Jump Street, also set the template for the biggest, and arguably the best, roles of his career. As bracing as he can be in more conventional parts — as a mentally fragmenting undercover cop in Donnie Brasco or a foolish but swaggering drug smuggler in Blow – he often seems most engaged, most alive, most; unique when he’s wearing a funny hat and face paint (or even, in the case of Alice in Wonderland, CGI-enlarged eyes). Scissorhands director Tim Burton, who would go on to work with Depp seven more times and counting, once wrote a verse about Depp: “There was a young man/ Everyone thought was quite handsome/ So he tied up his face/And he held it for ransom”
“I think he captured me pretty good,” says Depp. “I mean, not in terms of handsome or whatever, but I still am exactly as I was when I was 16-17 years old playing in bars. I was infinitely more prone to be standing outside of the lights and in the darkness, playing my guitar and letting all the attention be up front with the lead singer. I was really happy with that.”
The veering path of Depp’s career – his refusal to “carry the gun and fuck the girl” – led to plenty of great performances in the Nineties, from Ed Wood to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but failed to make him a commercial superstar. “I could have been out a long time ago, man. I was well on my way to thermos-and-lunchbox antiquity for – I don’t know, a good 18 years. I had a string of – in the eyes of the business – semi failure movies. These weren’t great big blockbuster things. So I was amazed that I was able to just keep getting gigs.”
For his performance as fey, kohl-eyed Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates, he embraced the broader performance possibilities he saw in the cartoons he watched with his daughter (not to mention the films of Buster Keaton and the daily life of Keith Richards). Then, as he puts it, “things got crazy” – and his career now looks like one of the best played long games in Hollywood history. He’s one of the few stars with two billion-dollar-worldwide-grossing films to his name (the second Pirates movie and Alice in Wonderland), and there’s a case to be made that he’s both a crazy quirky character actor and the biggest movie star in the world. “Twenty years ago.’ says Pirates director Gore Verbinski, “I don’t think Johnny Depp green lights a $100 million movie, with giant robots in it or whatever. Now you can’t seem to get a movie made without him!”
“Covering myself up in makeup, it’s easier to look at someone else,” Depp says. “It’s easier to look at someone else’s: face than your own. I think for everyone. Jesus, you wake up in the morning, and you brush your teeth, and you’re like, ‘Ugh, that fucker again? You’re still here? What do you want?’ Hiding: I think it’s important. It’s important for your – for whatever’s left of your sanity I guess.”
Another sanity-preserving measure: For years now, Depp hasn’t watched any of his movies (except, for his 2004 turn as the Earl of Rochester in The Libertine, which the director personally asked him to see – “That’s one I’d really recommend”). “I prefer to walk away with the experience. My job, as an actor, is to give the director options. You can only hope that the takes that you thought were the best were chosen. But, then again, if I don’t watch it, I’ll never know. So, better off.”
The late-model, Disney-approved Depp doesn’t have as much time for the smaller films he pursued in the Nineties – but big movies have their own advantages. Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger is impressively subversive, painting the United States Cavalry as the bad guys and the Comanche as the doomed heroes, with Annie Hammer’s Lone Ranger essentially a sidekick to Tonto. “I wanted him to be no joke,” says Depp, who put on substantial muscle for the role. “First of all, I wouldn’t fuck with someone with a dead bird on their head. Second of all, he’s got the fucking paint on his face, which scares me.” Depp has Native American blood – the only film he ever directed. The Brave, is set on a grimly depicted reservation. The Lone Ranger will reach a somewhat larger audience. “You can do a lot more damage.” says Verbinski. “from the inside.”
When Verbinski first told execs about Depp’s interest in the project, they were thrilled. “Everybody, for a minute, thought. ‘Johnny Depp as the Lone Ranger? Great! Let’s do that movie, ‘Then you could see the faces .sour as they said. ‘What? He wants to play Tonto? He’s the sidekick!'”
The star had his reasons. “I wanted to maybe give some hope to kids on the reservations.” says Depp, who’s wearing an ancient Comanche symbol on the end of his rope necklace. “They’re living without running water and seeing problems with drugs and booze. But I wanted to be able to show these kids. Fuck that! You’re still warriors man.’”
Depp was able to deliver that message in person to some young members of the Comanche tribe after he was adopted as a son by Comanche activist LaDonna Harris last year, in a traditional ceremony. They gave him the name “Shape Shifter.” “It seemed very descriptive,” says Harris, who is untroubled by Depp’s face paint and head bird as Tonto, deemed disrespectfully unrealistic by some Native American groups. The Comanche are very individualistic,” she says.
A couple of months after his adoption. Depp made an unpublicized appearance at the Comanche Nation fair in Oklahoma, riding in a parade, plunging into crowds of children, visiting an old burial ground, where he wept. They gave him moccasins, and the otter-skin headdress of a tribal leader: he gave them one of his paintings. At the end of the day. Depp told Harris that he had never felt so accepted anywhere in his life.
Depp looks like a rock musician, but he talks like a writer, backpedaling on his sentences as if he’s searching for the delete key, revising as he goes. He’s a dedicated autodidact whose life was changed by On the Road; he always carries around a copy of Finnegans Wake, which he’s been puzzling through for years. He’s been keeping a journal since his twenties, which is how he sorts through his own puzzles; his attempts at therapy never worked out.
For a while, his fame was interfering even with that private exercise. “You try to be as honest as possible in your journals, but then there’s a part of you that’s even guarded with yourself, strangely, because you know someone’s gonna read the fuckers once you become smoke.” he says. “And so I’ve made a very conscious effort now over the last few years to write honestly. It might end up being eight, nine pages straight. It could be a sentence. It could be two sentences. But I put it down now as honest.”
He didn’t need his journals to give him fresh insight into his childhood. Raising his own kids shed new light on his early years as the youngest kid in a lower-middle-class family with an odd habit of moving from house to house on a practically monthly basis first in Kentucky, then in Florida. That feeling of living as a fugitive has been with him since well before his fame.
“I wouldn’t say my youth was the perfect model in terms of raising a kid.” he says. “It was a relatively violent upbringing. If you did something wrong, you got hit. If you didn’t do something wrong, you got hit. But my parents, they did the best they could with what they knew, and so I figured I’d do the best with what I knew, which was do pretty much the opposite from what you guys did – and I think I’ll be all right. Not to say they were bad parents, because they weren’t. They just didn’t know any different, and it was a very different time.”
His father was a civil engineer; his mother worked as a waitress, “counting nickels and pennies and dines at the end of the night”. Money was tight. “They went into, like, a quadruple bankruptcy every Christmas.” says Depp. “My mother was raised in a shack, in the wilds of Appalachia, where the toilet was an outhouse. She used to say ‘he did the same things that her mom did – and her mom certainly didn’t know any better. With my kids, they’re told 75 times a day that they’re loved. One thing I know is they feel loved and secure and happy and needed and necessary and a part of something.”
The house-moving thing still affects him. “When it’s time to pack, even to go on vacation. I’m a wreck, man,” he says. “Because I can’t. It reminds me so much of having to move all the time. And I’ve had to live nothing but a vagabond existence, really, for so many years. There are films that I still haven’t unpacked from. Somewhere in a storage locker are suitcases. I know that I’ve still got a suitcase from Scissorhands somewhere that I didn’t unpack and Cry-Baby and God knows what else. These little time capsules just laying there somewhere just because I couldn’t deal with it.”
He can envision publishing some of his journals in some form. He’s not sure about other writing, or even directing another movie besides the Richards documentary. He was so bruised by the reaction to The Brave that he pulled the movie from circulation; it’s impossible to obtain to this day. “I was insulted by the way the U.S. press was [saying] ‘How dare you. Actor Boy, think that you have a brain?’ But Terry Gilliam told me. The thing is, The Brave is like you.’ It doesn’t know what it wants to be. And I thought that was pretty accurate. It didn’t know what it wanted to be, because I didn’t know what I wanted to be – and I still don’t know what I want to be.”
And that brings him to that idea of running away for a while, doing something else. There’s a great part of me that thinks it wouldn’t be so bad to split for a few years he says. “It’s not necessarily to say that I want to go out and have a new career, ’cause I’ve always thought that a little strange when people do that.”
But the truth is, he already got a lot of answers he was seeking when his daughter Lily-Rose was born, 14 years and one day ago. “I went around for years thinking ‘Well, what’s it all for?’ All this stuff that I gotta do, interviews and movies and success or not success or this or that. It really was as if a veil was lifted, and things became clearer, and I went, ‘Oh I fucking get it now! That’s what it’s for! That’s what it’s for, this beautiful little creature that I took part in creating, making.’ I didn’t have a real handle on what life was supposed to mean or be or anything like that. And I still don’t. And I’m not sure that life is supposed to mean anything or be anything at all. But as long as you have the opportunity to breathe, breathe. As long as you have the opportunity to make your kid smile and laugh, and move it forward.”
He doesn’t believe in God, or ghosts, either, for that matter he used to go looking for them. “I think we’re here and that’s kind of it,” he says. Then it’s dirt and worms.”
For a while, he thought it would be cool to have his body hurled off a cliff when he goes. “Just tossed over a mountain so that people could watch it bounce,” he says. “Might as well entertain people. Or maybe just save the tattoos. ‘Cause it might revolutionize what happens after death. Take a guy’s tattoos off, make formaldehyde frames where it’s preserved and stretched out and stuff – that doesn’t sound gruesome at all, does it? No. That’s not at all serial-killer. That’s totally cool. Can you imagine? ‘What are those?’ Oh, that’s my dad’s tattoos all over that wall. That’s my dad splattered against the wall.”
As for the career, and the prospect of retiring or winding down or disappearing, consider this: Manson tells the tale of a drunken night in Hollywood when the two men wandered over to Depp’s star on the Walk of Fame – right between Wesley Snipes’ and Sonny and Cher’s. “We wanted to pee on it,” says Manson. “We thought about it. I can’t confirm or deny that we did it.”
And then there’s the voice Depp hears in his head sometimes – all the time, really. It’s Marlon Brando’s growl, and this is what it says: “Fuck it. Fuck it. You don’t need this shit. Fuck it” Depp laughs bard relating this, as if Brando is yelling it in his ear. “Marlon got to a point in his life where he just said, ‘I don’t care.'” says Depp, smiling like a fugitive with road’s end in sight at last “And that must be some species of nirvana. It has to be. It’s freedom.”
Title: Return of the Native
Author: Holly Grigg-Spall
Publication: Total Film
Issue: Summer 2013
Johnny Depp does not watch himself on screen. Ever. Something about preferring to be ignorant of the results of his work. That once it’s cut and locked, it’s none of his business. But he’s not ignorant to the fact that he’s raged against the machine on numerous projects. “Somebody once put together a reel of various bits of different films that I have done,” he admits in his trademark quiet drawl, while sipping a sneaky beer in Vegas. “When I saw all the characters lined up in a row like that, I thought it was amazing that I was able to get away with it. I still feel lucky to be in the game… well, to be in the game without having to play the game too awful much, you know?”
Getting away with it is something Depp has turned from a career reinvention (wilfully rejecting easy heartthrob fame in favour of the weird and wonderful wilderness) into a billion-dollar franchise cash cow. Cast as Jack Sparrow in Pirates Of The Caribbean back in 2003, Depp horrified studio bosses during filming with his decision to play Sparrow as a sozzled, seafaring Keith Richards replete with dreads and guyliner. (“I think it was Michael Eisner, the head of Disney at the time, who was quoted as saying, ‘He’s ruining the movie’,” Depp recalled gleefully in 2010.) The gamble paid off – the Pirates franchise has netted nearly $4bn to date – and Depp’s quirky approach to characterisation is what those same honchos now pay top dollar for. Want an outlaw to play an outlaw? Heeeere’s Johnny…
Which is why Total Film has braved the desert heat of Las Vegas to see a sneak peek of western romp The Lone Ranger at Caesars Palace and catch up with the cast and crew about the making of Disney’s big summer tentpole hope. “I get this picture of this Indian with a crow on his head and it came from Johnny,” recalls producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who never met a money-spinning franchise possibility he didn’t like and had been looking to reboot The Lone Ranger for a couple of years. “And I said, ‘well, who’s the actor? Who’s doing this?’ [Johnny said] ‘It’s me.’ I think that’s what attracted everybody, including Disney.”
Yep, Depp, with his battered trilby, ragged brown leather jacket and unassuming air may seem like the reluctant power player, but he’s the catalyst for this project -inspiring a corporation to put millions behind the revival of a dormant radio and TV cowboy and his loyal sidekick via his usual unorthodox methods. Take the pitch; director Gore Verbinski had turned down every version of the script shown to him by Bruckheimer – including several more supernaturally-inspired incarnations – over a four-year period. It was only when Depp presented Verbinski with a photo of himself in character with black and white stripes down his face and that dead black crow (Depp’s spirit guide, apparently), as they were hanging out on the beach while Verbinski directed Depp in Pirates 2, that the director decided to take another look. And to look at it from a more sympathetically ethnic perspective than previous incarnations where a Wild West ranger goes rogue in the pursuit of truth and justice while his subservient, clichéd and stereotypical ‘Indian’, Tonto, skivvies for him.
“Since cinema has been around, Native Americans have been treated very poorly by Hollywood,” says Depp. “What I wanted to do was play Tonto not as a sidekick – like ‘go fetch a soda for me, boy!” – but as a warrior with integrity and dignity. It’s my small sliver of a contribution to try to right the wrongs of the past.” Plus, for Depp, this time it’s personal. “I’m probably one sixteenth Native American, but of course that’s hard to trace. Basically that means it’s likely that, somewhere along the line, you were a product of rape.”
“No one had heard the Lone Ranger story from Tonto’s perspective,” Verbinski tells TF enthusiastically, dismissing the ’40s and ’50s TV series as ‘squaresville and very cheesy’. “This film, it could be called ‘Tonto and the Masked Man’. We kept all the archetypes – the white hat, the silver bullet, the white horse, but we created them through the thread of Tonto.” He rubs his beard and furrows his brow, “This is an origin story and it was Tonto that created the Lone Ranger. That’s what made this project interesting to me.”
That origin story sees Texas Ranger John Reid rescued by Tonto after baddie Butch Cavendish kills five ranger colleagues, including Reid’s own brother. “The Lone Ranger believes in the laws of man and Tonto believes in the laws of Nature. Their worlds are colliding as the Transcontinental railroad makes its way through Indian territory and the cavalry and Comanche fight over the land,” describes Verbinski. “We take the Native American and the cop and force them together, have them make a pact for justice when they each have their own idea of what that means. It makes for good buddy movie math and it’s an opportunity to tell an epic tale.” Essentially, what Verbinski envisioned was giving Depp the chance to play Sancho Panza to the Lone Ranger’s Don Quixote, a role he had taken on for Terry Gilliam’s ill-fated The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.
Bringing on Revolutionary Road writer Justin Haythe to update the script, both Depp and Verbinski were keen not to merely repeat their previous success with the fantastical but not necessarily critic-endorsed Pirates movies. “The Lone Ranger deals with more gravitas,” Verbinski insists. “You’re talking about the plight of the Native American. It’s called The Lone Ranger because six of the seven rangers are killed, including his own brother. The characters are borne out of tragic events and you don’t want to be cavalier about that.”
While Depp immersed himself in Comanche culture in preparation for the role – even getting ‘adopted’ by Native American activist LaDonna Harris and welcomed into the Comanche Nation – Verbinski sought his ranger, a partner to Tonto but also an actor who could match Depp on screen while wearing a mask most of the time. Bruckheimer, Verbinski and Depp all agreed on the statuesque Armie Hammer (“Armie has this great, blind optimism – we needed someone who you could believe could have old-fashioned ideas,” says Bruckheimer) and he wasn’t about to turn down the franchise power trifecta.
“Gore, Johnny and Jerry – if you have the opportunity to work with the dream team, you do it,” smiles Hammer. Though the 6ft 5in 26-year-old actor had worked on prestigious projects (Fincher’s The Social Network and Eastwood’s J. Edgar), this was his BIG movie – big-ass budget, huge location sets in Albuquerque, massive stunts and set-pieces… Hammer had to try hard not to compete with the size of what was going on around him and believe in himself as that masked man. “Just because the set-pieces are big doesn’t mean your acting should be,” he explains earnestly. “There’s a constant streamer in my head going, ‘What are you doing here? This is their job not yours. Why should you be here?'” He looks up, lets out a kind of frustrated ‘bleurgh’ sound, and then laughs; “I had to just think that I’m obviously here because they want me to be. I’ll do the best I can and if they don’t like it they can fire me and I’ll do something else.”
Part of Hammer’s discomfort, he admits, served the banter between Tonto and the Lone Ranger. “A lot of the humour is situational and based off the difference in world view or difference in opinion of how a situation should be handled. There’s a lot of rub in the relationship – how do they live together? How do they stay buddies and work together? What’s their process? You don’t see that in the TV show.”
“It’s nice to take a character who believes in right and wrong and throw him in a soup that’s all grey and he can’t find purchase in that soup,” laughs Verbinski. “Westerns have had relationship movies like Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid and this is just a much more dysfunctional one!”
So maverick characters all at sea – figuratively against a period backdrop, a sprinkling of comedy, big set-pieces and the real possibilities of this being a set-up for further Tonto and Ranger adventures, but definitely not Pirates, right? “The Pirates movie is based on an amusement park ride – it’s fanciful and it’s supernatural,” Hammer says firmly. “This movie is none of that as it’s grounded in reality and it is supposed to feel like that.”
But that’s not to say ‘event movie’ is a dirty word. “We’re just gonna give you a big, expansive experience,” promises Depp. “Which is what I wanted when I was a kid – to go to a summer movie that really enthralled me, excited me and moved me, and that’s what The Lone Ranger does.” He pauses, looks over his glasses and smiles conspiratorially. “And well, outlaws are fun,” he grins. “They get to do things that we can’t, y’know? Yeah, they break the rules. So there is that vicarious thrill.” Well, he would know…
A Disney casting notice confirms that Johnny Depp has officially signed on to play the lascivious Wolf in Rob Marshall’s upcoming film of Stephen Sondheim’s award-winning fairy-tale themed musical – “Into the Woods”. Meryl Streep will play the self-serving — if not quite wicked — Witch. British actor James Corden will play the Baker. The plum role of the Baker’s Wife is yet to be cast. Rob Marshall will begin filming the adaptation in London in September.
You can read the Disney casting norice here.
And a Hollywood Reporter article confirming the casting here.
Title: Dark Shadows
Author: Matt Glasby
Publication: Total Film
Issue: July 2012
AWOKEN AFTER BEING buried for 200 years, reluctant vampire Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) comes across his first taste of 1970s-style civilization: a tarmac road leading through the forbidding forest. “This is curious terrain,” he pronounces. It most certainly is.
The latest salvo in a lifelong mission to bring outsider cinema inside, Tim Burton’s 15th feature mixes the personal and the populist, the offbeat and the inappropriate to create a genre-defying Frankenweenie of a movie. It doesn’t always work, but there’s much beautiful mess along the way.
Created by Dan Curtis, who made cult favourites The Night Stalker and Burnt Offerings, the original Shadows TV show was a gothic soap opera that ran from 1966-71 before being syndicated to infinity. As children, director and star were enraptured by what the New York Times termed its “breathtakingly low-rent production values and equally breathtakingly purple dialogue”. Thankfully Shadows 2012 has rather more of one than the other. The film features a troupe of Burton regulars plus ace cameos from Christopher Lee and Alice Cooper, and supporting turns from a vampy Eva Green and the ever-creepy Jackie Earle Haley. It’s a good fit but still an odd choice, and when you’re retooling a 1,225-episode show, which story do you tell? At times it feels like all of them…
A ravishing Sweeney Todd-alike intro introduces us to Barnabas’ plight at breakneck, near-parodic speed. The playboy lord of Collinsport, Maine, circa 1750, he spurns the advances of local witch Angelique (Green) in favour of Josette (Bella Heathcote). It’s not, as it turns out, the wisest of moves: Josette ends up dead and unburied, Barnabas undead and buried.
Fast-forward to 1972 and we meet Victoria (Heathcote, again), as she applies for a job as governess at the Collins’ run-down mansion. Here, matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer) oversees the remaining rabble as they run the family fishing business into the ground, to the delight of their centuries-old rival (Green, still). There’s moody flower child Carolyn (Chloe Grace Moretz), troubled young David (Gulliver McGrath), his drunken shrink Dr Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter) and debauched father (Johnny Lee Miller). Into this uneasy mix wanders Barnabas, freed from his underground prison by construction workers and looking to raise the family back to prominence without biting too many innocents. It’s here the terrain gets, as Alice would have it, curioser and curioser.
As may be apparent, this is a film, like its hero, that doesn’t quite know what it is. Though there are lots of funny sequences – mainly the juxtapositions of Barnabas’ repressed 18th century worldview with the permissive 1970s (he rapturously refers to Carolyn’s red lava lamp as “a pulsating blood urn” and barks, “Reveal yourself, tiny songstress!” at Karen Carpenter performing on TV), it’s not really a comedy. And while there are some startlingly ghoulish attacks, one of which sees Barnabas sucking an IV drip dry through the neck of its user, it’s not a horror film either.
Equally, though it’s framed by a love story, it’s not framed as one. Victoria/Josette gets lost in the A-list mix, and Burton makes up for the underheated central romance with some extreme (for a 12A) raunch. One room-smashing, lizard-tongued boff between Barnabas and Angelique will account for much sexual befuddlement among younger viewers, like that scene in Gbostbusters where Dan Aykroyd gets noshed off by a spectre. Most bizarrely of all, the industrial infighting sometimes resembles a particularly violent, camp episode of Dallas, but with fish instead of oil and vampires instead of Texans.
And yet, Dark Shadows looks gloweringly gorgeous, the cast (particularly Depp and Green) more than earn their keep, and the climactic CG conflagration stops the show: a thrilling monster-mash of raging beasties, spurned women and, er, angry mermen. When Barnabas says of the family mansion, “It’s the perfect marriage of European elegance and American enterprise…” he could almost be talking about the film itself. Almost. Later, he watches an episode of Scooby-Doo, pronouncing, “This is a silly play!” In truth. Dark Shadows is a bit of both, and not quite either.
It’s a film content to inhabit its own curious terrain: where Shakespeare gets (unfavourably) compared to the Steve Miller Band; skinny goths are somehow irresistible to flame-haired vixens; and Dracula himself (Lee) and rock’s Prince of Darkness (Cooper) stand winking in the wings like chat-show showbiz chums. With a few caveats, you will be too.
Title: Into the Shadows
Author: Anthony Breznican
Publication: Entertainment Weekly
Issue: May 11, 2012
IF EDWARD SCISSORHANDS COULD MEET Barnabas Collins, the Nosferatu-clawed vampire from the new Dark Shadows movie, they’d have a lot more in common than just the world’s most dangerous handshake. Both are troubled, cadaver-white creatures who have extreme difficulty blending in with normal society. They’re also the cinematic bookends of a friendship between Tim Burton and Johnny Depp that spans two decades and eight movies. Dark Shadows (rated PG-13 and out May 11) is the duo’s latest look at the lifestyles of the weird and infamous, a horror comedy inspired by an eccentric 1966-71 supernatural soap opera they both adored as boys. The theme of this one is like a gothic Norman Rockwell painting, heartwarming and bloodcurdling at the same time. Its message: No one is truly alone if he has family. Or-in vampire terms-blood of the familial kind is thicker than blood of the drinkable kind.
While the poor character from 1990’s EdwardScissorhands was utterly alone and dependent on the kindness of strangers, Barnabas is blessed with being a full-blown paterfamilias. The vampire, upon awakening from a 200-year slumber, inherits a rogues’ gallery of relatives who acquired the wealth he helped create before being buried “alive” (or whatever you call what he is). When Barnabas is unearthed by construction workers in the swinging year of 1972, contemporary Collins matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer), her untamed daughter Carolyn (Hugo’s Chloe Grace Moretz), her ne’er-do-well brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller), and his dead-people-seeing young son David (Gulliver McGrath) not only welcome their undead ancestor back into the fold but also help reestablish him as a pillar of their coastal Maine town—even though he occasionally eats some of the townsfolk.
If Scissorhands was a reflection of Burton and Depp’s youthful insecurities, Dark Shadows (which is being distributed by Warner Bros.—like ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, a division of Time Warner) could be a metaphor for the comfort and closeness they’ve fostered. “I feel as though he’s my brother,” Depp says. “It’s a weird understanding, this kind of shorthand we have. I truly understand him, I think, just as well as anybody can. He certainly knows me as well as anybody can.”
Over the years they’ve widened their circle to include several regular collaborators, such as producer Richard Zanuck, costume designer Colleen Atwood, composer Danny Elfman, and frequent costar Helena Bonham Carter, who has two children with Burton and plays a boozy, Ronald McDonald-haired family psychologist in Dark Shadows. “A film family is a family, and it’s a beautifully dysfunctional family,” says Burton, who explored that concept with Depp in 1994’s schlock-moviemaker biopic Ed Wood. “It’s kind of positive on one hand, but everyone has their issues, too.”
Success for their new $125 million fantasy will depend on an even broader extended family—the filmgoers around the world who’ve always turned out to support the peculiar pair’s peculiar movies. Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow, Corpse Bride, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd: The together earned more than $2 billion at the global box office. This time around, Burton and Depp will especially need the love. Dark Shadows is unusual source material, to say the least. “When this first came up, I’d never heard of Dark Shadows,” says producer Graham King, who worked with Depp on The Tourist, Rango, and The Rum Diary. King studied up by watching DVDs of the original soap opera, which is notorious for its cheapo production values and campy melodrama. “You could get where Johnny was going with the character when Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and Alice in Wonderland have we spoke about it, but when I first saw it,” King says with a mordant chuckle, “I was like, ‘Okaaaay'”
THE DARK SHADOWS MOVIE started out as Depp’s idea, and he recruited Burton back when they were making Sweeney Todd, though for most of their working relationship it’s been Burton who’s lobbied for Depp to star in his films. Without that, Depp says, he’d be God knows where right now. “Every time he wanted to put me in a movie, he had to fight for me to get in there. The studios didn’t want me. I wasn’t on their list,” Depp recalls. After the original Pirates of the Caribbean made him a bona fide box office draw, Burton no longer had to fight. It was around that time that the director wanted to recommend Depp for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, “but he didn’t even get to it,” Depp says. “The studio suggested it first.”
While Depp speaks affectionately about their past, Burton has a more aw-shucks attitude. “We don’t wear our ‘This Is Our Eighth Movie Together!’ T-shirts every day,” the director says. The bond they share is merely a fascination with what’s considered abnormal. They’re both obsessed with outcasts, even though at this point the two of them are anything but. “Once you’ve felt that way in your life, you always feel that way,” Burton says. “No matter what happens to you. You can have a family, you can have success, but you always feel that way.”
Moviegoers clearly relate. “Everyone seems grateful to him, particularly young people,” Bonham Carter says of Burton. “He understands everyone’s separateness and isolation, that feeling that you don’t fit in or that you’re different.” But even around her, she adds, he is “creatively a monk” who tends toward introspection. Depp just happens to be one of the few people on earth who can turn Burton into an extrovert.
“When they’re not making a picture, there’s not a lot of telephone calls and emails,” says Richard Zanuck, who has produced six of Burton’s movies, four of them starring Depp. “They don’t talk a couple times a week.” On set, however, Zanuck describes them as “two high school kids tittering over in the corner, telling fart jokes.” Adds Bonham Carter, “None of us get their jokes, but they get their jokes, and they’re laughing, so whatever.”
PERHAPS BECAUSE THEY KNOW what it’s like to feel left out, Depp and Burton are good at making others feel included when they join the team. On Dark Shadows, one of the newbies was screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith, the best-selling author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and the just-published Unholy Night. “They never make you feel like you’re the new guy, and I was scared stiff,” says Grahame-Smith. “I have very clear memories of my mom dropping me off on a cold winter’s night in Connecticut to go see Edward Scissorhands, but you just try to push that sense of awe to the back of your brain.”
When Grahame-Smith was brought in, Depp and Burton already had an early draft of the script by John August (who wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Big Fish, and Corpse Bride). But Depp wanted the story to be even stranger. At the time Burton was producing a film adaptation of Grahame-Smith’s history-horror mash-up book Abraham Lincoln: VampireHunter (out June 22), and he suggested the young novelist for a Dark Shadows rewrite. “We got together, the three of us, and sparks just flew at our first meeting,” Depp says. “One idea gave birth to another, and it began to grow and expand. We were all very much on the same page. It was a real gas.”
That first meeting took place in 2010 at a shadowy candlelit dinner in Depp’s rented London house after the actor finished a late night on Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. There were some plot points from the original TV show that simply had to be in the movie, among them a lost-love angle that has Barnabas falling in love with the family governess (Bella Heathcote), who appears to be the reincarnation of his fiancee from the 1700s. And Barnabas also had to reignite his love/hate war with the scorned witch Angelique (Eva Green), who cursed him centuries ago to be a bloodsucker. But otherwise, that midnight story session focused on adding eccentricities. For instance, Burton suggested giving Barnabas an extra knuckle on each finger, to make his hands more like claws, and Depp proposed that the vampire speak with a kind of Old World grandiloquence that would constantly be deflated by the blunt nonchalance of 1972 America.
THAT 70S SETTING was an unusual flourish in a movie full of them. Why the Nixon era? Depp liked the idea of unspooling the story in 1972 for cultural reasons, Grahame-Smith says: “Barnabas extols the virtues of family, and rejects people who are insincere and selfish. We wanted to pit this selfless family-first hero against the Me Decade.” Burton’s interest in the period, however, related to something more intimate from his childhood—1972 is when he felt the most ill at ease as a gawky adolescent growing up in Burbank. “I , remember that time being very awkward, right around the age where you’re 14, and you’re really changing and are really f—ed” Burton says with a laugh. “I was doing research and started feeling ill because I remember that so well.” If an 18th-century vampire was going to emerge from his grave at a time and place that would baffle and terrify him, Burton felt 1972 was the perfect choice: “The ’70s were weird then, and they’re weird now.”
Coincidentally, Moretz turned 14 two months before shooting the movie, and Burton urged her to capture some of that angst in her character Carolyn, a sullen teenager adjusting to life with her odd new pseudo-uncle. “Tim puts himself into all the characters, but Carolyn is a lot like him, in a way,” Moretz says. “They’re both from smaller towns and have all these ideas and dreams of what they want to be, but feel stuck in a small world.”
Like Grahame-Smith, Moretz found herself quickly welcomed into the filmmaking family by Depp and Burton, odd pseudo-uncles in their own right who kept pushing her to make her character more feral and menacing. “Even though I’m a kid, I was allowed to be a part of their group, which is rare,” Moretz says. “They didn’t put me in a corner and go, ‘Oh, child, run along and play with your toys.’ I loved to be able to work with a director who allows you to be weird and crazy—and doesn’t just allow it, he embraces it and actually encourages it.”
AS WITH ANY FAMILY, THERE IS also loss-and the Dark Shadows clan suffered some of that as well. Several cast members from the original series showed up to do cameos when the movie filmed in England last summer, including Jonathan Frid, the Canadian actor who originated the role of Barnabas. Sadly, Frid passed away April 14 at age 87, just a month before his most famous character’s pop culture resurrection.
“When I finally met him on the set, he was incredibly sweet about my taking on this character that he essentially created,” Depp says. “He was quite fragile toward the end but had his faculties about him. He was blown away by the sets. And putting his eyeballs on me for the first time, all decked out as a slightly different version of him…it had to be pretty weird for him.”
Frid’s nonspeaking role as a party guest in the film was his first screen performance in 38 years. Now it will also be his last.
“There’s something very weird and tragic about the fact that he died just before the film was released,” Depp says. “If he had stuck it out—if that fate had been dealt to him—he would have really enjoyed the film and enjoyed the attention.”
At the very least, Frid died knowing that Barnabas Collins was in the best—and most joyously creepy—of hands.
Title: Still A-Frid of a Vampire
Author: Michael Culhane
Publication: Famous Monsters of Filmland
Issue: May/June 2012
DARK SHADOWS changed not only TV, but your world. You live in a world where DS brought you sympathetic vampires, Anne Rice novels, and TWILIGHT. This was not simply horror. DARK SHADOWS was a unique pastiche of gothic suspense played out in the strangely appropriate format of soap opera with its need for daily addiction. In its wake, we have pulled horror storylines into the mainstream of our story as a culture.
We’ve spent many it fond moment with Jonathan Frid, who is relatively new to the art of taking credit for what his character, Barnabas Collins, has meant to audiences and to popular culture, but there’s nothing new about his generosity with fans. He gave us his time and kind attention, and here’s what he had to say to us about Barnabas Collins.
Famous Monsters. What did you discover at the heart of the character of Barnabas as you were playing him?
Jonathan Frid. Barnabas, at the beginning, is a displaced person with this terrible compulsion and fear of discovery. He is very much alone, trapped inside what he has become. Once the writers showed how it all came to be, the man Barnabas once was begins to emerge. It is almost as if he can shake off the dust and begin again—except that his past keeps returning in the form of Angelique.
FM. What do you think would surprise most people about the character of Barnabas who are being newly introduced to him?
JF. That he is capable of great evil as well as good. He kidnaps Maggie Evans, frames Willie, chains up Adam, murders a number of people, with great glee. He is not your classic hero of the storybooks.
FM. Your contribution to the character of Barnabas guarantees his placement in the pantheon of classic tragic characters. Tell us what you brought to the role that you think made such a lasting impression.
JF. I think there was an immediacy that registered with the viewers. We let the story tell itself, to a certain extent, and we let: the viewers bring their own imaginations into play. We as actors tried not to get in the way of that. But also, I played the role as a dramatic actor, and the role of Barnabas has aspects of many characters I had played and I could relate to those, draw on those: Richard, Caliban [both Shakepeare].
FM. What about Barnabas makes him more human than ‘monster?
JF. He is seeking to recreate a lost love, and he has this difficulty moving on. He loathes what he has become, but thinks he is trapped; and, to some extent, he is, because of this one mistake he makes as a young man in Martinique.
FM. And what is his most monstrous characteristic?
JF. Besides being a murderer? He has this thirst for vengeance and it overpowers his good sense.
FM. In what way do you anticipate watching Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins attempt to reanimate the character you made indelible in our culture?
JF. I expect he is going to make the character his own, and that is as it should be. He is a very talented actor.
FM. What similarities to the dark and terrible side of Barnabas do you find in other roles you have played?
JF. I’ve mentioned some of them: Caliban, Richard. In the movie SEIZURE, which Oliver Stone directed, the character I played betrays people close to him, who trust and depend on him.
FM. What other classic horror figures or roles do you think you would have enjoyed playing and why?
JF. I don’t know. I don’t think of the roles as horror roles, although there is certain evil in play. I suppose the monk in Hunchback of Notre Dame. I have played a number of wicked clergymen. When we were doing DARK SHADOWS, someone else got to play those classic roles: Mr. Hyde, the Wolfman, Frankenstein.
FM. FAMOUS MONSTERS magazine featured DARK SHADOWS four times on its cover when the show was running. What can you say to fans who loved the DARK SHADOWS series and are awaiting the new film with a mixture of enthusiasm and nerves?
JF. I’m grateful to you all and I’m looking forward to the new-film. It will be different than the series. It has to be. And that’s fine.
FM. What about DARK SHADOWS made 20 million kids run home from school?
JF. It was different than anything else that was on at that time. People engaged with the characters, cared what happened to them. Some of the storylines, some of the acting, the writing, when it came together, it was very good. And when there was a mistake or something didn’t work, we just very quickly moved on. The viewers, like the actors, wanted to know what was going to happen next. The story could move very quickly and if you missed a week or two, it took a little while to figure out what was going on. When you did, you could find yourself in an entirely different time period, or in some band of parallel time.
FM. Johnny Depp and Tim Burton were fans of the show themselves as kids. What do you think they’ll bring to DARK SHADOWS that will take it in a new direction?
JF. That’s a question better addressed to them. It is more than 45 years later. So much has happened. They’ll bring everything they’ve done before to this new story—the characters, the plot line can’t be the same, and shouldn’t be.
FM. Kathryn Leigh Scott told me you had a great experience on the set in London, that you met Johnny Depp and that he said “‘none of us would be here without you.” Tell us what advice you were able to offer to Johnny about the role.
JF. I would not have presumed to offer any advice. We were really there very briefly, for a cameo. It is Johnny Depp’s movie, and Tim Burton’s.
FM. What was it like interacting with the new cast alongside some of your former colleagues from the original series?
JF. It was good to get together with David Selby and Kathryn Leigh-Scott and Lara Parker. In recent years, I’ve only seen them at the DARK SHADOWS festivals, and then only briefly, because I tend to hole up on my own working on my own performances. I did do some scenes from MASS APPEAL with David at the last festival in New York, and I was pleased to have that opportunity. He was wonderful to work with.
Author: Michael Culhane
Publication: Famous Monsters of Filmland
Issue: May/June 2012
DARK SHADOWS, if this is your initiation, is now the gold standard for atmospheric horror TV of the 60s—a show so influential to a generation that only now, with the upcoming Tim Burton/Johnny Depp cinematic incarnation, do we see it as the revered cultural reference that it was destined to become.
For example, if you saw this current remake of FRIGHT NIGHT and were paying attention, you may have caught the dialogue when Toni Collette wonders about strange new neighbor Colin Farrell and later why her own house is bedecked with garlands of garlic clove and crucifixes.
“It looks like that show Dark Shadows!” she says.
Think of it as a web series; a low-budget, live-theater experiment; or some kind of unheard of short-form television. But whatever it seems like to viewers now, the original DARK SHADOWS TV show (1966-1971) was a noir-gothic-turned supernatural soap opera, airing daily in the afternoon, with storylines freely and gleefully borrowed from FRANKENSTEIN, REBECCA, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Edgar Allan Poe.
The show was not just unusual but unique for its prime-time content (Vampires! Werewolves! Love-starved witches!), which aimed for advertising’s stay-at-home moms and captured a nation of kids dubbed “The Creepyboppers” by Newsweek magazine, who literally ran home from school with millions of other kids to catch the show. (Remember FM’ers: no video, no internet, no reruns of soap operas!)
What was with the appeal? Putting aside its eventual mash-up of time travel, gothic horror, and literary suspense—including; Wolfman-style transformations, headless ghosts, and haunted corridors—the core drama centered on Barnabas Collins, the ultimate prodigal son, and Angelique, the anything-but-angelic witch who wrought the vampire curse upon Barnabas in a fit of love-spurned pride. Barnabas suffered the curse by his once-lover Angelique and came back to life as a reluctant vampire after 200 years of being put on pause by his father, who thought his son better-off chained in a coffin. When Barnabas knocked on the door of the Collins family manse after two centuries of being undead and was invited in, the show—both dramatically and ratings-wise—took off.
Plus, there was good, old-fashioned, mysterio-noir drawing-room drama taking place at Collinwood: love stories, family feuds, great-looking chicks and dudes in period costumes, and lots of supernatural treachery. Woven throughout and punching the drama was the signature theme music with Theremin cues (the Original Music from Dark Shadows soundtrack by Robert Cobert was a Top 20 Billboard hit). And it was all against a backdrop of inventively strange sets, mixing together like a bubbling mad scientist’s brew.
Performed mainly by stage actors and shot live to tape every day, the compelling cast exuded edgy intensity -including their desperate searches for teleprompters, the drama of which certainly underscored (and sometimes upstaged!) the drama in the plot. For all these reasons, and for the ownership its generation of fans claimed of the series, DARK SHADOWS had a rabidly loyal fan base, a giant share of the viewing audience, and wildly famous stars—its top actors reaching almost Beatles-level mania at the peak of its run. Rumors of its low-production values and bloopers are true, and part of the charm. Discerning viewers were hooked— stay-home-from-work-and-marathon-it hooked!
DARK SHADOWS episodes were a singular thing in TV history: a daily fright buzz for viewers when we usually had to wait days for our next doses of must-see TV, whatever our favorite. DS storylines rose and fell, up and down with weekly and daily climaxes, leaving millions of kids hanging at the end credits, already hoping against hope that tomorrow they could race home from the bus in time to see more.
So here, we present your indispensable Dark Shadows guide— including FM exclusives, like our Jonathan Frid interview—in which you’ll find out what exactly is the deal with that show, and how it broke ground early and often for television. You’ll get the scoop on all the series’ fang-tastic highs and lows. And you’ll meet the four most hypnotic characters ever to be on a TV screen: Barnabas, Josette, Angelique, and Quentin. It’s obvious how hypnotic these characters could be. We ran home every day to see them!