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1 May 2012   Articles No Comments

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.

1 May 2012   Articles No Comments

Title: Welcome to Collinwood: Dark Shadows 101

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!

1 May 2012   Articles No Comments

Title: Tim Burton Steps into the Shadows

Author: Justin Beahm

Publication: Famous Monsters of Filmland

Issue: May/June 2012

Tim Burton’s 13th birthday fell on a weekday in 1970—a Tuesday, to be precise. After trudging through another uninspiring school day, the young artist sprinted to his Burbank, California home, plating himself in front of the television. A quick Dr. Frankenstein-inspired twist of a knob brought the box to electric life, fading in to reveal the chiseled face of a ghost named Gerard Stiles forcing a terrified David Collins backwards across a room. Burton grinned from ear to ear as he navigated the following thirty minutes of his favorite television show, DARK SHADOWS, which, unbeknownst to him at the time, was helping cement a foundation on which he would one day build a bizarre cinematic empire.

“I was in the generation that ran home to watch DARK SHADOWS, which might be why I was such a lousy student.”‘ the director laughs of his afternoon preoccupation withCollinwood Manor and its inhabitants. “There was nothing like it on television.'” Nothing, indeed. Werewolves, vampires, graveyards, and haunted mansions were hardly the stuff of naptime filler for stay-at-home moms, but these genre staples were the lifeblood of ABC’s surprise hit soap, not to mention core imagination vitamins for dreamy-eyed aspiring filmmaker Burton. “Vampires in the afternoon? Who would have thought?” he considers.

In reality, the show’s appeal did have a relatively short first run as far as soap operas go, disappearing from airwaves in the spring of 1971 after five years of daily weekday production. “I was quite sad when it went off the air.” laments Burton, admitting, “but some of the plots were getting kind of funny by then.”

Forty-two years, over thirty films, and one Academy Award nomination later, Burton is resurrecting DARK SHADOWS, re-introducing the long-dormant property to the world with a new take on the tale. The key, he shares, is to tap into what made the original series so special.

“It was just one of those beautiful things where there was a weird, unexpected chemistry that clicked. Sometimes accidents are the most powerful, and that was a case of an accident working,” the one-time Disney artist admits. “There was a weird energy to it. We tried to keep the spirit of that. I tried to find people I felt could get into it, and try to capture that weird vibe.”

Burton set about gathering a familiar tribe around writer Seth Grahame-Smith’s (ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER) screenplay, bringing some notable regulars along for the trip. Michelle Pfeiffer (BATMAN RETURNS) is playing Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, Helena Bonham Carter (SWEENEY TODD) takes a turn as Dr. Julia Hoffman, and Johnny Depp (you name it) is bringing cursed vampire Barnabas Collins back to the silver screen. Jonny Lee Miller, Chloe Moretz, Gulliver McGrath, Alice Cooper, and Jackie Earle Haley also star. Danny Elfman is returning to Burton territory to handle the score.

The story begins with young Barnabas traversing the seas to America, trying to escape the curse that plagues his family. Twenty years later, Collins sits above the town of Collinsport, Maine, the wealthy master of Collinwood Manor, but makes the fatal mistake of breaking the heart of Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), a witch who dooms the playboy to eternal life as a vampire, before burying him alive.

Two hundred years later, Barnabas’s resting place is disturbed, and he emerges into the world of 1972. The hesitant bloodsucker makes his way back to Collinwood Manor in search of answers and finds the remnants of his family a dysfunctional lot, necessitating Matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard to hire Dr. Julia Hoffman as a live-in psychiatrist to assist with the myriad of issues. Barnabas is swept into the fray, forced to deal with the perfect storm of the modern world, a troubled family, and his own struggle with craving blood.

Family dynamic is important to get right, shares Burton. “I always saw DARK SHADOWS as more of a weird family story, which was what intrigued me. It just happened to have a very strong supernatural element to it. It felt like it could be any family. There is a tendency inside the family to create your own private hell. I tried to base it in real feelings, less supernatural.”

Less supernatural means light on effects, a stark contrast to recent CG-heavy Burton fare like ALICE IN WONDERLAND and CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. “Obviously we are dealing with effects, but it was important to me not to get too effects-heavy, so it remains with the characters. For us it was about keeping it as human and personal as possible. Every effect we do is to make it not seem like an effect.”

Like Burton, Depp, who also produced, saw the project as a fantasy opportunity, having long dreamed about one day playing Barnabas (a role originally made famous by Jonathan Frid). “One of the reasons Johnny wanted to do it was that he was a fan as well,” shares Burton of his frequent leading man. “He was really into DARK SHADOWS, and has been talking about it for some time. He was definitely pushing for it.”

Burton is quick to credit Depp with finding the subtle nuances in Barnabas that really bring the melancholy character to life. “I think [Barnabas] is definitely a reluctant vampire. He needs to eat like everyone else on occasion, but there is a certain kind of selflessness, his sort of theatricality. The way he spoke and was kind of a weird poet, out of place and out of time, with a certain sadness about him. With the way Johnny looks at people with a certain intensity, there is a power. In any portrayal, when you are inspired by something, you don’t just do something all new. He brought some of the original Barnabas traits, and was inspired by that gravity, intensity, and that piercing gaze.”

As for the look of the signature vamp, the director was careful not to stray too far from the source material, while bringing an important physical quality to the fore. “We tried different things, but ended up figuring out why we liked it and did a nod to Jonathan Frid’s Barnabas. With the hands, because of the sensitive nature of the character, I like the idea of the fingers being elongated and more tactile. There’s something poetic about that that fits into who Barnabas is.”

As for the time lapse as opposed to time travel storyline, Burton referenced his youth, explaining, “The show did time travel a bit too much, to be honest. In this story, it is obviously the modern time. That goes back to my childhood, and a time where everyone looked kind of strange to me. The idea of Barnabas being in 1972, a modern era for him, where everything seemed strange and weird at the same time, seemed right to explore. It goes back to when the series ended, too. These characters seem to fit better in that era to me.”

In the television show, viewers tended to favor either vampire Barnabas or werewolf Quentin Collins, played by David Selby; yet the lycanthrope is nowhere to be found in Burton’s Collinsport. “Because it was a show that went on for so long, and everybody has their favorite characters or stories or whatever, we are bound to piss off somebody. There are lots of different storylines to go off of. It wasn’t a big intellectual choice. There are only so many characters you can deal with. Maybe next time.”

While Selby’s fan favorite character didn’t make it into this take on DARK SHADOWS, the actor does make an appearance in the film, along with Frid, Lara Parker, and Kathryn Leigh Scott. “They were kind enough to bless the set one day,” smiles Burton of having his childhood heroes present during production. “It was a nice moment.”

As for any concerns about pleasing the massive DARK SHADOWS fanbase, the director shrugs, “I’ve always had the ability to make anything seem kind of cheesy. I hope we don’t upset too many people.”

1 April 2012   Articles No Comments

Title: Blood Lines

Author: Richard Jordan

Publication: Total Film

Issue: April 2012

A deathly pale Johnny Depp stands on a cliff the long tails of his velvety jacket flapping wildly in the breeze. He drops to his knees at the edge, a look of confused horror across his face as he stares down into the abyss…


The ground-shuddering whir of two gigantic wind machines comes to a halt and Depp gets up and dusts himself off as an army of production staff scurry onto the set, preparing for the next take. “Bella, you good?” shouts the formidable First AD from the grassy verge. There’s a short, nervous pause, before a disembodied female voice pipes up from the giant blue crashmat below… “Yeah. That was so much fun!”

It’s September 2010 and Total Film has travelled to Pinewood Studios, where Tim Burton is in the final phase of shooting his Dark Shadows — a twisted take on a cult ’60s/’70s TV favourite. Regular mucker Depp is playing Barnabas Collins, an 18th Century fish-canning magnate turned into a bloodsucker and buried by vengeful witch Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), only to be dug up two centuries later in an alien-looking 1972. The ‘Bella’ currently scrambling to her feet, meanwhile, is Aussie actress Bella Heathcote, the young starlet playing Barnabas’ doomed (or is she?) lover,  Josette DuPres.

“This scene is 200 years before the picture actually goes into full motion,” explains producer Richard D Zanuck, stepping out from behind a monitor. Dressed in crisply-pressed jeans and tucked-in, open-collared shirt with a healthy shock of white hair, the legend behind Jaws – here re-teaming with Burton for the sixth time — makes for a compelling tour guide. “She’s put in a trance and sent out there by Angelique” he continues, referring to Heathcote’s suicidal cliff jump. “Johnny jumps after her and survives… because he’s turned into a vampire.”

Descending the scaffolded cliff top with a light-footed swagger, Depp comes over to greet us with a friendly handshake, his face caked in face-whitening make-up. “Over the years all these vampire movies have come out and nobody looks like a vampire anymore.” he chuckles of his increasingly ghostly pallor. “I adored Dracula, from Bela Lugosi to Christopher Lee, Max Shreck in Nosferatu… all these wonderful horror Elms. So this was really an opportunity to sort of go into what really doesn`t exist so much anymore — that classic monster make—up.”

“It`s this idea of the sort of reluctant vampire — the tortured soul who feels at odds with the world.” chips in the animated Burton, taking a quick break from consulting with two rake-swinging set dressers on how to make sure the heath-covered cliff remains perfectly unkempt (“Just fluff it up or whatever”). Even the artists with tight black jeans a billowy black shirt and unwieldy, greying hair, the director is clearly excited to be working with Depp for the eighth time. “Johnny’s kind of a Boris Karloff or Lon Chaney-style actor”  he enthuses. “There’s that whole theory of ‘mask acting’ – if you’re hiding behind a bit of make-up it allows something else to come out of you – and I find that fascinating.”

Don’t go expecting a typical ‘vampire movie’. Though… “It’s a little off-centre, like most of Tim’s pictures.” explains Zanuck. “‘This one is probably more off-centre than anything he`s ever done really; because it’s part based on a soap opera. You can`t categorise it with one word. It’s a supernatural horror comedy action picture. It`s the perfect blending of genres For Tim.”

Next, Total Film enters the cavernous entrance hall of Collinswood Manor, Barnabas’ grand, ancestral home. Huge sculptures of mermaids and sea gods line the walls and an impressive stone fireplace is flanked by two giant seahorses (a nod to the Collins` fishy legacy), while family portraits in chunky gold frames stare down from above. It’s almost typically Burton-esque, with more than a hint of Batman’s Wayne Manor in its gothic stylings.

It’s here that the undead Barnabas returns to find a whole new clan of his  own descendants -including Michelle Pfeiffer’s matriarch, Cloe Grace Moretz`s rebellious hippie teen and Johnny  Lee Millers ne’er-do-well  uncle – with whom he must reintegrate. They’re the ultimate dysfunctional family… “What l liked about Shadows is it’s a story about family;” says Burton. “I grew up resisting family and then as l got older l realised what a strange and chaotic but important thing it is. [He has two children with his partner Helena Bonham Carter, who plays the film’s family psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman.] I think all families are pretty  weird…. We’ve just tried to link the supernatural elements into real issues that families face: like the feelings of a teenager growing up, when your body’s changing and you’re angry at everybody; or the challenge of trying to keep the family together – whether they’re alive or dead!”

Facing that challenge is Michelle Pfeiffer as the stoic Elizabeth Collins Stoddard. Herself a fan of the original show, Pfeiffer phoned Burton as soon as she heard he was making the film…”I was like, ‘Wow. I haven’t heard from you in like 20 years!”‘ remembers Burton, who first worked with the actress on l992`s Batman Returns. “It brought back how much I enjoyed working with her. Her Catwoman was one of my favourite performances in any movie I’d worked on. I remember how she impressed me by letting a live bird fly out of her mouth and dancing around on rooftops with high-heeled shoes. On this movie she had trouble walking down the stairs in heels, so she`s gone down on that level – but on every other level she was great!”

From where we’re standing, though, the Collins’ household isn`t looking too healthy. In the middle of the hall’s tiled floor lies the shattered fragments of a colossal chandelier, surrounded by torn curtains and scorched upholstery. Unless we’re very much mistaken, this set has played host to a destructive action set-piece… “I call that the never-ending scene!” laughs Eva Green, the one-time Bond girl who stars as Barnabas centuries-old magical nemesis, Angelique. “It’s a complicated scene mid we filmed it for many weeks. They called it the battle royale! It’s her and Barnabas having a domestic. I was on wires and Johnny was making fun of me because he knew I`n1 scared of heights. But yeah, we just beat each other up — it was very funny.”

You’re not bored yet?” asks Depp with a wry smile, patting us on the shoulder. Not at all. Total Film has reached our final destination: Collinsport, Maine — a fictional ’70s fishing town created in staggering detail atop a platform surrounding Pinewood’s gargantuan outdoor water tank (here doubling as a boat-filled harbour). It’s a little slice of vintage America; the streets are lined with muscular Mustangs and brightly coloured Plymouths: retro Coca-Cola signs hang over the drugstores and bars: the ‘Crusty Claw’ cafe advertises its “freshly boiled crab and lobster” on authentically scrawled chalk boards. It’s here that Barnabas and Angelique’s rival fish-canning factories sit, looming, at opposite ends of the port…

The film’s period setting is in fact a nod to its origins, Dork Shadows aired from 1966 to 1971 in the States and became a cult hit thanks to bizarre storylines, wobbly sets and campy melodrama. “I remember sprinting home from school to see it.” laughs Depp, who bought the rights to the show through his own production company before tempting Burton on board. “I loved it – this soap opera with gothic vampires. Jonathan Frid [the original Barnabas] was such a striking presence — there’s a sliver of him here.”

‘There are other inspirations to be found, too. As Total Film walks through the streets of Collinsport, we spot the magnificent ‘Roxy’ theatre sporting a poster for Dracula AD. I972 — a Hammer ‘classic’ in which Christopher Lee’s ancient Count is unleashed on swinging London. “I showed the DOP and the cast The Legend Of Hell House and Dracula 72 — they were the only two reference points we used.” says Burton (he neglected to show the uninitiated cast any Shadows episodes for fear they would ape the “terrible acting”). “Hammer’s always been popular to me — the trend started when I was five years old and those inspirations stay with you. Those movies are the reason why I like making movies.”

Still, even Burton acknowledges that Shadows was a tough sell to the studio — but does he think it will be a tough sell to audiences in a summer full of superheroes and sequels? “Oh probably, yeah. I never know, honestly,” he admits matter-of-factly. “Any novel ever made could have gone either way. One of my favourites, Ed Wood, was the biggest bomb I ever made. I never try to predict. I learned early on — I’d done a couple of movies like Beetlejuice and Batman and I thought I could do whatever I wanted, and then Edward Scissorhands was the hardest movie ever to get made. Up until a few years ago, if I said I wanted to use Johnny in a movie it was like ‘Er, I don’t know…’ and now they beg you to use him. So things change, but I still get notes like, ‘Ooh, that’s a bit dark.’ I got that on Batman and now that looks like a light-hearted romp!”

1 January 2012   Articles No Comments

Title: Leading Man Johnny Depp

Author: Kris Grant

Publication: Inland Empire

Issue: January 2012

Photo1Don’t bother telling Johnny Depp that he was named the most popular actor of 2011 by the Harris Interactive Poll (beating out Denzel Washington and John Wayne). And its better left unsaid that he was the highest paid actor for 2010 with an income of $75 million, and, publease don’t make Johnny squirm by reminding him that he was twice named the Sexiest Actor Alive (2003 and 2009) by People maga­zine. He’s just not into the accolades; Johnny Depp is more interested in going deep, looking for the next role to play…characters with intensity, idiosyncrasies and often a bit of a dark side. He sheepishly confessed to CNN’s Larry King that before his bil­lion-dollar blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) and its three sequels that he had been known in the confines of Hollywood as “box office poison.” “Yeah, I built a career on 20 years of failures” he proclaimed. That may be overstating things a bit, Johnny. True, Depp has gravitated to roles of off kilter, quirky characters. But while not all his films may have been commercial successes, most were critically acclaimed and firmly established Depp as an artist who cares passionately about his craft, his relationships and his causes.

A high school dropout, Depp came to Los Angeles as a guitarist with a garage band that opened for other bands, for little or no money. “We were all so broke,” he says. He survived by selling ballpoint pens over the phone. “I guess you could say it was my first acting job,” Depp quips. Shortly thereafter, he met actor Nicolas Cage, who paved the way to a part in Nightmare on Elm Street. A minor role in Oliver Stone’s Platoon followed, and then four seasons of the TV crime drama “21 Jump Street” which, for better or worse, established the young actor as a teen idol. “It was so hard because it wasn’t who I was,” says Depp, who eventually broke the shackles of his contract.

The title role in the romantic fantasy Edward Scissorhands (1990), the first of several collaborations with direc­tor Tim Burton and later Burton’s romantic partner, actress Helena Bonham Carter, was Depp’s breakthrough suc­cess. Under Burton’s direction, Depp played the lead in Ed Wood (1994) as the alcoholic cross-dressing, notoriously awful B-movie film director, and in Sleepy Hallow (1995), he portrayed Ichabod Crane, sent to investigate three decapitations by the legendary Headless Horseman.

Other Burton-Depp films have included Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), with Depp playing eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka; Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), which marked his debut as a singer and for which he received a second Oscar Best Actor nomination; and Alice in Wonderland (2010).

“With Tim, its home,” Depp said during an appearance at the Actor’s Studio. “I trust him, and trust is the most important thing there is.”

Burton and Depp had often talked about old horror movies “and to have Johnny play some­thing like a monster is, in a way, fantastic” said Burton of Depp’s role as the demon barber.

While on the Sweeney Todd set, Depp proposed the idea of a vam­pire movie. “It was before the Twilight movies came out and I suggested “Dark Shadows,” a soap opera that aired from 1967 through 1971 in the late afternoon. “I had watched it as a kid reli­giously,” Depp says. “I remembered sprinting home from school. I didn’t want to miss a minute of it.”

As it turned out, Burton also watched the show as a kid growing up In Burbank, and he jumped on the project. Production is now complete, with the film scheduled for release in May. Depp plays Barnabas Collins, an 18th century gentleman who was transformed against his wall into a vampire and buried in a tomb for two centuries. In the year 1972, his tomb is dug up by construction workers and Barnabas begins “life” anew.

In the role of the vampire, Depp sports a pale white complexion, a favored look in many of his roles. But Depp’s range of make-up and costumes defies description as he moves from character to character. For the pirate movies, he had two of his teeth capped in gold. As Sweeney Todd, his long black mane was highlighted with a Cruella de Vil-esque white streak. As  the Mad Hatter, he sported wild orange hair and orange eyebrows and digitally enlarged crystalline green eyes- “In my mind, he [The Hatter] is mad,” says Depp. I’ve read stuff about real hatter’s. When they were making the hats, the glue that they used had very high mer­cury content. It would stain their hands and they would go sideways, they would go goofy from the mer­cury, go nuts. It did happen to people; they went mad as a hatter. The hatter’s entire body was affected by the mercury, so much that his clothes, his skin color, his eyes, everything reflected the emotion.”

Bonham Carter played opposite Depp in Alice in Wonderland as the Red Queen and in Sweeney Todd as Mrs. Lovett, who served up the murderous barber’s victims in her meat pies. She credits Depp with the choices he’s made in his career. “He’s never done anything according to a patent or formula or any eye for creating a career or any reliance on his looks.

“I think in a funny way we’re a bit similar in that we don’t have much respect for what we look like and we both like to camouflage ourselves and getting away from ourselves. I know we are both al­lergic to watching ourselves.”

Along the way there was the op­portunity to work with the greats, including Marlon Brando in Don Juan Demarco, Al Pacino in Donnie Brasco, Vincent Price in Scissorhands, Martin Landau in Ed Wood. Depp regards Brando as the great­est actor of all time. “He revolu­tionized acting. He was the pioneer.”

Of course, the biggest commer­cial successes of Johnny Depp’s ca­reer are his four Pirates of the Caribbean flicks. When the Disney Company tapped Depp to bring Captain Jack Sparrow to life on the big screen, they got more than they bargained for.

Depp later told a bemused David Letterman that nervous studio ex­ecutives just couldn’t understand his portrayal. “It started with fran­tic phone calls,” Depp related. “And basically what it got down to was, ‘What is he doing? We can’t un­derstand a word he is saying. Is he drunk? Are you drunk? Is he gay? And then, of course, are you gay?”

Depp goes deep into researching his roles. An avid history buff, Depp began researching pirates of the 1800s and discovered that they had many attributes similar to today’s rock stars; roguish behav­ior, swagger, and bravado. And so he based Jack Sparrow on rock leg­end Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. Flattered, Richards ap­peared as Captain Jack’s father in two sequels. It was the unique qualities that Depp instilled into the character, Letterman pointed out, that made the role fascinating. It also led to his first of three Academy Award nominations for Best Actor; he also picked up Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards as Best Actor for the role.

Disney soon forgave Depp forgave supposedly leading the production I down the plank, especially in light of making more than $1 billion on the first of the Pirate movies; the four films have since brought in more than $3 billion.

Depp and his better half, French actress, singer and model Vanessa Paradis, whom he met on the set of the Roman Polanski film The Ninth Gate, lead a consciously “outside Hollywood5*life. The cou­ple and their children, Lily-Rose, 12, and John Christopher “Jack” Depp III, 10, split their time be­tween homes in Los Angeles and the village of Plan-de-la-Tour, France. There’s also an island in the Ba­hamas that Depp was able to pur­chase with his Pirates’ bounty.

Photo2Depp is happy to have raked in the big bucks with the pirates’ franchise. “It’s for my kids really” he says, adding that he once worked with a guy who told him that money doesn’t change any­body; money reveals them.

“It’s the same with success * says Depp. ”I”ve been revealed; I haven’t changed.”

Currently, Depp is starring in The Rum Diary (2011) a loose interpretation of gonzo-journalist Hunter Thompson’s time working in San Juan, Puerto Rico for an English language newspaper

It was Depp’s second tango with a Thompson book; the first, Fear and Loathing in Lax Vegas- (2008 was based on Thompsons first-person re­portage. The story, which The New York Times heralded as “by far the best book vet written on the decade of dope,” first ran as a two-part series in Rolling Stone maga­zine and Thompson then expanded it into a book, Thomp­son, like many writers, actors and directors with whom Depp works, became a close personal friend. While living with Thompson for a spell, Depp himself found the dusty Rum Diary manuscript while rummaging through old pa­pers in Thompsons basement.

Thompson was excited at the prospects for the manuscript. “‘Colonel,—he always called me Colonel—’we must produce this” Depp says. “So that was the plan.”

Years later, in 2005, Thompson, 67, suffering from painful and chronic medical conditions, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home in Colorado. Depp fi­nanced his funeral, telling the As­sociated Press, “All I’m doing is trying to make sure his last wish comes true. I just want to send my pal out the way he wants to go out” That send-off included shooting Thompson’s ashes out of a cannon fired from a 153-foot tower of the author’s own design—a double-thumbed fist clutching a peyote button, with fireworks launched along with the ashes.

Depp’s social causes have in­cluded his successful campaign to “West Memphis Three,” three men who were convicted as teenagers in 1994 for the 1993 killing of three eight-year-old Arkansas boys dur­ing a time of national fervor over supposed Satanic cult worship. Depp campaigned for their re­lease, appealing on a CBS “48 Hours Mystery” segment titled “A Cry for Innocence”

“I’m here because I firmly, truly, 1,000 percent believe that Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley are totally innocent,” Depp told Erin Moriarty, the shows correspondent. “Every sin­gle piece of evidence points to their innocence, not to their guilt” Depp asserted, explaining that he imme­diately related to Damien Echols, sentenced to death, who as a teenager dressed in “Goth” style.

“He comes from a small town in Arkansas, I come from a relatively small town in Kentucky” Depp said. “I can remember being looked upon as a freak or different because I didn’t dress like everyone else, so I can empathize with being judged for how you look as op­posed to who you are. You want to do all you can, you know, to help light the wrongs, and the clock is ticking,’” he continued. “My biggest fear—it’s almost unutterable—is that justice is not served, not only for the three innocent men in prison, but also for those three lit­tle innocent boys.

“The most courageous action that the state could now take is to admit they made mistakes and then correct these errors.”

“A Cry for Innocence” aired July 24, 2010. After new forensic evi­dence was examined, prosecutors and defense attorneys reached an agreement under a legal maneuver called Alford pleas that allowed them to declare their innocence, while acknowledging the district attorney had enough evidence to prosecute them. The West Mem­phis Three were released from prison in August 2011.

Now Depp, who has some Cherokee blood in his maternal lineage, is in the planning stages of two very different projects. He plans to portray Tonto in a Lone Ranger film, yet to be named. “There is a good, funny script and there’s a boatload of humor,” Depp says, noting that he thought Tonto’s character had been short­changed in the TV series. Deep’s treatment would portray Tonto as crazy-like-a-fox. Filming is set to begin in January.

And then there’s Dr. Seuss—in real life Theodor Geisel, who resided for much of his life on a hilltop estate in La Jolla, Califor­nia. Depp is negotiating with Audrey Geisel on the rights to film her late husband’s story and the characters he brought to life.

And so it goes…a vampire, Tonto and Dr. Seuss are all swirling around in the mind of Johnny Depp, who confesses that he does have a tendency to proba­bly work too much.

“I need to have my brain occu­pied all the time”.

1 December 2011   Articles No Comments

Title: The Hunter and the Haunted

Author: Robert Chalmers

Publication: GQ

Issue: December 2011


At 48, Johnny Depp shouldn’t make any sense. The punk kid turned blockbuster box-office pirate; the Heartthrob who longed for (and achieved) indie credibility; Hollywood’s most bankable enigma. This month, with the release of Hunter S Thompson’s The Rum Diary, the actor is on a personal crusade to honour the gonzo legend – and all the insanity he stood for. GQ finds a man unchanged by the weight of global fame: Johnny Depp, just as we like him, straight, no chaser. Buy the ticket, take the ride…

Those terrible 40 seconds would have moved even the most sceptical man to prayer, but Johnny Depp, remembering the trauma, responds with a deep, sonorous laugh. I mention how film director Bruce Robinson, who was sitting next to Depp when their private jet lost power to all systems over the Pacific, had told me that the actor reacted with similar amusement at the time, contemplating what might have been The last scene in an extraordinary life.

“There was a moment when I thought “Jesus Christ, we’ve had it,” Depp tells me. “We were on a recce for The Rum Diary in Mexico. And the plane just shuts down. Big time. All the lights go out.” He can’t stop himself from laughing again. “Then we go into a strange, uncontrolled descent. I looked at Bruce and said: ‘Is this it?’ And then we both burst out laughing, as we were plunging to what seemed to be our deaths. It felt so F***ing ludicrous it was hysterical. And so we lost it. Laughing our asses off as the plane was going down.”

‘”And then?”

”Everything kicked back in. We made  it through.”

What would we have lost, if that small jet had gone down in the ocean off San Diego? In Depp, the finest cinema actor of his era – of, some of us would argue, any other. In Bruce Robinson, a screenwriter of breathtaking wit and imagination. Best known for his majestically louche comedy Withnail And I and his script for The Killing Fields, Robinson has escaped wider recognition only through his refusal to yield to the rigid and parochial orthodoxies of Hollywood. How amusing would that have been, once Puerta Vallarta, the two men’s  airport of departure, had achieved the kind of grotesque but indelible fame conferred on Munich and Lockerbie?

Another immediate casualty would have been The Rum Diary, a project the two men had been collaborating on for several years. The film is based on Hunter S Thompson’s novel of the same name, itself inspired by the American writer’s experiences as a young reporter in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The book, though completed in the early Sixties, wasn’t published until 1998. It was Depp himself who found the novel’s original manuscript 15 years ago, staying with Thompson in preparation for his role in Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas. Discarded in an old box, the novel had been buried among the writer’s miscellaneous notes and other unpublished works.

I’d imagined that Depp, having been very close to Thompson, who committed suicide in 2005, might be offended when I argue that the Film of The Rum Diary is a far more accomplished piece of work than Thompson’s book. In the same way I suggest, that Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps eclipsed the John Buchan thriller that inspired it.

“No,” says Depp, who’s unwinding in the living room of a rented house in London’s Mayfair, following a night shoot for his next film, Dark Shadows, directed by Tim Burton. “I understand what you’re saying. I‘ve read The Rum Diary, the book, countless times. Hunter understood its flaws. I remember Bruce calling me one day when he was working on the script. He said, ’I’ve sussed it. Hunter has split himself between two characters” I went “Oh, f*** me, you’re right! That is what he did, and it is, undeniably, a great distraction on the page.”

I imagine it’s just possible that there are some readers unfamiliar with the life and work of Dr Hunter S Thompson. He was – as his soul mate and illustrator; the Wallasey-born artist Ralph Steadrnan used to warn strangers – not a medical practitioner.

Thompson had a lifelong attraction to firearms and tear gas, and a history of igniting marine flares in situations of no obvious nautical emergency: he detonated one in a Manhattan pizzeria while he was having lunch with Tom Wolfe. Once he had established his international reputation, Hunter S Thompson brought the hubris of a delinquent rock guitarist to the sedate world of American letters.

Thompson shot himself in the kitchen at Owl Farm, his small ranch in Woody Creek, near Aspen, Colorado, in February 2005. Depp, with typical generosity, funded a lavish memorial event at Aspen’s Jerome Hotel. Later that same year, he organised the detonation of Thompson’s remains. The writer’s ashes were blown into the night sky, in accordance with his wishes, from a 153—feet high column, to the accompaniment of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”.

Through our mutual friend Steadrnan, I’ve met Depp several times before, at Owl Farm and at the Jerome Hotel in Aspen, though we’ve not previously spoken for publication. I remember one long afternoon, the day after Thompson’s funeral, spent sitting around a table at the Jerome, over bottles of red wine, with Steadman, Depp, Harry Dean Stanton, Bill Murray and the Kentucky—born artist Joe Petro III. I mention those others not simply for the joy of name—dropping, but because my main memory of Depp was of how quietly attentive he was in that company and how unusual in his dedication to observing others.  Surprisingly for a man with seemingly limitless facial dexterity, that “Yes, that’s right, you know who I am” look is one expression that, off·screen at least, is entirely absent from Johnny Depp’s repertoire.

So much so that – this is nothing to be proud of I know – the first time l spoke to Depp, in a hallway at the Jerome, I didn’t immediately recognise him. I do recall that I’d already had time to be impressed by his curiosity and intelligence even before somebody came up and addressed him by name.

“I was extremely surprised when we first met him,” Ralph Steadman says. “Because generally when somebody is that famous, and that beautiful – l actually think he is almost too beautiful to draw —l tend to assume that they are going to be a s***. But Johnny is kind, courteous and very bright; a perfect Southern gentleman.”

In The Rum Diary, Depp, 48, quite effortlessly and with utter conviction, passes for a man of 21. ”It’s all a bit sickening” l told Steadman. ”I know,” the painter replied. ”But there’s no getting away from it.”

Johnny Depp may have one or two assets that most of us don’t: the outstanding talent as a guitarist; the seemingly innate ability to replicate any accent; the 35-acre island in the Bahamas. But you wouldn’t guess it from his manner. Depp has retained certain attributes, that, with the onset of great fame, are usually the first to go: I’m thinking of modesty bordering on diffidence, the ability to listen as well as talk and a lack of vanity. (”I suppose,” as Terry Gilliam put it, “when you’re that good looking, you don’t have to worry about vanity”) The really irritating thing is the way that, where his appearance is concerned, he doesn’t seem to have to make an effort.

“Nobody” in the words of John Waters, who directed him in the 1990 high—school musical parody Cry-Baby, ”looks better in rags.”

That said, Depp inhabits a different world. Sit down for a glass of wine and a plate of tortilla and chips with him in a bar and two men will discreetly rope you off from the main area. I remind him how, late one evening in Aspen, he’d told me he had to leave for LA. “I said: Well, you’d better get a move on – the last flight goes before midnight” And you said…” “It’s my plane,” Depp recalls, with no pride.

And then, according to People magazine, Johnny Depp has been the sexiest man in the world for two out of the past nine years, most recently in 2009. “Me and Steadman didn’t enter that year,” I tell him. “We thought we’d give you a clear run. We just got weary of it.”

Depp laughs at this for slightly longer than I’d consider polite.

“You do have to laugh at some point,” he says. Imagine – someone votes you the sexiest man in the f***ing world? I feel like saying: “What? What does that mean?”‘

Johnny Depp first visited Hunter S Thompson at Woody Creek in late 1995. The writer made his entry brandishing two cattle prods that shot jagged blue lines of electricity into the air and the meeting culminated with Thompson inviting Depp to fire at a propane canister primed with nitroglycerine, in the Field to the rear of Owl Farm, sending a 75-foot ball of Flame into die night sky “He was not,” the actor observed, “a disappointment”.

Depp was with his then girlfriend Kate Moss and her mother who, as he said at the time, “thought Hunter was a madman and horribly dangerous, and that we should escape as soon as possible”.

In The Rum Diary, the actor gives a bravura performance as Paul Kemp, an incarnation of the young Thompson, who, having lied his way into journalism, is both horrified and entranced by the corruption and debauchery of low life in Puerto Rico. The film marks the culmination of the ten-year friendship that developed between the two men.

”There is more of Hunters spirit in The Rum Diary than in any other film I’ve seen,” I tell the actor “Fiction or documentary I found it eerie; a bit like looking into a part of his soul. At the same time he is a reporter at that point. And didn’t you once say ’I don’t really understand reporters. I don’t understand the animal?”’

“But what Hunter did was a different kind of journalism,” says Depp. “Observation was clearly part of it, but really Hunter was beyond observation. He lived it. And I understood – still understand -him very very well. I lived with the f * **er, as you know.”

Some actors, according to Terry Gilliam (who directed Johnny Depp in Fear And Loathing, Lost In La Mancha and The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus) are still fervently bonded to the Lee Strasberg school of Method acting. Depp, as Gilliam perceptively observed, works ”through osmosis”. By way of preparation for his role as Raoul Duke in Fear And Loathing — a character inspired by the more aberrant aspects of Thompson’s own psyche — the actor spent weeks sleeping at Owl Farm. Last time l saw the small room he slept in, only a year or two ago, it was still, as then, occupied mainly by spiders. Depp used to extinguish his cigarettes on the makeshift bedside table, an upended gunpowder keg.

”I’d been there for five days,” he remembers, “smoking in bed, before he told me the keg was still full of explosive.”

The offer of a sleepover at Owl Farm is one that few of us who spent any time with Dr. Thompson would have rushed to accept. While he was there, Depp didn’t so much observe his subject as assimilate his spirit.

”You’ve talked about how, when you play characters from life — John Dillinger (in Public Enemies, 2009) or Lord Rochester (in The Libertine, five years earlier) they can come almost to inhabit you. As I recall, when you were playing Rochester – a tour de force in which Depp is memorably assisted by Johnny Vegas – you said, ‘I believe that Rochester paid me a couple of visits.”‘

“I have felt that very strongly. Especially on that occasion. Rochester was most assuredly…there. That’s the only way I can explain it. That’s what I feel”

Depp’s body famously commemorates certain life experiences; they include one tattoo dedicated to his mother; another of a native American chief, and scars from self-inflicted knife wounds, a legacy of his troubled youth. Sustained proximity to Hunter S Thompson seems to have marked Depp forever to the point when a mother might say; “Be careful, or your face will stick like that .”

Both men were born in Kentucky but the actor’s voice, especially when he talks about Thompson, sometimes sounds as if he’s channelling the writer with the brusque, staccato phrasing and pauses of up to five seconds (a very long time in routine conversation – try it) between thoughts.

”When we were filming The Rum Diary,” Depp says, “Hunter was a presence, you know. We had a chair on the set with his name on it. We had [his trademark accessories] a bottle of Chivas Regal, a highball glass filled with ice, his Dunhills and cigarette holder”.

“The pepper grinder?” l ask, referring to the other ever-present possession, which Thompson used for his own, non-culinary requirements.

“No,” Depp laughs. “l figured Hunter would provide that. Otherwise we had the whole deal. It was all there.”

The Rum Diary is, as you might expect from Bruce Robinson, witty grotesque and eloquently deranged. And, for all that, deeply moving, especially in its final scenes.

“I’m glad you thought that. Because what we see at the end is the young Hunter moving on. He’d discovered all the ingredients that would be a part of his life but were not necessarily in the mix by then. But those were ingredients he retained throughout his life.” Meaning? ”Rage, honesty and a hatred of bulls***.”

You don’t need to sit through many hours of the insipid, formulaic melodramas that dominate the output of the major Hollywood studios to under’ stand something Budd Schulberg, writer of On The Waterfront, said not long before his death in 2009. “These days,” he remarked, “are very like the Thirties. We live in a time where the money doesn’t trust the talent”

And it’s remarkable, in such an age of conformity that one name guaranteed to bring both originality of thought and a mass audience to a production, as much as Hitchcock’s once did, is not a studio boss, a producer, or even (other than occasionally) a director.

Whether he’s playing a homicidal accountant in Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man [1995), an opinionated detective, as in Tim Burton’s splendid honor Film Sleepy Hollow [1999], or even battling a mediocre script such as Once Upon A Time In Mexico (2003], Depp’s name on the credits, like Lionel Messi’s on a team sheet, is a solid assurance that you will not be wasting your evening.

Right from the start – once he’d escaped from 21 Jump Street, the Fox TV police series that gave him his first break – Johnny Depp boldly announced that he would never make bad films for money. What major actor hasn’t made that public promise? The difference in Depp’s case is that he’s stuck to it. “Most of the things l want to be involved in” he declared, many years ago, “Aren’t big-budget productions. We’ve all read formula stuff over and over again. I can’t help responding when I read something that really makes me cackle; stays in my memory…  makes me feel.”

“Your instincts regarding which projects to accept or decline have been pretty remarkable,” I say.

”But for years and years, as you well know, I was the guy who was box-office poison”

”When would you say that ended?”

“With Pirates Of The Caribbean, I suppose. But I was fine with that [earlier reputation]. I didn’t mind it at all.”

“Bruce Robinson told me that you approached him for The Rum Diary; he also said that many Americans have trouble understanding Withnail And I, maybe because there’s a peculiarly British aspect to the humour of self-destruction.”

(Withnail, the dark, inspirational comedy forever doomed to be preceded by the adjective “cult”, appeared in 1986. It follows the alcoholic descent of Withnail, played by Richard E Grant, whose character alternates between drink fueled hubris and clinical paranoia; Grant is magnificently supported by his appalled but mesmerised flatmate Paul McGann, who plays a fellow resting actor. Widely cherished in the UK, Withnail And I, with its ironic take on squalor and failure, resonated less powerfully with most North Americans.)

“Oh my God,” Depp says. “Withnail? Oh, my God. For me there are, like, two or three super-top films in my life. One of them is Withnail. Another would be To Have And Have Not”

Bruce Robinson would not, to put it mildly have been top of any Hollywood studio’s list of potential writers for The Rum Diary. After his early success as a screenwriter on The Killing Fields, his disillusion with the industry in LA was completed when he lost artistic control of his 1992 film Jennifer 8, the result of which, as he is the first to admit, was a dog of a film.

“I have written 46 screenplays,” said  Robinson, who talked to me at his home near Hay-on-Wye. “Hardly any of them have been made. Johnny called me up and said, ‘Do you know Hunter S Thompson’s book, The Rum Diary?’ ‘No.’ ’Can I send it to you?’ ’Please do.’ And then, later: ’Do you want to write the script?’ ’Sure.’ ‘Do you want to direct it?’ ’Yes.’ Everything happened like that. I didn’t have any hassle. All because of him. You know that line; what is the definition of a star? Someone who can get a film made. Well, Johnny Depp can.”

Depp’s apprenticeship for stardom I was an improbable one. He spent his early years in Owensboro, Kentucky, a city on the Ohio Riven close to Thompson’s native Louisville. His father John was a civil engineer; his mother, Betty Sue, a waitress. Christi, one of his two older sisters, is his personal manager; Daniel, his elder brother is a novelist and screenwriter. Their parents split up when Johnny was in his teens. “I read that you moved house 30 times as a child; that looks like an exaggeration? “If anything,” says Depp, ”it was an understatement.”

‘”Why so often?”

“My mom. She just wouldn’t be – couldn’t be ·- satisfied in one spot,” he tells me. ”So we’d move to one joint, stay therefor a while, then split to another joint” When he was seven, they relocated to Miramar, Florida. By contrast with the scenic promise in its name, Miramar is a built-up area, half an hour drive inland from the ocean on the north side of Miami, an area that social workers describe as “challenging”.

“Exactly where did you begin your new life in Florida?”

“Living in a filthy motel. I used to have to go out and steal coffee and doughnuts. It was dire.”

“What’s your main recollection of the place, now?”

‘” As a sliver of hell. But as kids, we loved it. Because we didn’t know anything different. And then went on to live in… I don’t know how many houses. We were constantly moving, you know?”

“Like a gipsy existence?”

“That’s what it was, really”

Depp calls himself “kind of a mutt; my great-grandmother was full-blooded Cherokee.” He also has Irish blood. In Miramar today whether listed as a white Caucasian, or Caucasian with Native American blood, Depp would he in an ethnic minority.

“When I was growing up there,” he says, ”the predominant sect were racists. The kids I went to school with were Cuban, black, Asian, or whatever. There was this craziness- race riots every year. And that [racial conflict] never made any f***ing sense to me. I came from Kentucky I had no experience of it. In Miramar, a black kid you were friends with might smack you in the face with a helmet and you’d end up in a fight. And I’d just think, what the f***’s going on?”

”Did that environment help you in your ability with accents?” [No American-born actor ever; has mastered the subtleties of UK English and its regional variations as well as Depp, who – unlike someone like Bette Davis – didn’t have the advantage of coming from New England, where the similarities of pronunciation would give anyone a head start.]

“I was always fascinated by accents as a child. When I was about six or seven, I thought that one day I might become a great impersonator. I became intensely preoccupied with the way people spoke. Also… I do have a musical ear. I taught myself how to play the guitar. I think that was important in terms of learning how to listen.”

He dropped out of school to join a rock band, the Kids. Sufficiently successful to have supported Chuck Berry REM and Iggy Pop, they never secured a record deal. At 20, he married Lori Anne Allison, a make—up artist. Once the band had moved to LA, they changed their name to Six Gun Method, and Depp, after three years of marriage, was single again.

He says his passion for music and books was encouraged and guided by his older brother Daniel, who introduced him to Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, Jack Kerouac’s On The Rood, Allen Ginsbergs poems and Fear and Loathing In Los Vegas.

One of the unusual things about Johnny Depp -— and there are a few — is the way that, though entirely self—taught, he betrays none of the common symptoms of the autodidact (such as difficulty in evaluating sources of information). It would he no surprise to discover that he had an English degree from Princeton. Depp is that rarest thing: an actor with an acute intellectual sensibility who acts not with his IQ but his instinct.

If there is a secret to the success with which he’s applied his unique talent that may be it. But even the most gifted, in any profession, require a modicum of luck. Depp’s break into films has become the stuff of legend. He bumped into his friend Nicolas Cage on the street and told him he needed a job. Cage sent him to his agent, who presented him to director Wes Craven, who gave him a major role in his 1984 Elm Nightmare On Elm Street.

Depp enrolled with a private drama teacher, and in 1986 appeared as a Vietnamese-speaking recruit in Oliver Slone’s Platoon. Then followed his four lucrative but uneasy years starring in 21 Jump Street. lt was his stunning and improbably poignant performance in Tim Burton’s 1990 classic Edward Scissorhands that established him as a phenomenon.

For a young man of a curious or reckless disposition, whatever his line of work, LA can be a dangerous city. Even before he came to California, Depp had something of a reputation for beating himself up physically.

“When l was a kid,” he told Rolling Stone magazine, “drugs were around. My parents went through a nasty divorce. That was just the direction I went in, for a while. I wouldn’t say it was self-medicating. It never had anything to do with fun for me.”

And as his professional reputation grew in Hollywood, so did his reputation` for gregariousness. John Waters, recalling the making of Cry-Baby, talked about presiding over “the most insane cast. Other than Johnny there was the ex—porn star Traci Lords, Patti Hearst and Iggy Pop. We partied as a pack. People would comeinto restaurants, see us, and run away.”

The former companion of actresses Sherilyn Fenn and Jennifer Grey among others, Depp is reputed to have been drinking heavily when he broke up with Winona Ryder in 1993, around the time he was making Lasse Hallstrom’s What’s Eating Gilbert Grope, in which Depp cares for his troubled younger brother, played by Leonardo DiCaprio.

“l don’t trust anyone who hasn’t been self-destructive in some way” Depp told one reporter. “And who hasn’t gone through some sort of bout of self—loathing. You’ve got to bang yourself around a bit to know yourself.”

Even in his darker moments, his sense of irony never deserted him. Following a reported altercation with Kate Moss at the Mark Hotel, New York in 1994, he was billed for almost $10,000 worth of damage to the Presidential Suite. [“I was trying to catch this bug,” Depp explained, “and a couple of articles of furniture happened to get in the way”]

“I’m not going to ask you for an inventory of the pharmaceuticals you took,” I say

“At a certain point in our youth,” Depp replies, “we would put things into our bodies that were unfit to be put into a f***ing automobile. You know what I mean? You wouldn’t put that stuff into a bad car. We treated ourselves like…” The actor pauses. “Anyhow, at a certain point you’ve got to take apart the f***ing motor. Like you open the hood of the car and check over the parts; all the bits and hubs that make it go. Eventually you have to examine yourself in that way.”

He still smokes the occasional hand-rolled cigarette, and drinks red wine, “Because I feel that wine is the elixir of the gods.” He met singer and actress Vanessa Paradis at the Hotel Costes in Paris, in 1998. “I knew at that moment I was done,” Depp laughs. “It was like – OK – it’s over.” [Together since 1999, they have two children, Lily Rose, 12, and Jack, nine.]

He’s still in touch with both his parents. “My dad lives in Florida,” he says. “He’s a pretty tough customer. Betty Sue is living in Kentucky She’s built like a Panzer Division.”

Talking of which, does he have to work hard at looking the way he does?”

“I work out, yes. I train. I run. I do all that s** * that Hunter would be embarrassed by.”

“What made you re-evaluate the way you were living your life? Having children?” A longer pause than usual.

“it was having children that woke me up. To fall in love, to that degree… to fall in lovewith… these little angels. Who didn’t ask to arrive, but who arrived anyway. That was just huge for me. It was like the uplifting of a veil. There was something that it gave me, for the very first time in my life.”

”That thing being?”


“I did find a press cutting from the old days where you declare: ’I am not a bar brawler or a booze—guzzling drug fiend” I don’t recall Julie Andrews ever saying anything like that.”

“You are a bar brawler if you have to be, you know. If you are confronted with some… situation.” Another pause. ”Are you sure I said that? I don’t think it sounds like me.”

“Maybe it wasn’t you,” I suggest. ”Maybe it was Julie Andrews. Now I think about it, I have a feeling that Julie might not be a bad person to have at your side in a bar-room fight.”

“You’re right,” says Depp. “And she’s got the umbrella.”

I spoke to the actress Beatrice Dalle recently I tell the actor, and said how I thought that fame had never done anybody much good. And what Dalle said was, ’Uh, but it has, for me. Fame? It’s great! I love it!’ Not your sentiments, I imagine?

“Er… no. In fact I always have a problem even associating the word ’fame’ with my name, you know.” (“Please,” Depp told a group of British photographers, driving them back with a plank as they tried to photograph a pregnant Vanessa Paradis outside a restaurant in 1999, ”tonight I don’t want to he Johnny Depp.”)

“I’ve had that problem for 20 years.”

“Are you saying it’s hard being you?”

“No. it isn’t very hard being me. It‘s very easy. It’s the people around me who have to deal with all that. I mean… don’t misunderstand me. I feel lucky. I feel blessed to have experienced this road. The thing about [this level of fame] is that there is great potential for weirdness if you want it. But l don’t want anything to do with that stuff. I can’t bear it.”

I remind him of those assistants roping off sections of restaurants. “It can’t be much fun,” I suggest, “not to be able to wander around…”

“It‘s the letting go that’s bad,’“ says Depp. ”That decisive moment when you recognise that you are letting go of your anonymity in the knowledge that it has gone forever. It’s a strange feeling. Especially for a guy who pumped gas. You know what I mean? I f* * *ing pumped gas. I worked construction. And letting go of that possibility of just moving around in the world is strange. But I suppose that’s what you’d call the bill, right? Here comes your bill, kid. Pay it.”

“The other day, somebody said to me: if he doesn’t want to be recognised, why does he wear those clothes?” [Depp still dresses less like an actor, more like a rock star]. “I would get recognised anyway anywhere. What’s the alternative? A full—on disguise?”

A fortnight before we meet, Depp drove down to Ralph Steadmans house, an idyllic and secluded property near Maidstone, Kent. The grounds are large; there’s a pool; the house is not overlooked. (Thompson used to refer to it as Steadmarfs ”castle”.]

“Hello, Johnny Depp” shouted Steadman’s grandson Oliver as the actor arrived. (“Only my mother,” Depp told the six-year old, “ever calls me by my full name!’) “Its so wonderful,” he says, “to relax quietly with a family It’s not very often,” he says, softly ”that I get that sort of opportunity. It’s been a while.”

The Rum Diary is highly unusual in that — whereas most Hollywood movies involve the yoking together of disparate super-egos, this film represents a glorious collision between sympathetic, like-minded mavericks, each bringing their own history to the production.

“l feel like this was the right homage to Hunter,” Depp said. “I was just always searching… searching for his voice.”

Director Bruce Robinson met Hunter S Thompson only once, at the Chateau Marmont,

Los Angeles. It did not go well. ”We didn’t exchange a single word with each other in two and a half hours. He sat there with the Dunhills, the bag of grass, the cocaine grinder and the Chivas Regal. He didn’t say a thing. Then he got up and left.”

But Robinson has a bond with the extended Thompson family through his friendship with Ralph Steadman – without whose assistance, the writer concedes, Withnail And I might never  have been made. The writer worried about the prospects for his film, showed up at Steadman’s home, hoping the painter might provide some artwork for the proposed movie. He entered the grounds in a state of some exuberance.

“I was completely p* * *ed,” Robinson recalls.” Ralph said, ’Take a look at my trees, Bruce” And I apparently said, “Everyone trees, Ralph” But he helped to get Withnail And I made, because his phenomenal piece of artwork expressed what those characters were better than anything else could, except possibly the film itself.”

Steadman, says Depp, “is kind of the strange missing link, in The Rum Diary: the connection between Bruce and Hunter. Ralph was shocked when I told him how much Hunter adored him. And he did. He f***ing worshipped Ralph. But of course he wasn’t going to let Ralph know that.”

Depp and Bruce Robinson share an interest in antiquarian books, fine wines and munitions. In a store room below the Englishmans writing room in Herefordshire is a substantial Supply of explosive devices. The two men got on straight away says Robinson, who, it should be emphasised, doesn’t have the slightest hint of “luvvie” about him.

“I’m sure his advisors must have said, ’OK, Johnny — the script’s good. But this guy hasn’t made a him in 17 years. And the last one he made was s** *.’ The worst possible thing that could have happened would have been if we had disliked each other. He’d have been going back to his trailer every night, thinking, ’Why did I choose this c***? I could have had any director in Hollywood.”‘

But, Robinson continues, “’Depp was a joy. He hones in on things with such speed. It was a real pleasure to make that film. The trouble is that it has de—inoculated me against Hollywood. I have a real desire to do it again.”

Marlon Brando, who was actively assisting Johnny Depp with the practicalities involved in purchasing a Bahamian island at the time of his death in 2004, urged the younger actor to review his prolific output: around three Films a year, on average. “Because,” Brando told him, “we only have so many faces in our pockets.”

His warning represented an underestimation of Depp, in terms of his energy; versatility and, above all, his ability to judge a script. (“Johnny has a cast-iron bulls”‘ detector,” says Robinson. ‘And its active”)

Depp often speaks of his career as a journey down a road; almost a pilgrimage. “I have been a construction labourer,” he wrote in the introduction to the 1995 book Burton On Burton, ”a gas-station attendant, a bad mechanic, a screen printer, a musician, a phone salesman and an actor – but there’s never been a second that went by in which I deviated from the road that Jack Kerouac put me on via my brother. It’s been an interesting ride – emotionally and psychologically taxing – but a motherf** *er straight down the pike. And I know that without these great writers’ holy words seared into my brain, I would most likely have ended up chained to a wall in Camarillo State hospital, zapped beyond recognition, or dead by misadventure.”

It can take many decades, with authors, to decide who is going to be remembered forever, as the many tonnes of discarded work by writers such as John Galsworthy could tell you. In the cinema, at the highest level, the identification of genius is comparatively swift and straightforward: especially with an artist like Johnny Depp who, I remark, has somehow managed not to disappear up the rear of his own ego.

“Not yet,” says the actor.

I doubt if there’s anyone who loves everything Depp has done – even himself. 21 Jump Street was a period of transition, rather than a part of his legacy Some purists are enervated his committing his talents to Disney for the Pirates series, and the mainstream nature of those films. I struggle with Sweeney Todd, because l can’t get on with the music of Stephen Sondheim. In the context of his life and work, these are trivial and subjective details.

The great film critic David Thomson once wrote about Depp: “I don’t wish to bring down a curse on him, but he is what Marlon Brando might have remained, but for the rage, the disillusionment, the mad hunt for vengeance and the deadly weight”

My own feeling is that Brando, great artist as he was, is a man whose achievement Johnny Depp has already surpassed. Even now, to find Depp’s equal, you have to go back through the generations: to men like Cary Grant, John Barrymore, Lon Chaney Sr; even his own hero Buster Keaton. The truly remarkable thing about his career is that, given his comparative youth and already prodigious range — what will he be capable of with age? —- It has really only just begun. The most exhilarating thing about Johnny Depp is not the past achievement but the promise — and the thought of all those extraordinary experiences that await him, and us, as he travels further on down that road.

16 November 2011   Articles No Comments

Johnny Depp – in my opinion the most beautiful man in the world – always working exactly against this beautiness. The only work he doesn’t succeed in. And even if you don’t think Johnny looks absolutely amazing – you cannot deny that he is the most talented actor of his generation. Nobody can represent that many different characters, nobody is that daring in his choice of movies. I guess there is no role he cannot play. And he is not only a great actor. Do not forget his great work as the writer and director of the movie The Brave. Or his talent as a musician. Playing the guitar or even composing his own character’s score for the soundtrack of the movie Once upon a time in Mexico.

And his most adorable “talent” is his character in real life, his love for his girl Vanessa Paradis, and being a father for his two kids.

But why Johnny Depp?

Johnny Depp gives us fans more back than it is even possible for other actors.

Johnny is one of the most talented and convertible actors ever. He does’t let himself being pegged as something, but attempts completely different roles everytime. And he does not only play the character, he becomes the character, so that nobody else is conceivable for it. Johnny Depp doesn’t shy away from movies for sure a flop nor from roles not even paid for. He is not only a great actor. Let’s not forget his great work as the writer and director of the movie The Brave. Or his talent as a musician. Playing the guitar or even composing his own character’s score for the soundtrack of the movie Once upon a time in Mexico.

Apart from these talents, he is – obviously – an incredibly beautiful looking man, whose outer beauty is reflected inside and out of his eyes many times over.

In interviews he always seems romantically dreamy and thoughtfull, before this seriousness suddenly turns into an incredibly cute, childish and stirring humor.

But Johnny Depp doesn’t care about his stardom and beauty.

He is down to earth and sees himself as an ordinary guy with an extraordinary job. He doesn’t wear designer fashion, but he has his own personal (Quote:) “No-Style-Style”: he wears, what he found.

Instead of meeting with the celebrities of Hollywood, he plays Barbie with his daughter at home. In interviews he talks smiling about his two kids and their mother Vanessa Paradis.

This is what makes him so covetable: he is not the unreachable star but a completely down to earth family father.

And Johnny accepts us fans – or “supporters” how he calls us – from his heart.

He signs autographs till the last fan got one. At public appearances, he lays his hand down to his heart to show us that he wears us there. He tells fans he meets, that he is the one feeling honoured. And in his totally unprepared, from hearth coming, acception speech of the People’s Choice Awards he thanks us with the words “you’re the boss!”.

Johnny Depp is just…more wonderful than the man every woman covertly dreams from.

I want to add a quote…my favourite one made about Johnny Depp…written by Rudolf John in the Austrian Kurier and I hope, I translated this correct: …and there is scarcely any other actors face that meets more the conception of romanticism than his. With the melancholic trait around the mouth, the poetic far sighted view, where nevertheless the rogue is flashing through, and the bantering body language.

— Martina
5 November 2011   Articles No Comments

the following article is Copyright October 2011

The world’s biggest movie star talks

“I am preparing myself to forgive you,” says Johnny Depp, dramatically. “I think you’ve been punished enough.”

What heinous crime has ShortList committed to warrant such hard-fought absolution from one of the most famous men on the planet? Only to ask him for his favouriteWithnail & I quote, which, as Uncle Monty devotees will already have spotted, he promptly provided, accent and all.

However, we’ve not waited up until the early hours for Depp’s transatlantic call simply to trade lines from cult films. The 48-year-old is phoning ShortList to promote his latest project — a big-screen adaptation of Hunter S Thompson’s debut novel, The Rum Diary.

It’s been 13 years since Depp’s first celluloid flirtation with Thompson’s work, in the shape of the almighty Fear And Loathing In Las VegasThe Rum Diary, written a decade before Fear And Loathing but not published until 1998, finds the actor playing permanently ‘thirsty’ journalist Paul Kemp; another drink-and-drug-pickled, semi-autobiographical Thompson protagonist.

Replacing Terry Gilliam in the director’s chair for this adaptation is Withnail visionary Bruce Robinson (hence the Uncle Monty impression), whom Depp lured out of a 19-year retirement to write the screenplay and direct the film. Which results in our first question…

How did you manage to coax Bruce Robinson back to filmmaking?

I was a real pest [laughs]. I just kept coming at him. I understand someone who makes that decision and says, “I’m done with this cinema game and all those nasty bits that come with it,” but Bruce was my dream for The Rum Diary and he was Hunter’s too. So I had to pursue him until he kicked me in the mid-section [laughs].

Did he ever come close to doing that?

I don’t know [laughs]. He was initially reluctant, but once we’d talked about it a bit and he’d read the book a couple of times, he started to get a flavour for it. I’d always wanted to work with Bruce on something, but The Rum Diary was the ultimate. And then one day he just said, “You know, I think I’ll do it.”

You’re obviously a big Withnail & I fan. Have you got a favourite quote from the film?

Oh my God, there are so many. Well, certainly Uncle Monty. Oh, and then there’s the opening scene [adopts Withnail voice] “I have some extremely distressing news… We just ran out of wine.”

Is there a touch of Withnail about Captain Jack Sparrow?

Oh yeah, definitely. But Withnail, for me, is as great as cinema gets. It has every aspect you want. It’s hysterically funny, immensely quotable and there’s a great gravity to it as well. It’s a very poetic film. For me, it’s in the top three of all time.

What are the other two?

I’d say Time Of The Gypsies by Emir Kusturica and To Have And Have Not [Howard Hawks’ 1944 war romance].

Robinson famously told the teetotal Richard E Grant that he had to get drunk at least once in order to play Withnail. Did he take a similar approach with you on The Rum Diary?

Well, the thing is, both Bruce and I have a tendency with drinking to… Well, we’re both very good at it. He has a pretty hefty capacity and so do I, so we initially made a pact to stay completely sober. For the first couple of months we managed it, until one late night filming in Puerto Rico. It was boiling hot, a million degrees humidity. We were just about to finish for the night and we saw this little store across the street and we knew — we just knew — they had the coldest Coronas in the world in there. So, at that moment, we said, “All right, f*ck it. We’ve got to have a beer.” We downed about three each in a minute [laughs].

Did the boozing continue?

Yeah, but it wasn’t out of hand. We weren’t guzzling booze on set.

Is it true that you and Robinson nearly died while scouting locations?

Yeah. We were flying to Mexico to check out some locations and suddenly, somewhere over San Diego, the plane’s power went. Engine noise, everything — it just went. It was one of those moments where Bruce and I just locked eyes and went, “What the f*ck?” I think I literally said to him, “Wow, is this… it?” And then we both burst into hysterical, uncontrollable belly laughs.

Had you been drinking, by any chance?

We’d had some wine, yeah. And a few Coronas [laughs]. But it wasn’t a hallucinatory situation. It was really real. The power came back on, of course, but it was one of those things that nobody wanted to talk about until we were safely off the plane. But Bruce and I were laughing like infants the entire time.

There are some impressive stunts in the film involving fire-spitting and driving while sitting on another man’s lap. Did you perform those?

Well, I thought I was going to do the fire-spitting, but everyone came over and said, “No, no, that’s not happening. Not tonight, Johnny.” I figured I could have done it. But driving down those steps in the car — that was very real.

Were there any close calls?

Hell yeah! [Laughs] It was ugly. Especially as I was being dry-humped by a grown man while I was trying to steer.

Having worked so closely with Hunter S Thompson on Fear And Loathing, was it odd not having him on set this time round?

It was. But I had this cache of ammunition from my years with Hunter, living in his basement, going on the road with him as his… What did he call me? Oh yeah — “road manager and head of security”. And my name was Ray. People would go, “That’s Johnny Depp,” and Hunter would say, “No. His name is Ray.” [Laughs] So because I knew him so well, he’s easily accessible.

What’s your fondest memory of the time you spent together?

It’s difficult to pick just one, but that time alone with him, just the two of us — besides Deborah, his secretary, who basically kept us alive by feeding us vitamins and water — that was the greatest, because it was Hunter unguarded. So those evenings, sitting around, bullsh*tting about writers such as [F Scott] Fitzgerald, Henry Miller, Nathanael West, those were my favourites. But even when I was 2,000 miles away, I’d get the occasional 3am phone call from him, saying things such as, “Colonel!” — he used to call me ‘Colonel Depp’ — “Colonel! Are you familiar with the hairy black tongue disease?” [Laughs] I’d be like, “What?” “Oh yeah, man. It’s a real thing. I’ve got some literature on it that I found at the dentist’s office. You gotta read about this hairy black tongue disease.” And you know, it is a real thing [laughs].

You must have had some wild nights out around the time of making Fear And Loathing…

Yeah, there was a time when Hunter did a gig at The Viper Room [the LA nightclub that Depp used to co-own]. We all met for dinner — me, Hunter and John Cusack came too. Hunter forced me and Cusack to get onstage with him, and he had this idea when we arrived that we should chuck a blow-up doll on the street so we could have the proper sound of screeching tyres outside.

Why did he want that?

He wanted chaos! [Laughs] So, he threw this blow-up naked woman doll into the road and there was this horrible commotion and screaming, tyres, going “Eeeeekkk!” And he just laughed, man. He just laughed.

Was that typical Hunter behaviour?

Oh, very. I remember the first night I met him. It was around Christmas ’94. I was asked to go to the Woody Creek Tavern [in Colorado] and wait for Hunter. So I’m sitting in the back of this joint and suddenly, at about 12.30am, the door bursts open and all I see is sparks [Thompson was carrying a Taser gun in his hand]. Just sparks. Then I see people hurling themselves on the floor, and I spot the safari hat and sunglasses and hear [adopts Hunter voice], “Out of my way, you bastards.” He cleared a path, walked straight up to me and said, “Good evening. My name’s Hunter.” From then on, we were the best of friends [laughs].

Do you find that certain characters, such as Fear And Loathing’s Raoul Duke, have stayed with you?

Yeah, it’s a weird thing. When I played Edward Scissorhands, I found a great safety in being that character, because there was nothing negative or malicious about him. So, I learned to look at everything almost through a puppy’s eyes. And when I was playing Raoul, I found safety in thinking and retaliating like him, through all that time I spent with Hunter. There are still times to this day when Hunter… arrives. Whenever I find myself in some ignorant situation, this kind of irreverence arrives in me that was a huge part of Hunter. He could be so irreverent and at the same time so deadly.

Let’s talk about your other famous characters. Your children must be forever insisting that you do the Jack Sparrow voice for them…

[Laughs] No, Captain Jack doesn’t do it for them any more. They’re so used to him now. I have to make them laugh with new characters.

Like who?

Just anything to make your kiddie laugh, you know? Some of the characters I’ve done in the past were born literally out of playing Barbie with my daughter. And if [a new character] works, I think, “OK, I may put him in a drawer and use him again later.”

You recently worked with Ricky Gervais on Life’s Too Short — was that fun?

Oh my God, it was out of control. Everyone was trying to keep a poker face on the set and it just wasn’t happening. Stephen Merchant came closest, but Ricky and I were howling and so was Warwick [Davis]. We were all crying with laughter.

So there’s no bad blood between you and Gervais after his joke about The Tourist at the Golden Globes earlier this year?

No, no. I actually thought that was the funniest thing he said that night [laughs]. He’s a very talented guy and obviously he’s got his act, his thing. But he’s very clever and super quick.

As one of the world’s coolest men, do you have any guilty pleasures?

I wish I could tell you I watch those horrible reality shows or something, but I just can’t bring myself to. I don’t know… I like watching crime shows on TV.

Like The Wire?

No, like documentary, investigatory shows. Unsolved crimes. I can’t think of any other guilty pleasures, other than I’m a big fan of The Monkees’ song Daydream Believer.

That’s not a guilty pleasure — that’s a good song.

Oh, OK. Good. Thanks.

Do you still play your own music?

I get together and write music with friends occasionally. Music is still my first love, so it’s never anything I’ve abandoned.

You’ve worked with Keith Richards and Noel Gallagher — ever thought of forming a supergroup with them?

No, man, I’m not worthy [laughs]. But if things pop up, I’ll do them. Shane [MacGowan] called and asked if I’d play on something recently. I played on Patti Smith’s record. I love playing any chance I get.

Stephen Graham told us that he tried to make you a Liverpool FC fan on the set of the last Pirates Of The Caribbean film. Did he manage it?

[Laughs] Yeah, he tried, and our Liverpudlian stunt co-ordinator on [Tim Burton’s upcoming gothic drama] Dark Shadows has been trying, too. But I don’t really know enough about the sport — I haven’t seen many games. Although I did go to an England rugby match a while back. That was cool.

You must get spotted at events like that. What kind of things do fans say to you?

Little kids like to hear Captain Jack. But what really freaks them out is when you go from Jack to [adopts Wonka voice] “Willy Wonka” [laughs]. Suddenly, they’re like, “I’m not sure about this guy…”

The Rum Diary is at cinemas nationwide from 11 November

(Image: All Star)

1 November 2011   Articles Interviews No Comments

Title: The Hunter in Johnny Depp

Author: Nick Tosches

Publication: Vanity Fair

Issue:  November 2011

It is Johnny Depp’s The Rum Diary as much as it is the late Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary. For one thing, The Rum Diary, Hunter’s only published novel, likely never would have seen the light of day if Johnny hadn’t discovered it in the writer’s basement while staying with him 15 years  ago, preparing to make Hunter’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas into a movie with the director Terry Gilliam. Hunter himself had forgotten about The Rum Diary, which he had begun writing in 1959, at the age of 22, and had not been able to get published. Johnny found it when he was rummaging through some old boxes of Hunter’s works and notes.

“These perfect boxes,” Johnny says. “I pulled it out. I was like, ‘What is this?’ Hunter was like, ‘Oh, shit. The Rum Diary. Oh, yeah.’ It was hidden. Hunter didn’t know it was there.” Soon after Johnny found the book, it was finally published, in 1998, the year the movie of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas came out.

Thirteen years later, another adaptation, this one as much Johnny’s vision as Hunter’s. It’s an enhancement and a furthering of the novel, and brings to it the rich maturity that the voice of the young aspiring writer had not yet achieved. It is The Rum Diary seen as Hunter might have written it in his later prime.

I knew that Johnny, who was very close to and fond of Hunter, and very admiring of his work, would have some enlightening things to say about the movie, and I wanted to hear them. I also wanted to spend some time with him, as we hadn’t seen each other in years. As it turned out, this wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Several years ago, when I had arranged a dream date (disguised as an interview) with Charlotte Rampling, for whom I had lusted since seeing The Night Porter but had never even met, it took only a telephone call and a few minutes to set things up. But arranging time for a get-together with Johnny, whom I’ve known for years and whose son, Jack, is my godson, took more than a week of back- and-forth hurdlings.

You see, Johnny works a lot. He keeps to a grueling schedule. (Yes, that’s right: grueling schedule. This is supposed to be journalism, isn’t it? Don’t be surprised if shocking display or phenomenal or even pausing pensively before answering, as if turning a coin in his mind lurks around the corner. But I wouldn’t do that. To you maybe. But not to Revelatin’ John.) I want to ask him about this schedule, as 1 suspect he may have become, to use a bit of New Age psychobabble, a workaholic.

First, however, I want to ask him something I didn’t plan on asking him. We are both in London, where he is shooting yet another movie, Dark Shadows, directed by Tim Burton. Our strategy for the day has been for him to get the photo shoot for this story out of the way by mid-afternoon, then sit down for our interview, so as to leave us free to go drinking and gambling into the night, even though he does have to be on the Dark Shadows set very early the next morning. As it turns out, he has decided against doing the photo shoot, postponing it for another day. But it takes him four hours to resolve the situation. Which has left me in my room, nice as it is, at Brown’s Hotel, hanging around for those four hours waiting for a call, and I am sort of pissed off. But as the car finally passes through the gates to pull up to the imposing red-brick Mayfair manor that Johnny is occupying while working in London, I am no longer at all pissed off. I am merely looking forward to seeing Johnny.

I slouch into a big, deep, comfortable couch in a big, opulent room that is vaguely evocative of a royal Arabian majlis, or luxuriously welcoming lounging room. (The manor was indeed owned by a fabulously wealthy Arabian eminence.) Dominating the room, in an ornate gilt frame on the far wall, directly across from where I sit, is Banksy’s How Do You Like Your Eggs? The painting shows a woman in full black Muslim garb and veil and a cheap sex-novelty kitchen apron, a spatula in one hand, a skillet containing an egg in the other, her eyes narrowly visible, her eyebrows arched slightly, cryptically, defiantly. After negotiations with the artist and his representatives, Johnny acquired the painting in May of this year. It is one of the most bizarrely captivating images I’ve ever seen.

Then in walks Johnny. He sits down beside me with a big grin, lights a smoke, and out comes the Chateau L’Evangile 2002. The same old Johnny. The Johnny Depp who long ago pumped gas at a Shell station in Miramar, Florida, was pulled by the owner from the easier job of working the pump to the harder labor in the garage, and drifted west with members of his band, the Kids. In Los Angeles, he continued to pursue music- which he does to this day, having become a formidable guitarist-but he got along by attending the city’s many Scientology study groups, which paid attendees, even nonbelievers like Johnny, $3 each to sit through them. (“I went to a bunch, man. It was so great, it was so fantastic.”) Turning 20, he ended up in pictures, and today, at 48, he is regarded as the biggest movie star around. And yet he is the same old Johnny, his circumstances changed, but not his nature. I’ve never found it hard to imagine him still pumping gas with a cigarette dangling from his lips. And I’ve never ceased to wonder at the rare range and depth of his reading, intelligence, knowledge, and interests: from Baudelaire to Beckett to Burroughs; from insights into Ch’an Buddhism that pick up where The Transmission of the Lamp leaves off to observations on the nature of things that pick up where Lucretius left off to a connoisseurship of both wine and Mountain Dew-a range and depth even more rare among actors, most of whom lead hollow scripted lives, most of whose humanity is an awkwardly assumed pretense, a role playacted mawkishly;

But the question remains: How can someone who seems to have had hi picture on every magazine cover in the world seven times over so an antagonistic to having his picture taken. It turns out that “antagonistic” is to mild a word.

“Well, you just fell like you’re being raped somehow.” Strong words from an easygoing, down-to-earth man not given to drama in his everyday life. “Raped. The whole thing. It feels like a kind of weird-just weird, man. Weird. Like you meet people and they say, ‘Can I have a picture with you?’ and that’s great. That’s fine. That’s not a problem. But whenever you have a photo shoot or something like that, it’s like-you just feel dumb. It’s just so stupid.”

He says this antipathy is nothing new. He’s always hated to have his picture taken. Even a quarter of a century ago and more, back in the days of A Nightmare on Elm Street, when he needed all the publicity he could get, photo shoots creeped him out.

I move on to the workaholic angle. About five or six years ago, at a restaurant in Paris, La Closerie des Lilas, I asked him why he kept working, why he didn’t just wave it all away and live. He said then that it was because they might not want him in five years.

He was already rich and famous when I had first met him, maybe a dozen years ago. Then one day at a pizza place in London a few years later, in the early spring of 2002, he withdrew a script from his satchel, asked me to open it anywhere, look at it, and tell him what I thought. If you want to do it, I said, do it. It was Pirates of The Caribbean. So by the time I asked him that question at that restaurant in Paris, a few more years after that, he was really, really rich and really really famous. And now those five years after which they might not want him anymore have passed, too, and he is really, really, really rich and really, really, really famous. What is his excuse now for continuing to work so hard?

“Basically, if the re going to pay me the stupid money right now. I’m going to take it. I have to. I mean, it’s not for me. Do you know what I mean? At this point, it’s for my kids. It’s ridiculous, yeah, yeah, but ultimately is it for me? No. No. It’s for the kids.”

Though “workaholism” is an ungainly neologism (and the more sinister Japanese karoshi, meaning death from overwork, an even newer, if less ungainly, one), there is no escaping the impression that Johnny certainly seems to be working too hard. At least to me, who would like nothing more than to live out my days in quiet serenity in a hammock strung between two big old shady trees.

So I persist. I know him to be a traditional family man, in the best, truest sense of that phrase; Vanessa Paradis, his French better half, their two children, Lily-Rose, now 12, and Jack, now 9, are the center of his world.  But-

“And, come on, it’s for you too.”  “Not really, because I keep working-I’m constantly fucking like I’m slamming the fucking=you know, every day is like fucking … ” He takes a breath, takes a drag, takes a sip, and starts again. “There is a part of me that needs to have this kind of stimulation to the brain. I must have fucking stimulation.”

And what about all the Hollywood bullshit that comes with it? Is adulation addictive?

“It is what it is.”

What it all comes down to is irrefutable.

“I’m happy,” he continues. “I’m happy.  It’s fine.”

The wine is going down good.

“Yeah,” Johnny says with a smile, “we have to go gamble.”

“What I wanted to ask you-”

“Oh, my brother, I’m so fucking happy  to see you.”

“What do you get sick of being asked?”



“No. Really. No.”

“Is there something you wish somebody would ask you?”

“No.” This brings on a good deal of laughter. “No.”

I want to go gambling, too. I have my  blue Ritz Club membership card in my wallet and fond memories of our last long night there at the blackjack tables and the bar; the night when a gambler of unknown ethnic origin at our table, asked by a cocktail waitress if he should like something to drink, said, “I like bean soup,” and Johnny and I, looking at each other, couldn’t suppress our laughter; the night we won a bundle. But I want to talk about The Rum Diary too.

Those who can recall back a number of column inches ago might remember my saying that The Rum Diary as brought to the screen is as much Johnny’s vision as Hunter’s, and that it is an enhancement and a furthering, rather than a faithful visualization, of the novel. The time and setting have been changed only slightly. The novel opens in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1958; the movie in San Juan, 1960. (The reasons for the change of year were to allow for television images of Richard Nixon as a presidential candidate and for a bit of surfing drum music that hadn’t existed in 1958. It also seems that in 1960 civilians would more easily have been able to obtain military eyedroppers of LSD, as the characters in the film do, than in 1958.)

The film’s three main confederates – Paul Kemp (Johnny), Sala (Michael Rispoli), and Moberg (Giovanni Ribisi), all workers at an English-language San Juan rag – are consolidations and mergings of attributes drawn from these and other characters in the novel. Though the essence of the tale remains true to the book-Hunter was at heart a moralist in the tradition of Thomas Paine, and this is at heart a story of down-and-out good against respectable evil, as well as the story of a writer finding both the truth of himself and his own true voice-aspects of the movie’s plot are often more inspired by than based on the novel. Several of the picture’s most impressive and imaginative scenes are not to be found, or even suggested, in the novel, and certain minor elements of the novel take on greater significance in the movie.

Bruce Robinson, the British writer and director of the picture, told me that “there are only three lines of Hunter’s in the entire screenplay.” (“Have some fun with a fucking Luger” is one of them.) But at the same time, he insisted, “I’d say the movie is faithful to him in context of vernacular.”

Johnny has spoken of making this movie for more than a decade, and his desire to do so never wavered.

“It’s been there for so long,” he says. “So, yeah, I made this film before I made it.”

Robinson, best known as the screen-writer of The Killing Fields and the writer-director of Withnail and I, was cooling his heels in 2005, having not made a film since 1999, when Johnny, who long had been very enamored of Withnail and I, sent him a copy of Hunter’s novel and asked if he should like to “kick it into a screenplay.”

Johnny knew that Hunter had also admired Withnail and I So, as Johnny says, “I pulled the fucker out of retirement.”

Speaking from his farmhouse four hours west of London, Robinson tells me he “suffered incredible problems trying to get a grip on” The Rum Diary. He read the book twice, then threw it away. The main problem, as he saw it, was that Hunter had split himself into two characters, Kemp and another named Yeamon, and Hunter’s spirit needed to be embodied in the character of Kemp alone.

Johnny agreed. “Bruce handled it brilliantly, amazingly. You’ve got Kemp and Yeamon, who represent Hunter. With Kemp there’s no way to follow these two characters. So Bruce just went”-Johnny pantomimes tossing aside an imaginary book-“which was actually Hunter’s kind of thinking, you know?”

“I wrote it entirely in isolation,” says Robinson of the script, the final version of which was finished in February 2009. “Fortunately Johnny liked it.”

Robinson was well aware that the character of Kemp as he had written him was a nuanced, complex, and difficult one. Johnny had played Hunter before, for Gilliam. But this was a different Hunter.

“Hey,” Johnny told Robinson as shooting was about to begin, “just trust me.” As for his approach to directing the picture, Robinson was firmly convinced that the strength of the acting and the tale should have dominance over any selfindulgent arty camerawork. It was his preferred way of directing:

“I don’t want the camera to be a participant. I want it to be a privileged observer.”

Johnny says that the most arduous part of making the movie was “just every day sort of policing it, being the police of what Hunter would or would not have wanted, and really kind of going. All right, here’s the scene. That’s great. Here’s a scene, but we have to police this scene.” Some things work in books that just don’t work in movies, Johnny points out. “And Hunter understood that. He understood it. He understood.”

Me, I think Hunter would have gotten a bigger kick out of the movie than he did out of the novel he had stashed and forgotten.

I tell Johnny that, to my eye, the movie is timeless, the way great old-fashioned pictures-and I mean that in the best wayused to be. Most movies these days are short-lived, soon outdated and forgotten, relying on special effects that become quickly superseded, or on numerous cellphone calls from hand held devices that become just as quickly outmoded. But here is a movie that will hold up, that will be as exceptionally fine and enjoyable as it is today for many years to come.

Johnny doesn’t mention it until I say what I do, but he agrees to having similar feelings: “It’s kind of Casablanca in a way, isn’t it?”

Cockfighting figures in Hunter’s book, but it is more central to the plot of the picture. In this day of animal-rights lunatics and political-correction camps, this is wonderfully refreshing and far more daring than the sex-scene one-upmanship of other movies.

The cockfighting scenes were, of course, done in accordance with the American Humane Association rules, but they look real.

“They harnessed the cocks with pieces of invisible monofilament,” Johnny tells me. “Oh, that kept them from going the whole distance and getting at each other for the kill?”

“Yeah, we did hold them back. We did. I think it was stupid.”

(Johnny’s sister Christi, who runs their Infinitum Nihil production company, was of a gentler nature when it came to the cocks, which now live comfortably in her big backyard, outside of LA “All good,” Christi reports.)

Even more difficult to film than the cockfighting scenes was the film’s LSD sequence, which is as unnervingly realistic as the goings-on in the – gamecock pits. Except for a sole hallucination involving a character’s tongue in one of the LSD scenes, there are no other special effects in the movie. Yet, through words and acting alone, this is the best, truest-to-life LSD stuff I’ve ever seenconveyed on film. The sequence also contains what to me is the essential line in the film, the revelation given to Kemp by a lobster in a filthy tank in the dark of night on a filth pier: “Human beings are the only creatures on earth that claim a god and the only living thing that behaves like it hasn’t got one.” –

In the original script, the encounter with the mystical lobster led to lines from Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient  Mariner”: The very deep did rot: O Christ! / : That ever this should be! / Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs / Upon the slimy sea.

But from alcohol, as much as things most wretched, come wonders sublime.

Robinson recalls that the words of the lobster’s revelation “occurred to me five years ago and, somewhat oiled, I wrote them in one of Johnny’s notebooks on his plane, not thinking I’d use them in the flick. Then, when I came to write the acid scene, this line seemed appropriate (and true), so I incorporated it and gave it to the lobster. I got the idea of the lippy lobster from an ad I’d seen in some 1940s magazine where such a dime-in-the-slot ‘fishing machine’ was featured. Hence the religious lobster.”

The revelation of the lobster was a great line. What does Johnny do when he comes across a bad line in a script?

“I change it. I just go: ‘You know what? It ain’t right. It’s not right.’ I change it. I do. I re-write.”

Years ago Johnny directed his friend Marlon Brando in a movie called The Brave. He spoke of editing it, of re-editing it, but it never came out in the U.S. I ask him about that one. How does he feel about that picture today?

“I’m proud. You know?”

Now that his production company is becoming a powerful presence in the movie business, will he finally release it?

“No, no, no. The idea of releasing that, like-no, no. I feel like it’s for, like, a few, you know? It’s like the idea of saying, ‘Here’s my middle finger, but in that middle finger, I’m trying to say, you know, I love you.’ It’s very complicated.”

With the Tim Burton movie about to finish shooting, I ask him what’s next.

“The Lone Ranger and Tanto.” In that one, if it gets made=Disney was reportedly balking at its budget in August=Johnny will be playing Tonto. (Arrnie Hammer had been scheduled to play the Ranger.)

Johnny is also thinking of remaking The Thin Man, which he’s wanted to do for quite a while. He would step into William Powell’s shoes as Nick Charles. I ask him, “Do you think you could be William Powell? I mean, that guy was fucking singular. There was only one of him.”

“I could do it. I think.”

“You probably could, because you’ve got that fine line between humor and seriousness.”

“That’s the whole point. What he had, William Powell, was so fucking beautiful.”

Johnny too. As Bruce Robinson later points out, the association of Johnny in the public brainpan with the hugely successful star-driven hits of his recent years has sometimes obscured the true versatility and abilities that are his. It is films such as The Rum Diary that remind us of that versatility and those abilities. But still, William Powell … ?

“He’s a hard guy to beat if you’re going into the ring with him,” I point out.

“That’s the thing,” Johnny says. “You can’t beat him. Just embrace him. Embrace the fucker. Embrace him.”

Talk of William Powell leads to talk of, Keith Richards, who played Johnny’s father in the last two Pirates of the Caribbean pictures. Keith has been a friend of Johnny’s for some years now. I ask Johnny if he found himself emulating Keith’s mannerisms and persona somewhat with the passing of those years.

“I sucked him dry,” he says without hesitation.

When I mention that Keith, who I know and who is certainly not one for musicals, had been full of praise a few years back for Johnny’s singing in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and recommended that I see it, Johnny is visibly pleased.

“Keith always has the most beautiful things to say about you,” I say, “but when . he brought up Sweeney Todd, he was like, ‘Oh, and to hear Johnny sing.”’

“He never told me that,” Johnny says with a smile of deep satisfaction.

It was while making Sweeney Todd with Tim Burton that the movie he’s now finishing with Burton was conceived. “We were on Sweeney Todd, and I said to him, ‘Man, we should do a vampire movie.’  He’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, we should.’  And then I went, ‘Fuck, man, Dark Shadows.’ ‘Yeah, good idea. Good idea.’ And  then, boom.”

“Is there a movie that you always wanted to make but have never been able to?”


“Tonto,” I reflect. “Nick Charles,” I reflect.  Then he raises his glass of wine, looks  straight at me, and says, “There’s also In the Hand of Dante.”

As I mentioned, Johnny had been wanting to make The Rum Diary, had been making it in his head for a long, long time. Hunter S. Thompson, to whose memory the film is dedicated, never lived to see it. He blew out his brains, at the age of 67, in 2005, just before the real making of the picture got under way.

I mention to Johnny, as a lighthearted joke but with a hidden degree of truth on my part, that it scared me to see that dedication to Hunter at the close of the movie. He knows immediately what I mean…..

When it was still in typescript pages, Johnny had been the third person, after my agent and publisher, to read my novel in the Hand of Dante. He called me-it was early morning where he was, at his hameau in France; it was late night where I was, in New  York. “I’m reading this,” he said, “and it’s not a book; it’s a living thing.” In Paris, one afternoon almost a year later, when the book was about to be published, we shook hands to seal a deal that my novel would become his movie. A lot of time went by, as handshake deals mean nothing to the lawyers, executives, gonifs, and golems of Hollywood.

Finally-years, years-we had our legal arrangement, settled on a screenwriter, and brought in Johnny’s old pal Julian Schnabel to get things going as a director. That’s why the loving memorial to Hunter at the end of The Rum Diary gave me the willies.

“So,” I say, “the way I see it, In the Hand of Dante will come out two years after I croak. I’ve got it figured out. I’m going to beat Hunter by three years.”

“Cocksucker,’ He laughs. “You prick.”

“No, really.” I laugh. “It falls in line with everything else.”

“Should we plan that now?”

“No. I don’t want to do that, no.”

More wine, more smoke. “No, my brother,” he says, “I’ll tell you now: the film will be made.”

Some of Johnny’s finest work remains far less known than the big pictures that brought him his fame and fortune. Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man, of 1995, is one of these. (It was also Robert Mitchum’s last notable

film, Johnny still laughs when he tells of Mitchum’s practice of stashing his marijuana in a Baggie taped to his crotch, on the theory: Who’s gonna go down  my pants? Who’s gonna touch Robert Mitchum’s balls?)

Laurence Dunmore’s The Libertine, of 2004, in which Johnny played the dissolute 17th-century poet John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester, is another.

It was perhaps the most strenuous role he has played, and both his performance and the film were magnificent.  Based on the play by Stephen Jeffreys, who also wrote the screenplay, the movie paired Johnny with John Malkovich, who is probably one of the only other actors whose imagination, literacy, and skills are commensurate with Johnny’s, and who had played Johnny’s role on the stage and taken the role of Charles II in the film. I remember being blown away by the Libertine. But it was given only very brief and limited distribution. It came and it went, so quickly withdrawn that by the time I recommended it to people it gone, killed off by the then new Weinstein Company, which produced and distributed the film as its second release,

“Are you still pissed at Harvey Weinstein for that?”

“We’ve come to a sort of agreement.”

“Did he have a reason why that movie was so ill-circulated?”

“Yeah, he basically said he fucked it.”

“Meaning he made a mistake?”

“No. He made a choice. He made a choice to kill it. Which was understandable. I mean understandable if you look at it from his kind of point of view.”

Meaning, I assume, a monetary point of view. “But yeah,” Johnny continues, “Harvey killed a great film.”

The Libertine was brought to mind by The Rum Diary and another superb picture in the age of hundred million-dollar junk movies full of gimmickry and idiotic sound and fury instead of any enduring quality or substance.

The new movie is being handled in the U.S. by FilmDistrict, the producer Graham King’s distribution company. But surely, I suggest, with Johnny’s own production company behind The Rum Diary, it will be far less vulnerable to an unjustified fate.

“Can I do better? Maybe not. I’m not sure.”

“You’re not going to kill off your own movie?”

“I’m not sure. You know what I mean? I worked like a cocksucker on it but-“

Anything can happen.

So we’ll see. Can this Lowlifes of the Caribbean attract, as it so deserves, just some of the attention and gelt that the likes of Pirates of the Caribbean got?

Who knows? Our talk drifts, carried along by the tow of the wine and the night.

When I first met Johnny, I think he believed he was part Cherokee and part Irish. Years later, through genealogical research, French blood entered into the picture. I remember Vanessa Paradis announcing to me “Johnny’s French!” Depp from Dieppe, a Cherokee with French blood. The French blood was supposed to have come through his mother, Betty Sue. It made sense.

“What are you now?” I ask him. He doesn’t answer for a moment. “You’re getting all serious,” I say.

“Doesn’t bother me.”

“Do you ever think of yourself as anything?”

“I mean, it makes more sense, the Dieppe.”

“There were a lot of American Indians that had French names. Is that something you would prefer to be?”

“Indian?” he suggests. Another taste of that good red wine. “If they’ll have me.”

“How do your siblings” – besides Christi, there’s a brother and another sister – “feel about the fact that you never seem to physically age?”

“They seem O.K.”

It’s getting late. Not many hours remain until Johnny has to be back on the set. Even I’m getting slightly drowsy. But the Ritz Club, the blackjack tables, more wine await us. Johnny slowly rises, goes to put some cold water on his face and fetch a necktie. I light a smoke, sit with my wine, and rest my eyes. Eventually it occurs to me that Johnny has been gone for a while. I push myself up off the couch and call his name. No answer. I look around for him.

He is dead-out asleep in the toilet, the perfect picture of the wages of exhaustion. I don’t want to wake him. I just stand for a moment wondering. He has a beautiful chateau and secluded grounds in France. He has an estate in Los Angeles; He has an idyllic island of his own. But does he have a hammock?

Although Pirates of the Caribbean- On Stranger Tides will not premiere in theaters until May 20th , much of the public have been able to view the film already at the many screenings held in major cities. Veering off the path of past POTC films that were held in strict privacy, this film has been shown all over the US during the past month for fans to view for free.

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