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Title: High Seas, High Stakes

Author: Anthony Breznican

Publication: Entertainment Weekly

Issue: May 13, 2011

 The worst thing for any pirate is feeling rudderless. The first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies grossed more than $2.6 billion worldwide, not counting additional bounty from video, theme-park rides, and merchandise. But the second and third installments turned off critics and tested devoted audiences’ patience with bloated running times and convoluted subplots. Even Johnny Depp, who has made Capt. Jack Sparrow the most universally beloved invention of his career, admits to being ambivalent about the sequels: “To be perfectly honest, I didn’t see them. I did see the first one. I have not seen the second one or the third one.’  To be fair, he tends not to watch his own movies, but even while making 2006’s Dead Man’s Chest and 2007’s At World’s End, he sensed something was off. “They had to invent a trilogy out of nowhere.’ says Depp, 47.

“It was plot-driven and complicated I remember talking to [Gore Verbinski, director of the first three films] at certain points during production of 2 or 3 and saying, ‘I don’t really know what this means.’ He said, ‘Neither do I, but let’s just shoot it.’ This guy is this guy’s dad, and this guy was in love with this broad. It was like, ‘What?”’

With the fourth installment, On Stranger Tides (rated PG-13 and out May 20), Depp and producer Jerry Bruckheimer have taken steps to correct the course of the multibillion-dollar franchise. Major recurring characters have been jettisoned and a shorter running time established. (The new film, directed by Rob Marshall after Verbinski chose not to return to the helm, is 30 minutes shorter than At World’s End.) Bruckheimer believes that the last movie had a unique set of problems, which could be prevented this time around. “In the third one, there were a lot of characters, so the film got long,” he says. ”And we felt that in order to tell the story properly, you had to close all those doors that we opened. Now this is a stand-alone movie. So we don’t have to tie up any loose ends.”

Depp, for his part, felt a burden of responsibility to audiences. According to the most conservative estimates, ‘he’s pocketed between $32 million and $35 million to appear in the new film. Asked how much he’s made from the series thus far, he says simply, “I have no idea.” Still, he’s collected enough doubloons to feel guilty when the adventures aren’t entirely seaworthy. With On Stranger Tides, Depp exercised increased authority over the film at the script stage to avoid some of the swollen and muddled story lines that critics felt waterlogged the last two movies. “With this one, in terms of story, my involvement was a little more just because I felt if we were going to do a 4, that more than anything we owed the audience a fresh start, without all the complicated mathematics of 1 colliding with 2 and 2 colliding with 3.” Depp says. “I felt it was very important to eliminate as many complications as possible.” Encouraged by fans who’ve managed to stay loyal, Depp says his mission for the fourth movie was this: “Let’s give them something character-driven. Something fun and irreverent. Hoops of fire and whatnot. New blood, as it were.”

The resulting film focuses squarely on Captain Jack, who’s driven by an emotion we didn’t know he was capable of: regret. Regret over a woman, no less. Penelope Cruz, who shot the movie while pregnant, joins the crew as Angelica, the badass daughter of the merciless pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane). Long ago, Angelica was living in a Spanish convent when Sparrow seduced her-and then dumped her. Which is pretty low, even for Sparrow. (Think of it as the 1700s equivalent of partying with an A+ college student, then watching her flunk out and fall back into squalor with her violent, scumbag dad.) When Blackbeard shanghais Sparrow and forces him to join a quest for the Fountain of Youth, it’s only Captain Jack’s guilt over Angelica that keeps him from escaping with a quick dive overboard.

Gone are Orlando Bloom’s Will Turner and Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth Swann, whose stories came to a fairly neat conclusion in At World’s End. As for new supporting characters, there’s Philip (British newcomer Sam Clafiin), a young missionary held hostage aboard Blackbeard’s ship. (Clafiin describes his character as the conscience of the story, its Jiminy Cricket) “Unlike Will Turner, Orlando Bloom’s character, who turned pirate and committed crimes, Philip remains goodwilled throughout.”) And there’s Syrena (French actress Astrid Berges-Frisbey), a mermaid who’s somehow essential to unlocking the power of the Fountain of Youth. Syrena’s a frail, helpless figure, captured and tormented by Blackbeard-until she’s in the water, that is, where she transforms into a vicious creature of prey.

Geoffrey Rush returns as Captain Barbossa, who remains Captain Jack’s comic foil and rival. But at this point, the two are more like frenemies. “I believe Barbossa and Jack are the two brightest, the two cleverest pirates in the whole story.” Rush says. “Johnny and I were shooting a scene together, and I said, ‘You know, if these two guys could actually stop arguing, they’d be formidable together.”’ So, as Bruckheimer points out, Blackbeard is Captain Jack’s worthiest opponent, as well as the series’ first truly repellent villain. “Blackbeard is pure evil,” says the producer. How evil? The movie shows him burning a man alive, and he repeatedly threatens to murder his own daughter to make Sparrow fall in line. “That’s the way I like ’em,” laughs McShane. “If you’re going to go big, go big! I think the line in the film was ‘I’m a bad man. I have bad in my blood.’ He’ll do what he has to do to survive, like the [fable of the] scorpion and the frog, even if it’s in his worst interest.”

The new thread holding everything together is director Marshall (Chicago, Nine). “For me, if the movie had continued with the same cast, the same story lines, it would have been very difficult to come into the project,” he says. “But I felt like it’s a new beginning in many ways.” Marshall wanted to push Sparrow beyond being a wisecracking Bugs Bunny type with a sword. The gamble is whether fans even want this freewheeling character to actually care about someone. “What’s nice is you get a sense that Jack has a heart,” says Marshall. “He’s doing something heroic in a way. For him-for a pirate, who only thinks selfishly it’s nice to see that.”

Then there’s the Fountain of Youth, which is as much a metaphor as a plot device. Sparrow is getting older, becoming reflective, and beginning to look back at wreckage from his past and deciding whether to make it right. “He really has a conscience,” says Marshall. “And he’s protective, caring.” Well, to a degree, anyway. “It’ll never be: Jack sits down and gets married and has kids,” Marshall says. Good thing. Audiences love Captain Jack too much to ever watch him suffer.

7 March 2011   Articles No Comments

Title: Dark Shadows

Author: Anthony Breznican

Publication: Entertainment Weekly

Issue: September 2011


FOUR DECADES AGO, an odd little boy in Miramar, Fla., and a peculiar little boy in Burbank both hurried home from school to watch the same TV show-a soap opera. It was no typical daytime melodrama that snared the attention of young Johnny Depp and Tim Burton. Dark Shadows, which ran on ABC from 1966 to 1971, was a gothic tale of a vampire named Barnabas Collins and his mortal family, who are bedeviled by witches, ghosts, and, on occasion, time travel. (It was also extremely cheesy, clone on the cheap.)

When assembling his actors for a big screen adaptation, Burton says he employed a simple weirdness test, which he hopes comes across in this group photo. “l asked myself the very abstract question ‘Is this person Dark Shadows? ‘ he says. ‘In each case, the answer was yes.’

Dark Shadows had two aborted TV resurrections, in 1991 and 2004, but for years Depp has been trying to make the series into a feature film, eventually urging Warner Bros. to pick up the rights and helping produce it himself. “There have been other collaborations where Tim has gone after Johnny, but here Johnny went to Tim,’ says producer Richard D. Zanuck, who worked with them both on Alice in Wonderland and Sweeney Todd. ‘They discovered they shared this great love.’

The film is currently shooting in London and is set for release Maw 11. Depp plays Barnabas in a way he says is reminiscent of original star Jonathan Frid’s aged—little-boy portrayal. The characters dated clothing is also homage: Shadows is set in 1972, right after the original series ended. ‘We’ve made Barnabas an anachronism” says screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith (author of the book Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter which Burton is producing as a film). ‘He has been trapped for 200 years, and when he emerges, the world Is completely different from the one he left In the 1770s.” This is one vampire who is just as scared of mortals as they are of him—especially their televisions and miniskirts.

Title: Paint It Jack

Author: Ian Nathan

Publication: US Empire

Issue:  February 2011

ON A MONITOR IN A PASSAGE  LEADINGTO A SOUND STAGE  IN DEEPEST SHEPPERTON CAN BE SEEN CAPTAIN JACK  SPARROW IN 3D. THE SCENE in question takes place in a palatial chamber-all Thomhill murals and giltwood armchairs – rapidly descending into pandemonium. Various puff pastries, pork pies and sides of mutton are catapulted ceiling-wards from a banquet table, musket-fire clogs the air with sooty smoke, and his royal plumpness King George II (Richard Griffiths) looks on aghast as Jack (Johnny Depp), the inevitable centre of the chaos, dementedly jogs left to right like Buster Keaton on hot coals, evading the grasp of the royal guard by a whisker, before tossing a priceless Rococo throne through an arched window and making his escape. Business as usual in the pleasurably frenetic universe of Pirates of the Caribbean. Only now in multiple dimensions.

It’s a tableau anchored by the figure of Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), atypically attired in naval togs and one large blue sock, whose smudged face powder cannot disguise a weary roll of the eyeballs. The sock? That’s for the FX guys to insert a recently acquired wooden leg. “Whatever else you say about Barbossa,” notes Rush in passing, “he’s a survivor.”

There are two weeks to go on the 106-day shoot for this new stand-alone adventure. A long haul that has taken in Hawaii (for the middle of the film), LA (interiors for Hawaii), Puerto Rico (the end of the film), and finally London (the beginning). And it’s all shot in genuine 3D, hence the intricate cameras with dual lenses and playback monitors with their cache of Ray-Bans.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Wasn’t there the feeling that the previous two sequels, however madcap Mr. Depp and handsome the vistas, were more Matrix-sequel gobbledegook than Indy on the high seas? The thought of a fourth slog felt a bit, well, rum.

“The thing with Pirates 4, I felt like we owed it to people … You know?” Johnny Depp takes a pull on a thin, black cigar while gathering his thoughts; his teeth might be up a golden molar. “Pirates 2 and 3 became quite … sub-plotty. The mathematics of it. All these people went to see them two or three times just to figure out what was happening. This one is a little closer in tone to the first: more character driven … more subject- driven … It has a freshness … Less mathematics.”


SO WHERE WERE WE? AFTER THE DIZZYING CONCLUSION OF EPISODES TWO AND THREE, CAPTAIN JACK WAS IN POSSESSION OF A MAP TO THE FOUNTAIN OF youth, but adrift in the drink in barely a dinghy. Then the announcement that there was, yes, to be a fourth in the series of lucrative comic fantasies (2,681,440,232 doubloons and counting). “We were already playing around with another story on three,” smiles Jerry Bruckheimer, “and when Ted and Terry found the book, we were really inspired.” “Ted and Terry” are Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, the writing duo who have fathered the calamities of Captain Jack thus far; “the book” is Tim Powers’ 1988 novel On Stranger Tides, a straight pirate adventure that could happily relax into a Captain Jack yam.

“So much of it derives from the novel,” says Rossio: “Blackbeard, Angelica, the fountain of youth. Stylistically, we’ve integrated the book into our universe with Captain Jack and Barbossa.”

But with Gore Verbinski unable to face another voyage, they were down a major guiding light. Bruckheimer diplomatically reports the director was simply busy with other projects (animated Depp-as-gecko flick Rango, and the since-stalled video-game adaptation Bioshock). With Depp still agreeable, Disney was keen to keep the sequel moving, and Chicago director Rob Marshall was hired. A clever move – a master of screen musicals is ideal for a Pirates movie, with its own peculiar dance moves.

“He’s so sensitive to what is going on in the frame,” approves Depp of his new director. “If he senses bullshit, he’ll call a person on it. Politely, of course. He can feel the over-acting.” Even amid the dementia of Pirates, there are subtle cadences, natural rhythms – call it arrggghht. “He’s brought this incredible timing,” continues the star. “Especially because of his background – you can be a millisecond out and he calls you on it.” Today, on set, it’s Marshall’s birthday. In a secret alcove, unavailable to Empire, champagne is served without anyone needing to fall over. Ten minutes later they are back to work.

Even after Marshall’s appointment, trouble loomed when Disney studio chairman Dick Cook stepped down. Given Cook had championed the then high-risk original, Depp was less than impressed. “There’s a fissure, a crack in my enthusiasm at the moment,” he reported on hearing the news. “It was all born in that office.” Pirates 4 looked on the rocks, but after a “wonderful meeting”, Marshall convinced Depp to keep the faith. After all, no Captain Jack, no Pirates: “It would be a pirate movie,” senses Rossio, “but not Pirates Of The Caribbean.”

On set to facilitate improv and on-the-spot alterations, the writer has been impressed with the new director’s fastidiousness. “Rob works as he does in theatre. He spent a lot of time refining the screenplay prior to production. And Johnny has a huge influence on the script: he’s invented characters, invented storylines, jokes … ”

Rossio had always pictured a scene of Jack dancing on deck. “It would be romantic and odd, just the image of Jack Sparrow being seductive. Starlight, all of that.” And a new leading lady, in shapely Penelope Cruz as the shady Angelica, presented a perfect opportunity. “Johnny added this idea to cut in on himself,” laughs the writer. “He’s in the middle of this dance and swings off on a rope then reappears: ‘May I cut in?”

YOU’LL HAVE GATHERED SHIPMATES HAVE BEEN JETTISONED BETWEEN THREE AND FOUR. ORLANDO BLOOM AND KEIRA KNIGHTLEY – Will and Elizabeth – are no longer required, their storylines concluded (pressed on the chance of cameos, Rossio shakes his head). But there is an enticing range of new personnel. In arguably the Will and Elizabeth mould are newcomers Sam Claflin as pacifist missionary Philip, and Spanish- born French model-turned-actress Astrid Berges- Frisbey as mermaid Syrena. (How does she manage both water and land? “Magic!” she exclaims. “CGI!’)

The new villain of the piece is Captain Blackbeard, a liberal take on history’s Edward Teach, scourge of the American colonies. Played by lan McShane dolled up in black leathers and with a beard that could thatch a cottage, he’s a “biker pirate” who takes charge of the Queen Anne’s Revenge (chief motif: skulls). “He’s a force, man,” grooves Depp. “An incredible force.

A legend.” This is most likely a reference to McShane’s AI Swearengen, the Mephistopheles  of Deadwood, rather than antique-market scallywag Lovejoy, but with Depp, who knows?

So: Penelope. On StrangerTides’ Latina Exocet. Again, Marshall, who directed her in Nine, was key to persuading the Spanish actress to join up: “She liked the role, but he was the sealer,” says Bruckheimer. At her mention Depp pulls an impish grin from ear to gold-ringed ear.

“We did a film called Blow together; I have to be careful not say, ‘We did blow together,”’ he smirks, channelling Keef. “She’s a funny girl. A firecracker. She brings a lot to the table.” Angelica and Jack have a past, “a residue”, as Depp puts it. “That sounds bad doesn’t it? There’s a chemistry there. They’re like a divorced couple who hate each other and at the same time love one another. It’s a very strange relationship. A lot of fun … ” He grins, recalling something we have yet to see: “We’ve upped the stakes in terms of absurdity.”

Cruz, she reveals, is Blackbeard’s daughter and not to be trusted. But it’s a pirate movie. No-one is to be trusted. More serious for the production, although wonderful for Cruz, was the news midway through filming that she was pregnant (padre: Javier Bardem). “You won’t be able to tell,” smiles Bruckheimer. “We have a great stunt double. Doesn’t change her abilities, she’s just got bigger… More glow.”

SOMEWHERE IN ON STRANGER TIDES IS A BED WITH A SKELETON TIED TO IT. FOR THE EAGLE-EYED DISNEYLAND PATRON, IT’S A FURTHER REFERENCE TO THAT clunky old ride where this all began. A gesture that events, in four, are bucking current sequels and getting lighter, more fun. As the film begins, Jack, not for the first time, is in custody, hauled before the king of England no less, in old London town (exteriors: Greenwich’s Old Royal Naval College), who has  gotten wind he has a map to the fountain of youth.

Cue today’s rollicking escape. Then a chase involving 20 carriages, 50 horses and a coal truck exploding in an exquisite Thames-side street set (Dickens does Tortuga). Angelica will ‘rescue’ the ever-wriggling Jack, they’ll join in a swordfight amid exploding beer barrels in the storeroom of the Captain’s Daughter Tavern (notably bigger than the tavern), and end up in the river (actually a 91F underwater stage at Shepperton).

That, good people, is just the beginning. In essence, the film is a race to the fabled fountain deep in a mysterious jungle. Dirty tricks abound. As do mermaids, zombies, Keith Richards and Kevin McNally’s less-than-reliable first mate, Gibbs. Not to forget Jack’s beloved The Black Pearl. “We get a sliver or two of Jack’s story,” adds Depp. “How he first met Angelica.” But as the actor insists, Jack remains the series’ constant, he’s not going to evolve. “He’s at his max,’ he laughs.

Here is the true secret of Pirates Of The Caribbean: we’re not returning for the new stuff, but the old. Jack must always be Jack. “Jack Sparrow is the counter-punch character,” says Rossio. “In the first three movies Elizabeth Swann is our protagonist; it’s her story, hers and Will Turner’s. Jack is the supporting character in a sense, he influences people around him.” The punchline to their set-up.

You might imagine that infuriates the ever-adventurous Depp, an actor who has always tottered away from the straight-and-narrow. But no: “It is satisfying,” he says of the rock in his professional life. “I’ve known people like Hunter Thompson who was who he was his whole life. He was a genius as well. It’s fun knowing Jack won’t change. Weirdly, there’s safety in that: he has a dumb side, a clever side, a sort of weird … reptile.”

That’s why the door is always open for Captain Jack. Maybe not in knotted trilogies, but certainly stand-alone missions: the unreliable James Bond of the Spanish Main. However gruelling – and all that slapstick takes its toll (“We certainly hammer it”) – Pirate films are a joy to make. “They are the same camera crew, same grip department, a  family. The process feels intimate,” extols Depp.

“Yes, there are large set-pieces, big stunts, but when you are shooting it feels like … home.”

23 January 2011   Articles No Comments

Text from Red Bulletin January 2011

Johnny Depp is at once one of the world’s most alluring, yet impenetrable Hollywood leads. Rüdiger Sturm explores the character of this quirkiest of actors and reluctant star.

you might expect any number of different reactions to the experience of meeting Johnny Depp: awed respect maybe, nervousness, a frisson of here’s- hollywood-in-the-flesh excitement. But when yours truly is finally sitting directly opposite the 47-year-old mr D at the luxury Le meurice hotel in paris, i’m struck by quite another emotion altogether. this superstar makes you feel all protective. the way he looks at you from behind his blue horn-rimmed glasses makes him seem timid. his voice is muffled. you might even say he’s shy. and there’s something feminine about his 5ft 8in frame. yet at the same time his appearance is immaculately polished. the two-tone scarf he’s wearing perfectly matches his open-sleeved grey shirt and stylishly ripped jeans. his wrists are covered in leather straps and Buddhist prayer bands. his ears and fingers are covered in rings, including one film memento complete with skull and crossbones, a thick platinum and diamond number and a gold signet ring. his fragile, artistic appearance means the mild irritation i’d felt at his being half an hour late swiftly disappeared. especially as he immediately apologises in a rather despondent tone. “i’m afraid this habit of mine is practically automatic. i’m always late.” truth be told, he needn’t really have said another word. Because those first impressions alone answer the question as to why Johnny Depp is perhaps the most successful, and definitely the most exciting, star on the planet right now. they betray both coolness and a sense of style and are the outward signs of an individual who lives in his own world: a creature as exotic as he is sensitive and one clearly ill at ease when he comes into contact with the outside world. From this perspective, these impressions are almost more illuminating than his latest film, a thriller, the tourist – a conventional flick in comparison. Depp stars in this, his latest, as an american maths teacher on a leave-the- heartache-behind trip to Venice, trying to get over a painful break-up. While there, the stunning girlfriend (angelina Jolie) of a fugitive gangster casts her spell over him. But it’s all part of a plot.
as nobody knows what the criminal looks like after plastic surgery, the people pursuing him assume the unsuspecting tourist is their target, which provides for no end of chases and machinations around the grand canal.
Depp understands this is a far cry from the eccentricities of his signature captain Jack sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean – or, even, his sweeney todd. “it was a real challenge to produce a ‘mister normal’ after playing roles like that,” he offers.
except that, as far as he’s concerned, there’s no such thing as banal normality: “the people who society considers average are often the strangest people you can imagine,” he says.
he gives as an example an honest accountant who decided to travel the world looking for and photographing signs with his surname on them. Depp worked out his ‘normal’ ideas within a strictly limited framework. he decided what his character would look like, put on a couple of pounds and adopted a couple of quirks, such as the low-brow american trying to speak to italians in spanish. it was also his idea to flee across Venice’s rooftops in pyjamas in one scene.
even in such staid roles as these, he’s still quite the thrillseeker. he wouldn’t dream of appearing with a perfect blond head of hair and a bronzed six-pack, as Brad pitt might. nor would he want to be heralded as some greying heart-throb, like george clooney. he seeks out his characters from the fringes of society, regardless of their appearance or state of mind, and then interprets them without a hint of vanity, delving deep into his own imagination. “he’s teeming with ideas, almost too many for one person,” his partner Vanessa paradis opines. “i feel trapped if i’m not allowed to improvise,” he explains. and he “just wants to run away” from directors who try to set him strict guidelines on how to play a role. Which is why he h argued with michael mann during the making of the gangster epic Public Enemies. meantime, an adaptation of the bestselling novel Shantaram, has been put on hold because he couldn’t see eye-to-eye with star director peter Weir of Master and Commander.
it’s because Johnny Depp’s imagination is so rich and dazzling that it needs to be protected. it’s possible that The Tourist might not have come about at all if it hadn’t been for producer graham King who’s worked with Depp for years and, as such, enjoys the star’s trust. it’s no coincidence that Depp brings King along for the interview, even if the beefy englishman lets his star do the talking. it took Depp a long time to find this kind of patron. he can still vividly remember being bullied by one female teacher at school. he could never get on with classmates who dreamed of nothing more than winning the Beauty Queen – or King – crown. “i never wanted to be an insider,” he says.
even in hollywood he was ill at ease and this despite his becoming one of the ’80s leading teen idols for his role as a young undercover cop in the tV series 21 Jump Street.
“i was sold like goods. it drove me completely crazy.”
But Depp was never just a pampered genius; he was also a rebel – splendidly mooning the school teacher he hated, for example. During those crisis years in hollywood, he would sometimes smash up the furniture in his hotel room out of sheer frustration. a flirtation with crime was perhaps no surprise. “my grandfather sold moonshine during prohibition in the ’30s – that was a real service to the community. then my stepfather learned about life the hard way for a couple of years in a juvenile penitentiary,” Depp explains with evident pride.
so it was only to be expected that he would break out of any pigeonhole the business wanted to stick him in. a twist of fate introduced him to someone who would help him escape and who remains a loyal supporter.
Director tim Burton cast Depp as the outcast, monstrously made-up eponymous hero of Edward Scissorhands. the eccentric filmmaker has shaped the image of Johnny Depp the actor more than anyone since. in Ed Wood, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland, he has always presented his star as an oddball character verging on the ingenious, who’s as sensitive as he is unique. But even with that support, Johnny Depp might still have got lost down one of the movie industry’s dead-end streets. “all people ever talked about in hollywood was making money. it was so frustrating,” he says.
he’d numb these lows with a mix of drink and drugs. “i was close to completely losing my mind,” Depp admits. What stopped him flipping out altogether, however, was an encounter 12 years ago in the lobby of a paris hotel. “i turned around and i saw this great back.” it belonged to pop singer Vanessa paradis. “i went up to her, she turned around and when i said hello to her, i knew that was it.” and he wasn’t wrong. three months later, the French singer – 26 at the time – was pregnant. the man who used to smash up his hotel rooms found the emotional stability that had been lacking in his life until then. “anything i’d done before was kind of an illusion. my daughter, the birth of my daughter, gave me life.” in 2002, his son, Jack, was born and Depp’s priorities were changed forever. “my greatest hope is that i’ll be fair to the people i love.”
But whoever thought that this bourgeois idyll might have dulled the thrillseeker spirit was wrong. if anything, it marked the start of probably the most satisfying phase of his career, from teen idol to cult actor to superstar. a year after his son was born, came Depp’s first blockbuster, Pirates of the Caribbean, which also brought him his first oscar nomination. But he had to fight to realise his own vision for the character of captain Jack. Depp wanted his pirate captain to have all the eccentricities of someone like Keith richards. and Disney studios weren’t at all impressed by that to start with. “they thought i was crazy.” But the risk paid off. cinema goers were happy not to see yet another identikit hero. the era of the bland sunshine boy was over and a new era of traumatised superheroes, mutants and freaks had taken its place. and Johnny was one of its icons. the Pirates trilogy had made his personal eccentricity completely socially acceptable. the outsider had come in from the cold. his sense of being on the fringes, looking at the action, rather then being central to it, hasn’t disappeared, however. “sometimes i’d love to run away screaming,” he confesses without a hint of irony. What from? “our technology-obsessed world, the invasive media, the madness of reality tV. We’ve lost touch with the simple things in life. We’re losing our individuality.” even if that may sound a little excitable and convoluted, it tells us one thing, namely that Johnny Depp doesn’t feel at home in the modern world. When he’s not getting carried away in a train of thought, his face takes on an astonished expression – a mixture of misgiving and amazement. Like a visitor from another planet who’s not sure whether he’d like to be beamed back up or not.
Luckily, he has the means to organise his own private seclusion zone. one of the family’s homes is in an idyllic village in the south of France, and don’t forget the private island in the Bahamas. “that might sound extravagant to you. But i need somewhere where i can breathe easily or just sit around and chat without someone taking my picture.” it’s as if he’d rather live in the past, maybe in the ’30s, when “…the men were still elegantly dressed, looked like their own men”. his favourite films seem to tie in with the same pattern. “We like watching the old hollywood classics,” Vanessa paradis admits. It Happened One Night, a comedy in which clark gable meets an heiress on the run, is one of the couple’s favourite films. even Depp’s food tips meet the same criteria. For example, he rates the bistro chez L’ami Louis in paris which opened in the ’20s but has long since fallen out of favour with the critics. But that doesn’t bother him. Because, “…you feel like you’re in a time machine”.
and if he goes to a city he doesn’t know, he wanders in the historic footsteps of the great writers. When i ask him what stood out in Venice, where The Tourist was shot, he doesn’t name something standard like st mark’s square or the rialto Bridge, but he does mention with great enthusiasm that he walked past the lodgings of english poet genius Lord Byron.
yet this special take of his never goes to his head. he has neither an egomaniac’s ponderousness nor a winner’s arrogance. it is precisely because he doesn’t take himself too seriously that he is able to embody the most absurd of roles. even during a comparatively streamlined production like The Tourist, he and his co-star angelina Jolie would still see who could raise the biggest laugh. he’s notorious for putting whoopee cushions on his colleagues’ chairs. and he can take a joke too. at press conferences he never evades even the most intimate of questions, be they about his ideal of beauty or the length of his manhood, and he sometimes even makes jokes about his “sex change”.
all of which makes Johnny Depp, with his wonderful eccentricity, meek timidity and rebellious sarcasm, rather unique in the movie industry. he should be placed on the endangered species list forthwith. But the best description of him i’ve ever heard comes straight from the horse’s mouth. he may have been talking about Keith richards at the time, but it could just as well apply to him. “he is profound, funny and absolutely brilliant. he might well have been wallowing in fame from a young age, but he always managed to stay cool and normal. and he treats everyone the same. and to manage that in this industry is an amazing achievement.”

Title: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Publication: Entertainment Weekly

Issue: January 2011

DOES ANYONE LOVE the egomaniacal pirate Capt. Jack Sparrow much as, well, the egomaniacal pirate Capt. Jack Sparrow? Maybe not. But on person he comes close is Johnny Depp, who’s now played that seafaring scalawag in four Pirates of the Caribbean movies, including On Stranger Tides (out May 20). “I’m never tired of the character,” he says. “I don’t look forward to the day when I have to say good bye to him.”

Captain Jack’s latest adventure was born during the back-to-back productions of the franchise’s second and third films, 2006’s Dead Man’s Chest and 2007’s At World’s End. Writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio persuaded series superproducer Jerry Bruckheimer to option Tim Powers’ On Stranger Tides, a 1987 novel that featured both the dreaded pirate Blackbeard and the fountain of youth. Once the rights were secured, Elliott and Rossio set the stage for the new installment by writing a concluding scene for At World’s End in which Sparrow is seen heading off in search of the fountain in question.

Given the combined $2 billion worldwide gross of Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End, Disney was happy to bankroll a fourth excursion. On Sept. 11, 2009, Depp appeared on stage dressed as Captain Jack at a Disney fan event in Anaheim to hype the announcement. He also embraced Disney’s then chairman, Dick Cook, who’d famously backed Depp’s idiosyncratic decision to base his character on Keith Richards. But just one week after the Anaheim event, Cook abruptly departed Disney—and plans for Pirates 4 seemed to founder: Depp told a reporter at the time that he felt “a fissure, a crack in my enthusiasm at the moment” for another Pirates movie. “Things became a little creaky after Dick Cook left” the actor admits now. “He had been very supportive of me on the first movie when a lot of people at Disney were concerned? However Depp also says he had issues with the nascent Pirates 4 script. “Things got very mathematical, very subplotty on the last movie because there were a lot of things that needed to be resolved with the characters,” he says. “I wanted to make a film that was more like the first one, that was more character driven.”

To help whip the yarn into shape, Depp attended a series of meetings in L.A. with the core Pirates team, including director Rob Marshall, who stepped in after Gore Verbinski left the series. “Johnny was instrumental in the design of the story” says Rossio. “l think an arbitration committee might give him a ‘story by’ credit if he was willing to submit it.”

Depp’s wish for a sleeker Pirates 4 dovetailed with the desire for a cheaper one on the part of Disney’s new regime, led by Chairman Rich Ross. Bruckheimer says On Stranger Tides’ budget is “a little bit smaller” than that of At Worlds End—which reportedly cost $300 million, thanks in part to its 165-minute running time. “The most important thing for the studio and for us [was] to have a script that wasn’t too long,” he says. “That’s where the money comes.” Film makers also saved a few doubloons with the departures of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley whose story lines were resolved in At Worlds End.

On Stranger Tides introduces a slew of fresh characters, including Blackbeard (lan McShane); his feisty daughter, Angelica (Penelope Cruz); and a young missionary played by newcomer Sam Claflin. Angelica, it seems, is no stranger to Captain Jack. “You get the sense that there‘s most definitely something from the past, something that they’ve been through together,” Depp says cagily. “It’s a hate—love relationship.”

With all the elements in place, production began last spring in Hawaii—where the elements themselves became an obstacle. On the first day of principal photography the cast and crew had to take a precarious journey from a boat to an island via Jet Skis. “It was a rough sea and there was no dock,” recalls Bruckheimer: “It was pretty challenging.” A potentially more worrisome issue: the expanding shape of Cruz, who’s expecting her first child with husband Javier Bardem. Even so, Depp says, the actress was entirely gung ho: “It was funny to see a pregnant woman f—ing sword—fighting.”

The Pirates crew is betting that new characters and a zippier plot will help the fourth adventure combat the franchise fatigue that has hurt other series. Another attraction? It’s in 3-D. “When I wanted to do Sorcerer’s Apprentice in 3D, [Disney] said no,” says Bruckheimer. “Prnice of Persia, they said no. Alice in Wonderland and Avatar changed everybody’s mind. But we’ll be the first picture of this size out that is shot in 3-D on location. Avatar was on a sound studio.”

Now that Pirates 4 is in the can, Depp admits he would be happy to buckle some more swash. ‘As long as we can put all the puzzle pieces together; I would most definitely consider it,” he says. “I always feel that with Captain Jack, you can chuck him into any situation and have a ball with it.”

Highlights from Entertainment Weekly’s Jan. 21 issue (on newsstands nationwide Friday, Jan 14): Johnny Depp talks exclusively about ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides’ and the possibility of ‘Pirates 5’

New York, N.Y. – Does anyone love the egomaniacal pirate Capt. Jack Sparrow as much as, well, the egomaniacal pirate Capt. Jack Sparrow? Maybe not. But one person who comes close is Johnny Depp, who’s now played that seafaring scallywag in four Pirates of the Caribbean movies, including On Stranger Tides (out May 20). “I’m never tired of the character,” he says. “I don’t look forward to the day when I have to say goodbye to him.”

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1 January 2011   Articles Interviews No Comments

Title: The Crowed Mind of Johnny Depp

Publication: Vanity Fair

Issue: January 2011

Johnny Depp is on set at Pinewood Studios, outside London, for the last days of shooting the next Pirates of the Caribbean movie—On Stranger Tides. We sit on the floor of his trailer, a brocaded lair worthy of Captain Jack Sparrow, strewn with the talismans of his real-life counterpart: Johnny’s blue lenses; faded bandannas; beat-up boots; Viper Room cap; silver skull rings in a bowl; a copy of Keith Richards’s Life atop a script for Dark Shadows and folded notes from his 8-yeanold son, Jack, and his 11-year-old daughter, Lily Rose. There is an old Stella acoustic guitar that he cannot resist picking up and strumming quietly. Johnny is working l2-hour shifts. The day begins in the makeup trailer, long before morning rush hour. Downtime is divided between press calls, stacks of pictures to sign, scripts to read, and family responsibilities; ever present and ever embraced. There is also the occasional hour of stolen sleep, often with his guitar resting on his chest.

I first met Johnny a few years ago, backstage at the Orpheum Theater, in Los Angeles, where I was performing with my band. When he laughed, l noticed his gapped teeth, a detail borrowed from the engaging smile of his companion, Vanessa Paradis, in preparation for his role as the frenetically pure Mad Hatter, in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. l had just seen The Libertine for the third time, in which Johnny hauntingly channels John Wilmot, second Earl of Rochester, who in 1675 wrote the infamous “Satyr Against Mankind? As the movie begins, Wilmot says to the viewer, “You will not like me.” But Johnny himself is in fact very likable, his magnetic energy infused with a certain shyness. In conversation, Johnny and I, both bookworms, moved easily from Wilmot to Baudelaire to Hunter S. Thompson. We were dressed alike—holey dungarees, battered leather jacket, time-worn flannel shirt. My son, Jackson, a guitarist, who was with me, noted that Johnny seemed more like a musician than an actor.

Later, visiting Johnny`s Los Angeles home. I became acquainted with his rare books and other precious objects. He never says he owns any of these things, preferring to call himself their guardian. He is the guardian of John Dillinger’s derringer, a manuscript in the hand of Arthur Rimbaud, and Jack Kerouac’s last typewriter.

Johnny is down to earth, yet also seems to operate in another universe. Time is precious—but also worthless. He has a bit of the Godfather in him—and also a bit of the bum. He is as rebellious as Rochester, as loving as the Hatter, and as ill-behaved as Jack Sparrow. He is also intensely loyal.

In Puerto Rico, as he was filming the late Hunter S. Thompson’s novel The Rum Diary, the spirit of Hunter, whom Johnny loved, permeated the atmosphere. A director’s chair was emblazoned with Hunter’s name and small rituals were carried out in his honor. The hours were long, and the jungle was moonlit and mosquito-infested. Johnny’s character dark shades, hair slicked back—was a rum-soaked journalist named Paul Kemp.

At the London premiere of Alice in Wonderland, I had my first glimpse of the character who would supersede Paul Kemp Frank Tupelo, the bemused math teacher in Johnny’s new movie The Tourist. Johnny does not watch his own movies, so that night he broke ranks to say hello to fans gathered outside in the rain, later joining the celebration hosted by the whimsical genius Tim Burton. After hours, I found Johnny sitting alone in a small alcove with a glass of wine before him. He was in a tuxedo. He had grown a beard, and his dark hair was longer than usual. His pale skin was illuminated by a single light, and he had thrown back his head and closed his eyes. He had left the Hatter and Kemp behind and was already slipping into the interior world of Frank Tupelo. In that moment I noticed for the first time how handsome he is.

Within days of the Alice premiere he was unpacking in Venice, ensconced in a private section of a hotel tucked away at the end of a canal, steps from the Palazzo Fortuny. The mystical light of Venice and the misadventures of Johnny and his Tourist co-star, Angelina Jolie, were about to be captured for the screen. The movie is stylish, a thrilling caper in the manner of North ly Northwest. The schedule was punishing and the weather a challenge—hot by day but very chilly for night shoots. During a midnight break we ate pizza with our coats on, then Johnny was whisked away for a long shot down a fog-shrouded canal, chained inside a water taxi. Angelina awaited her cue, a hooded parka concealing the glamour that would soon emerge. Brad Pitt was minding the children, but her mother radar was always on. Paparazzi were kept at bay, but hovered relentlessly.

Now, in London, as winter sets in. Johnny is again consumed by Captain Jack; He will meet his match in yet another dark beauty, Penelope Cruz more than ready to spar with the Sparrow. At Pinewood, heavy mists descend upon the bogs, pools, and vines that create the physical atmosphere surrounding the much-sought-after Fountain of Youth, Johnny’s boy, Jack, who has the gaze of his mother and the stance of his father, accompanies the Captain on set, but not until jacket, cap, and scarf are located. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was shot here at Pinewood, but the river of chocolate is now gone. In its place there are strange waters teeming with mysterious organisms. It is damp and chilly, and the scene I witness is a mix of sword-play and slapstick. Afterward, the dresser takes away the Captains locks a heavy tangle of dreads and bones. Johnny’s dark silky hair is held flat in tight braids. There is a set change and a lull, so we sit on the floor of the trailer, a rare moment of peace, with his boy safe at hand. Johnny presses RECORD on the little tape machine. He smiles a smile that is his own. He is just Johnny, and, in truth. Johnny is character enough.

SMLTH: Anytime I’ve seen you in a trailer; at your home, in a hotel room, you always have at least one guitar with you. You sometimes talk while strumming a guitar How connected are you with music?

DEPP: It’s still my first love as much as it ever was, since I was a little kid and first picked up a guitar and tried to figure out how to make the thing go. Going into acting was an odd deviation from a particular road that I was on in my late teens, early 20s, because I had no desire, no interest, really, in it at all. I was a musician and I was a guitarist, and that’s what I wanted to do.

But because of that deviation, and because I don’t do it for a living, maybe I still have been able to maintain that kind of innocent love for it. The weird thing is I think I approach my work the same way I approached guitar playing—looking at a character like a song. If you think of expression musically—it goes from wherever it comes from inside to your fingers, and on to that fretboard, and then on to the amplifier, through whatever. It’s the same kind of thing that’s required here, with acting; What was the author’s intent? What can I add to it that maybe someone else won’t add to it? It’s not necessarily a question of how many notes, but a question of what do the notes express and what docs a slight bend do.

SMITH: I overheard someone in your camp—maybe it was on the set of The Rum Diary, or maybe it was The Tourist—talking  about how eager yon were to get back to Captain Jack, and about how much Jack was like you. How do you feel when you enter into the skin of Captain Jack?

DEPP: Free—free to be irreverent. I think it’s like unlocking a part of yourself and freeing this part of yourself to just be—what do they call it?—the id, or whatever, just to be . . . just to he, under whatever circumstances. The closest thing that I can compare it to was having known Hunter Thompson really well—we were very, very close—and witnessing him, because I studied him so deeply and lived with him for a period of time to try to become Raoul Duke, to try to become Hunter. There was a certain freedom that he had, or control, or command of the situation —there was never anything that he couldn’t get  through. Verbally he was just so clever and so quick and so free, and he didn’t give a rat’s ass about what the repercussions were.

Smith: He was the revolutionary’s Johnny Carson. I mean, he always had a punch line.

DEPP: Somebody once asked him, “What is the sound of one hand clapping, Hunter?,” and he smacked him. Captain Jack was kind of like that for me, an opening up of this part of yourself that is somewhat you know, there is a little Bugs Bunny in all of us.

SMITH: Young kids love, really love the Captain. And who is more mystical, mischievous and brilliant in his own way; than Bugs Bunny?

Depp: At the time, l had been watching nothing but cartoons with my daughter—with Lily Rose. I hadn’t seen a grown-up film in forever. It was all cartoons, all those great old Warner Bros things. And I thought, Jesus, the parameters here are so much wider and more forgiving in terms of character, These cartoon characters could get away with anything. And I thought, They’re beloved by 3-year-olds and 93—year-olds. How do you do that? How do you get there? That was kind of the start.

SMITH:  l also see a little of John Barrymore in Captain Jack. There’s humor and often a feyness.  He keeps his intelligence in his own little treasure chest. He doesn’t really want people to comprehend  that he knows everything.

DEPP: He has already assessed the situation.

SMITH: What were you reading to inform you about Captain Jack or his lifestyle?

DEPP: I was reading a lot of books about early pirates. There was one book in particular that was really helpful called Under the Black Flag. You realize that those guys were—you either loved it or you were pressganged and you didn’t. One of the things that helped me most with Captain Jack was a book by Bernard Moitessier, and it’s where I found the last line for the First Pirates movie. The writers were stumped, and they’d say, Well, what about this? And nothing seemed to click. I was reading this Moitessier book on sailing the earth, and he had written about how the ultimate for a sailor was the horizon, and to be able to attain that horizon, which you never get to, which is why it keeps pushing you forward. I thought, That’s it! That’s it! So I went to them and said, I`ve got a line for you: “Bring me that horizon.” And they looked at it and went, Nah, that’s not it. But about 45 minutes later they came to me and went, ‘That’s the line’.

SMITH: Because delivered in a certain way. . .

DEPP:  Yeah—“Bring me that horizon” That’s what they all want. That’s what all those guys want. Get me that horizon. And you never get there.

SMITH: How did Disney feel about Captain Jack? He does have a wisp of controversy about him.

DFPP:  It was a totally different regime over there at the time. They couldn’t stand him. They just couldn’t stand him. I think it was Michael Eisner, the head of Disney at the time, who was quoted as saying, “He’s ruining the movie.” It was that extreme-memos, and paper trails, and madness, and phone calls, and agents, and lawyers, and people screaming, and me getting phone calls direct from, you know, upper-echelon Disney-ites, going, ‘What’s wrong with him? Is he, you know, like some kind of weird simpleton? Is he drunk? By the way, is he gay? Is he this? Is he that?’ And so I actually told this woman who was the Disney-ite that called me about all that stuff and asked me the questions, I said to her, “But didn’t you know that all my characters are gay7” Which really made her nervous.

SMITH: The role of Frank in The Tourist is so different from the Hatter or the Captain—more subtle. Characters like him—who seem to have less that you can grasp—I would think would be harder to do.

Deep: The great challenge of a character like Frank, for me, is that he`s Everyman, you know, Mr. Ordinary not a simpleton, just ordinary. He’s a math teacher. I was always fascinated by people who are considered completely normal, because I find them the weirdest of all.

SMITH: So where did you find Frank?

DEPP: He was sort of a combo platter for me, from certain people I’ve known over the years. l knew an accountant who would travel—he was super-straight, very, very straight guy and he would travel all over the world to photograph places that had street signs or businesses that had the same name as his last name. He’d go to Italy, he’d go to Shanghai, and he’d take photographs. That was his kick.

SMITH: He had an eccentricity that no one sees. Everyone sees the eccentricities of an artist. But eccentricities like Frank’s  are so subtle and so particular.

DEPP: It was guys like that that I thought about. Frank, for example, who had quit smoking, could be absolutely fascinated with that electronic cigarette, and the moving parts of it, and being able to really explain it to someone in great detail.

SMITH: Frank has same really nice pajamas. Cotton. Light blue. Do you wear pajamas?

DEPP: Occasionally I do. Occasionally, when it’s cold.

SMITH: Do they have, feet on them?

DEPP: I don’t have the feet. I have not gone for footed pajamas yet. However, I’m not—I wouldn’t, you know, withdraw the idea. One of the finest nights of sleep that I ever had, after a huge workload, was in a pair of pajamas that Julian Schnabel gave me. I hadn’t worn pajamas since I was about three. And I actually slept in them. They were somehow so comforting. His wife made them. That was the moment when l became completely square.

SMIIH: Well I don’t know.  I’ve also seen your Miami Dolphins socks—although that might be a secret.

DEPP: You have a pair, too! There are no secrets now. We’re in this together.

SMITH: We have another dirty little secret. A Monkees song.

DEPP: Oh, “Daydream Believer.” It’s a great song. I don’t care what anyone says.

SMITH: ‘Daydream Believer” came on the radio when we were driving to the set. It was a moment of total Happiness. It’s a pure, happy little song.  What bad thing can you say about it?

DEPP: I know. I know. It’s OK to like “Daydream Believer.” There’s nothing wrong with a guilty pleasure from time to time. Know what I mean?  It’s “Daydream Believer.” I’m justifying my own flag.

SMITH: A Monkee and I have the same birthday . . .

DEPP: Is it Micky Dolenz?

SMITH: No, it’s actually two Monkees. Mike and Duty. I used to be horrified by that fact, but now I don’t care anymore. I have the same birthday as Bo Diddley Rudyard Kipling and Paul Bowles. . . and two Monkees.

DEPP: That’s pretty good. That’s a good balance.

SMITH: Getting buck to The Tourist, from what I saw; on set, the atmosphere seemed fraught  with mischief.

DEPP: Angelina; we’d met basically on this film. Meeting her and getting to know her was a real pleasant surprise, and I say that with the best meaning, just in the sense that she’s this quite, you know, famous, and, I mean, poor thing, dogged by paparazzi, her and her husband, Brad, you know, and all their kids, and their wonderful life, but they are plagued by . . . so you don’t know what to expect, really. You don’t know what she might be like—if she has any sense of humor at all. I was so pleased to find that she is incredibly normal, and has a wonderfully kind of dark, perverse sense of humor, And because here we are working together in this situation where you could really; there are times when you see how ridiculous is this life, how ludicrous it is, you know, leaving your house every morning and being followed by paparazzi, or having to hide, sometimes not even being able to talk to each other in public because someone will take a photograph and it will be misconstrued and turned into some other shit.

SMITH: On set, I told her that she looked beautiful and she explained to me about all the different people it takes to make that possible—as she really isn’t. I found Angelina interesting. If you talk about her beauty she scoffs.  If you mention a cause, she invites you to take a stand.

DEPP: That’s the thing with Angie. I mean, you look at her and you go, O.K.: “goddess,” “movie icon.” ln 30 years people will still be going, “Oh, my God.” Elizabeth Taylor kind of territory. And she has got that, no question about it. But, like anything, it’s the way she deals with it. She’s so down to earth, and so bright, and so real. I’ve had the honor and the pleasure and gift of having known Elizabeth Taylor for a number of years. Who’s a real broad. You know, you sit down with her, she slings hash, she sits there and cusses like a sailor, and she`s hilarious. Angie’s got the same kind of thing, you know. The same approach.

SMITH: Something I’ve always wondered about   these people that you become for us or make flesh in a film. Do they revisit you ever? Are you able to discard them? What happens to them?

DEPP: They’re all still there, which on some level can’t be the healthiest thing in the world. But, no, they’re all still there. I always picture it as this chest of drawers in your body—Ed Wood is in one, the Hatter is in another, Scissorhands is in another. They stick with you. Hunter is certainly in there—you know, Raoul Duke. The weirdest thing is that I can access them. They’re still very close to the surface.

SMITH: It must be difficult when you have multiple personalities in one of them, like the Hatter has. What does he say “it’s crawled in here”?

Depp: “I don’t like it in here. It’s terribly crowded.” But they all, somehow, have their place. They have come to terms with each other. I suppose.

SMITH:  When you’re playing someone—when your really deep within a character—have you ever had a dream that you felt was not your dream? Do your character dream within you?

DEPP: I’ve certainly had dreams where I was the character. Sweeney was like that. There were a lot of dark Sweeney dreams. And certainly The Libertine, playing John Wilmot.

SMITH: I would think that Wilmot would be the one who would most desire to rear his head. He was a real human being. It’s  one thing to interpret a character in literature or someone in fiction.  But to have to channel someone who was a living person. Did you find that process different?

DEEP: It`s definitely different. The first thing is the responsibility. You have a responsibility to that person and the legacy and memory of that person. So especially play someone like John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester, because I always felt he was this great, great poet who was never acknowledged as a great poet, but looked upon as a  satirist or some silly guy who hung around the court of King Charles II. I never believed he got his due. He was at renegade, a brilliant poet who was incredibly brave.

I felt this very strong responsibility to play him right—so much so that I became obsessed. I read everything. I knew everything about him. I went to the places he’d lived. I went to the place where he died. I perused his actual letters in the British Library and found his words and made notes and used them in the script. Without wanting to sound all kind of New Agey, I do believe that he paid me at least a few visits.

SMITH: When you spouted a few lines of poetry to Samantha Morton, who played Elizabeth Barry in the movie that was my introduction to Wilmot’s work, to his poetry. And I noticed in Alice, when the Hatter recites the “Jabberwocky” that you have a gift for giving us the full measure of a poet’s work. It is really quite difficult. Could you imagine doing a recording of works of poetry?

DEPP: I don’t know. It`s daunting, because you don’t know exactly . . I mean, you can decipher the intent, und you can kind of swim around in the guts of it, but you just don’t know how the poet would have wanted it read.

SMITH: Yes, but that’s no different than Glenn Gould having to anticipate how Bach would want his work played. l thought the Hatter’s reading of” Jabberwocky” was luminous. Yesterday you read me a poem written by the Elephant Man. I didn’t know he wrote poetry. The poem you recited was heartbreaking. How did  you come to find it?

DEEP: I made an appointment at the hospital where they had his remains. His skeleton is there, a plaster mask is there, and his hat and veil and all this other stuff is there. And right on the wall next to him is this gorgeous poem that he wrote about himself and about his life:  “Dragging this vile body / Round the years / I am not what first appears / A senseless freak / Devoid of hope or tears” This guy was deep, and so, so gifted.

SMITH: I’ve seen The Libertine a number of times. The cinematography, the direction, the script was all so beautiful. The costumes, the casting, the women, they were superb. John Malkovich was a great person for you to work off of. But it seemed buried as a film.

DEPP: It was buried, no question. It was buried horribly. It was a conflict within the ranks.

I wanted to go to the artist Banksy, the English graffiti artist. I was going to make a plea to him. What I wanted was the image, the spray-painted image of John Wilmot’s face to show up here and there, simply with the line from the movie, the phrase “You will not like me.” “You will not like me”—l thought. That’s the way to go with something like this. But the reaction was “Banksy who?”

SMITH: Do you have any actors that you studied from the past, actors from any era, who were helpful  either in a specific role or just in general?

DEPP: The guys I always adored were mostly the silent—film actors, Buster Keaton first, Lon Chaney Sr., and Chaplin, of course those three for me. And John Barrymore. The gods: those are the gods. And then you’ve got the people that came out of that, Paul Muni, certainly. . .

But Marlon, it wasn’t until Marlon Brando came along that . . . it was revolutionary, it just changed everything. The work he was doing, Streetcar completely different fucking animal. And everybody changed their approach from that moment on.

SMITH: He was bigger than-I don’t know how to say it—it was almost like the screen could not contain him. Does that make sense?

DEPP: Absolutely. I don’t know what the fuck it is, or was, but, at that time—especially at that time—he had too much. And the shape of his face and his nose and his-and the distance between his forehead and his eyebrows, and whatever was going on for whatever genetic reason, or whatever. He was placed in that spot for that particular thing. And, man, he cranked it. He just absolutely owned it.

SMLTH: Its interesting when one individual whether its Michal Angello, Coltrane, Bob Dylan, Jackson Pollock, they’re so inspiring, and they have; beget almost a whole school but no one can touch them.  They have this place of kingship, but also solitude.

DEPP: And Marlon hated it. He hated it, which is probably why he rejected the whole idea of it, you know, and made fun of it. But I know its bullshit. I know he was capable of the work and worked hard when he did the work. I saw him do it, you know. He did care.

SMITH: Earlier, you mentioned those three greats, the silent film greats. You’re a master of language, voice, script, words. And yet you chose three silent-film actors.

DEPP: The amazing thing about those guys is that they didn’t have the luxury of language. So what they were doing, what they were feeling, what they were trying to express, had to come out through being had to be alive, had to be in there behind the eyes. Their body had to express it, their very being had to express it.

SMITH: Throughout your life, you seem to have had beautiful relationships with a succession of mentors; Marlon, Hunter,  Allen Ginsberg . You hold these people with you. Is that something that has just come your way? Or is it something that you seek in life?

DEPP: I think it’s probably a combination. It‘s never been a conscious sort of searching, but it did happen with these guys. The combination probably goes back to memories of my grandfather. We were very, very close, and I lost him. I was about nine.

SMITH: Is it your grandfather you have tattooed on your arm?

DEPP: Yeah, Jim. He was a wonderful model. He drove a bus during the day and ran moonshine at night. He was a Robert Mitchum type, a man’s man. He just said things as they were.He’d call a spade a spade and piss on you if you didn’t like it. He was also of a different era—I mean, a radically different era, as were some of the other guys that we’ve talked about, like Marlon and Hunter, and even Keith [Richards] to some degree, and Allen certainly. I really believe it was a better time. I really believe that, at a certain point, if you’re born in ’60-something or whatever, you got ripped off; you know what I mean? I always felt like I was meant to have been born in another era, another time.

SMITH; I was thinking back on Edward Scissorhands—he has this father figure and mentor; Vincent Prices character. You told me a story once about Vincent Price.

DEPP: We were doing Scissorhands and Vincent was playing the inventor –essentially my father in the film. And he was a decent man. He was able to move around. He was cool. He was old.

SMITH: Was that his last film?

DLPP:I think it was, yes. I think it was his last.

SMITH: Such a beautiful film to end with.

DEPP: And the same kind of genre that he dwelled in for a long time. I adored him. As did Tim, a long time before me. So we spent time together, hung out. I was totally enamored. And I had this volume of Edgar Allan Poe, Tales of Mystery and Imagination, that 1 wanted to show him, just show him, you know, because I love the illustrations by Harry Clarke. I brought it to Vincent, and we were sitting in his trailer. He says, Oh, yes, this is wonderful, it’s a wonderful book. He was leafing beautifully through these great heavy pages. And he found “The Tomb of Ligeia” and started to read from it. And he read about half a page aloud, maybe. And then he closed the book and continued. He knew it verbatim.

SMITH: Speaking of books, I was thinking about the letters and manuscripts you have – Dylan Thomas, Kerouac, Rimbaud. Can you remember the first of these that you obtained and how that came about?

DEPP: It was 1991, and I was finishing a film called Arizona Dream in New York. And I wanted to take a trip to Lowell, Massachusetts, to see Kerouac’s town. I’d read everything and been inundated with the Kerouac thing. And so I went there and hooked up with John Sampas, who is Kerouae’s wife’s brother. We talked. He took me around the town. We went to various bars and went to his house, spent a couple of days like that. At the time it was prior to all that stuff being sold off. He gave me access, total access, to Kerouac’s things. He just opened up—bam! I read the Book of Dreams that was under his bed. I read it cover to cover. There it was, like right there in front of me.

SMITH: In his handwriting?

DEPP: Handwriting, watercolors—the Book of Dreams. It was right there, little notepads, tiny little steno notebooks that he carried in his back pocket. I read, cover to cover, as many as I could. And opened up suitcases of his that hadn’t been opened for years, All these amazing things. John Sampas gave me a coat so we could walk to the cemetery to visit Kerouae’s grave. And the coat he put on me was Jack’s. A black raincoat, three-quarter length, slight check in it. I reached into the pockets. In the right-hand pocket there was a tissue, just some old wadded-up tissue. And on the left-hand side there was an old matchbook. And I thought, you know, O.K., I’ve touched these. It’s like the Smithsonian Institution was in my pockets, you know’?

SMITH: You must’ve felt like you fell down your own rabbit hole.

DEPP: I was happy not to leave. I was happy to stay there.

SMITH: Are you reading anything right now? Well you’re always reading, so I should say, what are you reading right now?

DEPP: Between scripts I’m reading The Thin Man, the Dashiell Hammett book, to see what we can mine from it. That’s something that would be Rob Marshall] directing and me playing the Nick part. My hope is that Penelope [Cruz] would play the part of Nora.

SMITH; And what script are you reading?

DEPP: The most recent draft of Dark Shadows. That’s something I Want to do. The script is close now, really close, and, you know, it’s just a question of myself and Tim and the writer, basically the three of us, getting together and signing off on various scenarios. But it’s really gotten good. In the last three weeks, it’s gotten fuckin’ good.

SMITH: Do you ever think of doing plays? I think it would be wonderful  see you work live.

DEPP: I do, I do, I do. The bitter pill that I swallowed was with Marlon, who asked how many movies I did a year. And I said, I don’t know; three? He said, You ought to slow down, kid. You’ve got to slow down ’eause we only have so many faces in our pockets.

And then he went on to say, “Why don’t you just take a year and go and study Shakespeare, or go and study Hamlet. Go and work on Hamlet and play that part. Play that part before you‘re too old. I thought, Well, yeah, yeah, I know Hamlet. Great. What a great part, great play, you know, this and that.

And then the killer came. He said, “I never did it. I never got the chance to do it. Why don’t you go and do it?” He was the one that should’ve done it, and he didn’t. He didn’t. So what he was trying to tell me was: play that fucking part, man. Play that part before you’re too long in the tooth. Play it. And I would like to. I’d really, really like to.

19 November 2010   Articles No Comments

Title: When Angelina Met Johnny

Publication: US – Entertainment Weekly

Issue: November 29, 2010


Sometimes Hollywood seems like the smallest place on earth. If you’ve ever seen celebrities backslapping on the red carpet or even sat through a season of Entourage, you might conclude that everyone in the movie business knows everyone else. Take Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. Between them, they’ve made 70 films. They own homes within an hour of each other in the south of France. And they both live with actors, which you’d think would expand their A-list circles further. But it wasn’t until last November that the co-stars of The Tourist actually met. “We’re both not that social,” says Jolie. “I don’t think either one of us goes out of our house, especially in France. We’re both locked away:” Adds Depp: “So much has been written about Angie and Brad. They’re sort of the Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton of our era. I knew she was a big star, but I didn’t know what to expect…” We take for granted that if two movie stars are big enough – and beautiful enough—they will have instant chemistry on screen. And when the PG-13 romantic thriller hits theaters on Dec. 10, the world will find out whether Depp and Jolie-arguably the biggest male and female stars on the planet—will have that indefinable spark. Until then, though, there’s a story worth sharing. The story of how Angie met Johnny

As with most $100 million-plus Hollywood productions, The Tourist took a byzantine path to theaters. It began in 2005 with a French film called Anthony Zimmer——a Hitchcockian import starring Sophie Marceau and Yvan Attal that barely made a ripple on this side of the Atlantic. Still, the pretzel-like wrong-man thriller about a money launderer on the run from detectives and Russian mobsters in sun-kissed Nice was fresh and clever enough for studios to think remake. Zimmer had twists, turns, and double and triple crosses, not to mention juicy parts for two major stars. In no time, Tom Cruise was said to be attached. Then Charlize Theron.

Over time, a who’s who of six—figure screenwriters tried to blockbusterize the story; which was now being set in Venice: Jeffrey Nachmanoff (The Day After Tomorrow), William Wheeler (The Hoax), Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park), and Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) turned in one promising draft after another But every time it looked as though The Tourist was headed for a green light, that light quickly turned red. Cruise backed out and went off to make other films. Then Sam Worthington was in. Until he wasn’t.

Just as The Tourist seemed headed for the turnaround graveyard, Jolie was in New York wrapping the stunt heavy Salt. She l remembers being black—and-blue and exhausted. “I wanted to do something that would be a great vacation for my kids,” she says. “I got a phone call saying, ‘Okay the film’s shooting in Venice” and I said, ‘I don’t know what it is, but I’m going to say yes “

Jolie’s only half kidding. The actress, 35, admits she’s always had a sweet tooth for action thrillers and was intrigued by the story about two good-looking strangers in trouble in a picturesque European locale. But she also knew the script needed work—a lot of work. It also needed a director a producer; and a leading man. Still, her mind kept drifting back to a working vacation on the canals of Venice. There are worse places to spend a few months, she thought.

You would never think it thumbing through the tabloids at the supermarket checkout line, where Jolie and Brad Pitt’s globe-trotting
exploits are chronicled the way NORAD tracks heat-seeking missiles, but the actress insists that when she and Pitt are not working, they tend to be parked in front of the TV for movie nights, with a heaping bowl of popcorn.

One evening back in 2006, the couple put on a yet—to-be-released German film called The Lives of Others—the feature debut of a 32-year-old director from Munich named Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. The film, which tells the tense, claustrophobic story of an East German spy, would go on to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. But before its long march to the Kodak Theatre, Jolie and Pitt sat in front of the TV entranced. “Brad and I watched it together and we loved it,” recalls Jolie. “The character work, all the small details, you really had to lean in and watch. It was handled with such precision and delicacy and very few films are today.”

Pitt sent a gushing letter to the director and fired up along-distance friendship. He wasn’t the only admirer: Seemingly over-night, Henckel von Donnersmarck was meeting with smitten studio execs in LA. “It was overwhelming” says the director. “If you make a film for $2 million that makes $80 million world-wide, those are numbers that Hollywood responds to. No one wanted to distribute The Lives of Others.  And going from that to being offered all these Hollywood scripts, you’re like a lobster being cooked alive. I remember thinking, ‘Do l just jump at an opportunity because it’s there?’ “

Henckel von Donnersmarck, whose name is actually short for the even-more-unwieldy-and-Teutonic Florian Maria Georg Christian Graf Henckel von Donnersmarck, wasn’t sure he was ready to become the next Roland Emmerich—the big—budget German amateur of Tinseltown schlock like 10000BC. He says he passed on “dozens” of offers, opting instead to hammer out a script of his own despite the concern that he was making a colossal mistake. Then, just as he finished his screenplay he got a call from Jolie. Would he meet her in Los Angeles?

Pitt arrived with Jolie to make the introductions, then left his better half to talk business. Jolie pitched the director on The Tourist——how she saw it as a suave cat—and-mouse thriller; like a modern-day To Catch a Thief or Charade; how she was convinced it could still feel smart and European despite its rich price tag; and how it also needed a lot of overhauling. “She was still a little undecided about it and, she said, ‘Look, what do you think? If you wanted to do it, I’d be interested,”’ recalls the director “I found myself apologizing that it wasn’t The Lives of Others,” adds Jolie. “It doesn’t have that importance or depth. And he talked about how something that’s a pleasure to watch can be just as important.” Henckel von Donnersmarck left the meeting knowing he would not only direct the film but rewrite it, too.

Jolie and Henckel von Donnersmarck then brought The Tourist to Graham King, an English-born L.A. transplant with a gruff London accent and a fast-rising reputation as a rainmaking producer of ambitious, star-driven films like The Departed and The Aviator. As luck would have it, King mentioned to them he had a dinner date with Johnny Depp the following week. And just like that, three lightbulbs simultaneously went on.

At dinner King turned to Depp and said, “Before you do Pirates 4, are you interested in going to work?” Depp was intrigued. King sent the actor the script-or at least the cobbled-together mishmash of all the previous scripts. Depp called back a week later He was in. The only problem was The Tourist would have to be rewritten, shot, and wrapped in the next five months so Depp could jet off to Hawaii and slather on Captain Jack’s mascara. If they’d stopped and thought about it, King says they probably would’ve talked themselves out of making the movie. But he also knew that sometimes it’s best not to think.

“When I read the script, I thought, ‘Hmmm, there’s quite a bit missing here,’ ” says Depp, 47. “We need to dissect this f–er and see what we can throw in there.” Depp liked the idea of inhabiting an Everyman character like the Midwestern math teacher he plays in the film—a regular Joe who goes to Europe for an adventure and finds one on a train after meeting a stunning mystery woman who‘s being tailed by the police and a gang of Russian goons. After all; Depp had seen Anthony Zimmer years earlier and loved it. Plus, there was another reason for doing the film: the chance to finally meet an actress he’d long admired.

For those who watched them, movies are simple diversions. But for those whose business is making them, they’re complex machines with lots of unpredictable moving parts. One of the biggest question marks on The Tourist was whether Depp and Jolie would have chemistry when they met. Each of the actors had been a fan of the other: Depp had been floored by Jolie’s go-for-broke performance in The Changeling; Jolie had long been a fan of Depp’s and later admitted she’d watched his Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland over and over with her six children. On Nov. 24, 2009, less than three months before the two stars would fly to Venice and start a complicated love affair on camera, King and Henckel von Donnersmarck set up an introduction for them at Depp’s office in West Hollywood.

Jolie and the director got there first. Henckel von Donnersmarck, playing a sort of millionaire matchmaker, quickly plopped himself in Depp’s chair so the two stars would be forced to sit side by side on the sofa. Jolie paced around Depp’s office trying to take the measure of her co-star before laying eyes on him. “As I was waiting, I noticed these beautiful pictures of his [girlfriend, actress Vanessa Paradis] and kids and all of his paintings” remembers Jolie. “He’s an artist, and you feel that in any space he’s in. When he walked in, he was as interesting as I’d hoped he’d be.” When asked if she was nervous going into the meeting, Jolie pauses for a minute, then replies, “Maybe.”

When Depp is asked the same question, he laughs. “Well, there is sort of that. Because on one level it’s like, ‘Here we go, kid. We’re about to get into the ring together” We sat there and babbled about our kids, and it was a huuuuuge relief. I was pleasantly surprised that she has an incredibly perverse sense of humor. She’s a really cool broad.” Halfway through the meeting, a bottle of wine was uncorked. And by the time it was over everyone got in their cars, drove their separate ways, and exhaled.

Six weeks later Depp and Jolie landed in Venice to start shooting. They couldn’t believe the film was actually happening. “I think we all kept thinking it was going to fall apart any second just because it all happened so quickly,” says Jolie. Henckel von Donnersmarck showed his stars the still wet pages of his rewrite as the cameras began to roll.

They’d have to learn their lines on the fly. Fortunately Depp and Jolie shared similar acting styles—no small concern considering that Depp loves to ad-lib and basically refuses to rehearse or pay attention to stage directions in the script. Jolie wasn’t just okay with Depp’s merry-prankster improvisations—she gave as good as she got. “I could throw her anything and I would expect a great toss-back,” says Depp. “Or I’d do a scene and she’d slap me with something and you run with that. We had a ball!”

Actually, the only problem on the set was the one that could have been most easily predicted by pairing two of the world’s boldest boldface names. “I remember standing on a bridge by the Grand Canal one morning and Johnny and Angelina were coming to the set on their boats, and behind them was a fleet of paparazzi on their boats,” says King. “It was a nightmare” He says they improvised an elaborate system of decoys and obstructions to frustrate aggressive photographers and keep them at bay. “l remember freaking out the first week of shooting, thinking, ‘How are we going to keep this movie from the press?’ ” says King. “But in today’s world there’s a lot you can do with green screen. You can put up a black tent and fill it in later”

Later is now finally here. Nearly a year after The Tourists harried and hurried journey began, Depp is off in warmer climes flashing his rum-sozzled gold teeth for May’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and Jolie is in Budapest directing an as-yet-untitled Bosnian-war drama—her first gig on the other side of the camera. For both stars, the charming canals of Venice and their awkward first shotgun rendezvous are distant memories. Meanwhile, Henckel von Donnersmarck is stuck in L.A., tweaking, tinkering, and praying that the moment when Angie met Johnny is as memorable on celluloid as it was in the flesh. ‘At the end of the day, whether people will accept the movie or find it too European, that’s out of my hands,” says the director: “If they don’t, it might make it tough for me to direct The Tourist2 or Superman, but I won‘t be in a worse position than before I made The Lives of Others.” As for Depp and Jolie, something tells us they’ll be just fine.

5 March 2010   Articles Interviews No Comments

‘Alice in Wonderland’: Hollywood’s Mad Hatter

Johnny Depp and Tim Burton look back at 20 years of collaboration

Twenty years ago, a frustrated young TV star and a wild-haired filmmaker met at a hotel off the Sunset Strip, drank coffee, and talked. To an outside observer, Johnny Depp and Tim Burton would have seemed an unlikely pair: one, a reluctant teen idol; the other, a shy, rumpled director with a penchant for the macabre. But from that meeting sprang a creative partnership that has produced some of the most memorable oddball characters in recent movie history: An alienated teenage Frankenstein with scissors for hands. A cross-dressing Z-movie director. A demented candy maker. A murderous barber.

On a warm winter afternoon, Depp, 46, and Burton, 51 — the duo behind Edward ScissorhandsEd WoodCharlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Sweeney Todd, among others — sit on a balcony at another L.A. hotel, just days away from the March 5 opening of their seventh film together: an eye-popping new 3-D Alice in Wonderland. This PG-rated big-screen take on the Lewis Carroll classic stars Depp as the Mad Hatter alongside newcomer Mia Wasikowska as Alice, Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen, and Anne Hathaway as the White Queen. Between Depp’s whacked-out spin on the Hatter and Burton’s flair for imagery, Alice is poised to capitalize on the growing appetite for 3-D extravaganzas stoked by Avatar, which, perhaps surprisingly, neither of them has seen (”I hear it’s good,” Burton says with a shrug). Then again, the film also faces a looming glut of 3-D movies, plus a threatened boycott of the film by theater chains upset over Disney’s decision to move Alice‘s DVD release up by a month. Today, though, the two old friends — both now fathers of two — sip iced tea and look back on their long, strange trip down Hollywood’s rabbit hole.

EW: Alice in Wonderland has been adapted in one form or another hundreds of times. What inspired you to take a crack at it?
Tim Burton Disney came to me with the idea of doing Alice in Wonderland in 3-D, and that seemed intriguing. I’d never really read the Lewis Carroll books. I knew Alice through music and other illustrators and things. The images were always strong, but the movie versions I’d seen, to me, were always just, like, a little brat wandering around a bunch of weirdos. [Laughs] It was fun to try to make the characters not just weird — I mean they are weird, but we wanted to get deeper into those characters.

EW: Johnny, how did you approach the role of the Mad Hatter?
Johnny Depp Oddly enough, I had reread both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass not long before. I started looking up things on hatters and where that whole term ”mad as a hatter” came from. It was actually due to mercury poisoning, because when they were putting together the hats, they used this really vile substance that — it’s like huffing — it makes you go sideways. So I just started to get these images in my head. That’s where the orange hair came from.

EW: When you did Pirates of the Caribbean, the executives at Disney famously panicked at first over how you were playing Jack Sparrow. Was there any concern this time about portraying the Mad Hatter as a sort of pale-skinned, green-eyed, orange-haired freak?
Depp When we first went in to do the camera tests, I was thinking, ”They’re going to lose their minds.” But Tim fully supported it. It was a couple of solid hours in the makeup chair every day, but it really helped. You start to understand who the guy is through all that weird kind of Carrot Top Kabuki.
Burton From Edward Scissorhands on, Johnny has always wanted to cover himself up and hide. [Laughs] I get it.
Depp I still do. Absolutely.
Burton It’s fascinating to see Johnny work up to a character, though. In the past, we’ve done some studio read-throughs of the script and the executives will come up to me afterward, like, [in a nervous whisper] ”He’s not going to do that in the movie, is he?” I remember on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, we did a read-through of the script early on and Johnny was holding a pencil and pretending to smoke it like a pipe. And this studio executive said to me, ”He’s not going to smoke a pipe in the movie, is he?”
Depp The subtext underneath that question is so funny. It’s like [with mock outrage], ”Are you kiddingme? He’s smoking a pipe?!”
Burton ”The character isn’t wearing any socks? He’s got ripped jeans? Oh my God, don’t do anything to embarrass us!” It’s funny, because the thing that worries people most is often the thing that makes it work.

EW: And to prove it, there are now people standing out on Hollywood Boulevard dressed as Jack Sparrow.
Depp I was driving down Hollywood Boulevard one day and stopped at a light, looked to my left, and saw Willy Wonka having a conversation with Jack Sparrow. It was so cool, man. [Laughs]

EW: Johnny, you’ve said you don’t like watching yourself on screen. What is it like to see yourself in 3-D in Alice?
Depp I’m actually unable to see 3-D. I’ve got a weird thing where I don’t see properly out of my left eye, so I truly can’t see 3-D. So I have an excuse [not to watch myself] this time. [Laughs]

EW: It’s been 20 years since you two first met at a hotel to talk about Edward Scissorhands. Tim, what do you remember about that meeting?
Burton All I remember is coffee — a lot of coffee. In fact, I think I’m still coming down the walls from that. I’d never seen [Depp’s cop show] 21 Jump Street, but meeting Johnny, I could sense that this thing was probably not why he got into acting or where he wanted to go. My impression was that he had something inside of him, but because of the show he was on, people thought of him in a certain way that wasn’t accurate. There’s a painful quality when you grow up and you’re not perceived correctly and that’s what the character of Edward Scissorhands was about. It was an instinctual thing, but I could see that Johnny was that character.

EW: Johnny, did you have the feeling you’d won the role in that meeting?
Depp I was convinced there was no way I’d get it. Everyone in this town wanted to play that role — including Michael Jackson. [Laughs] I’d had a great meeting with Tim and left zipping on coffee and chewing on a spoon, but then I didn’t really hear much for a few weeks. When I got the call saying ”You’re Edward Scissorhands,” I was just elated. I knew how important it would be. It was a big risk for Tim to take on some TV actor. With 21 Jump Street, they were trying to make me this thing, this product, and I couldn’t deal with it. When Scissorhands came, I knew even if immediately afterwards I was booted out of Hollywood and was pumping gas or working construction again, at least I was on solid ground. I was exactly where I needed to be. And even if that was all I’d done, I was fine. I knew what road I wanted to go on, but Tim pushed me onto that road.
Burton And within weeks he was vomiting behind a bush in Florida.
Depp [Laughs] I was covered head to toe in leather on that movie, shooting in Tampa or wherever it was, and it wasn’t long before I was in full heatstroke. I remember there was one scene where I’m running from the cops. I’d done it, like, six times already and I was dying. Tim was like, ”How are you doing? You got one more take in you?” I was like, ”Yeah, sure.” I ran down the street, heard ”Cut,” didn’t stop running — and ran on to the side of someone’s house and just hurled into a bush.
Burton By the way, how come they haven’t made a movie out of 21 Jump Street?
Depp They’re going to. I’m hoping they’ll let me do a cameo. Someone will say, ”What ever happened to Tom Hanson?” and they’ll find me somewhere hoarding jars of peanut butter and shaking in my underpants. [Laughs]

EW: Four years later, you guys reunited for Ed Wood. Johnny, what were you feeling about your career at that point?
Depp In terms of Hollywood, people were still wondering, ”Why won’t he carry a gun and f— the girl?” That’s all they wanted me to do: carry a gun and nail some broad, you know. I’m not opposed to that, but I thought there might have been other things to investigate.
Burton You should have just said to them [in a thick, Tony Montana accent], ”I leave the guns and broads at home. I come to work for fantasy.” [Laughs] As an outsider, I always felt like you kept your integrity. If you had done the parts they asked you to do, you would have made a lot more money a lot sooner and all that s—. But you picked things that you wanted to do.
Depp Yeah, luckily. It was more out of ignorance than anything else. I was just like, Well, shouldn’t I just do the things I want to do? Isn’t that right? But apparently Hollywood didn’t work that way. When I didPirates, I felt like I’d infiltrated the enemy camp. I’d never been welcomed in before. Nobody had ever asked me. Not only that — they’d been adamantly against me. Most times, Tim had to fight, fight, fight to get me in these movies.
Burton Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was the first time the studio brought Johnny’s name up first.

EW: Johnny, what’s the scariest thing Tim ever asked you to do in a movie?
Depp Singing in Sweeney Todd.
Burton No question about it.
Depp The thing is, I dumbly thought that once I’d gotten through singing the demos and going through the recording process in the studio, I was home free. I thought I’d get on the set and just lip-synch. I didn’t realize that you’ve got to sing it live on the set. Me and Helena [Bonham Carter] were, like, belting it out with the whole crew watching. It was just mortifying.

EW: How would you describe the sensibility you two share?
Depp There’s a similar respect for the absurd and things slightly left of center. I’ve just always understood what Tim’s looking for, and he trusts me to go out there and do the stupid s— I do.
Burton Like dress up as a scary clown. [Laughs] Over the years we’ve learned that we have similar tastes. We both like old horror movies. We talk about TV performers that scared us as children. There’s a lot of common ground.
Depp There are directors I’ve worked with that I’ve had a grand old time with: Terry Gilliam, Gore Verbinski, the Hughes brothers, a number of guys. But the collaborative process of making a film with Tim — that energy is like riding some kind of enormous wave. There’s this connection, this shorthand. It sounds corny, but it’s truly home for me, where you can try absolutely anything and you might be afraid to fall flat on your face but that’s what makes it worth it.

EW: Still, there must be times you disagree, right?
Burton It’s hard for me to even think of something. We always work it out. There’s never been a big issue.
Depp Not even on Sleepy Hollow when Tim strapped me to a strange piece of metal behind two gaseous horses after they’d had some curry and dragged me through the mud. [Laughs]

EW: Your lives have obviously changed a lot over the years you’ve known each other, and now you’re both family men with two kids. Has that changed the kinds of things you talk about together?
Depp Well, we’ve discovered the Wiggles. That’s one thing I can always be proud of: I gave Tim his first set of Wiggles DVDs.
Burton [Groans] You try to maneuver your way through the least offensive children’s programming, but it’s hard. I keep trying to show my son [the psychedelic 1970s kids’ show] H.R. Pufnstuf but he’s not going there. Oh, well.
Depp He will.

EW: There’s been talk of you two adapting the 1960s vampire TV series Dark Shadows. Will that be next?
Burton For now we’re still basking in the glow of Alice. But we’re working on Dark Shadows. When you work with someone like Johnny, it’s always about, Are you excited about this? Do you see something here?
Depp I still just wait for that call from Tim — ”Did he call?” [Laughs] I sit at home and just stare at the f—ing phone.

1 December 2009   Articles No Comments

Title: Johnny Depp

Author: Chris Nashawaty

Publication: Entertainment Weekly

Issue: December 2009

When the decade began, Johnny Depp wasn’t the Johnny Depp of today. Sure, the critics had anointed him one of the finest actors of his generation, but Depp still hadn’t found his footing at the box office. Back then, he was an artistic martyr—Hollywood’s very own Saint Jude, patron saint of cinematic lost causes. For every middling hit on his oddball résumé like Sleepy Hollow or Chocolat, there was a misfire like Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas.

Then something happened. Johnny Depp found his stride in the most unlikely of places 1t’s easy to look at 2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean Curse of the Black Pearl,  a Bruckheimer blockbuster from Disney, and conclude that Depp had finally sold his soul. But anyone who’s seen his lunatic turn as Capt. Jack Sparrow knows better `It’s one of those without-a-net performances, so singular and subversive that it’s hard to believe he got away with it. Which he utmost didn’t when the studio suits saw the dailies and nearly had a collective cardiac infarction.

The First Pirates made $305 million and proved that Depp’s idiosyncratic gifts could entrance a huge mainstream audience. No one was more baffled by his success than Depp himself. When the actor sat down with EW in 2003, he said, “All I can say is for a guy like me who’s been dangling in this business for the last 20 years, to finally have something hit, it‘s unexpected and very touching” Depp received his first,-ever Oscar nomination for Pirates. And just to show that it was no fluke, he was nominated again for his tear-jerking turn in 2004’s Finding Neverland. Then in 2008, he was nominated a third time for what may go down as his ballsiest parlor trick, singing and slashing throats in Sweeney Todd. Today, Depp, 46, is an acting icon and a father: (He and his long-time partner, the French singer-actress Vanessa Paradis have two children, Jack and Lily-Rose Melody.) Depp is no longer the impish patron saint of cinematic last causes, but something far rarer: an entertainer who’s most magically alive in that fleeting moment between “Action” and “Cut.”