Title: Heeere’s Johnny
Publication: Film Review
Issue: November 2004
It feels strange to call Johnny Depp a sex symbol. He may have starred as a man who thought he was the greatest lover m the world in Don Juan DaMarco but Depp is not known for playing the matinee idol. While the late 1980s TV show 21 Jump Street propelled him to pin-up status, Depp has been running away from the label ever since. From his cross dressing filmmaker in Ed Wood to his pill-popping journalist in Fear and Loathing In Los Vagas, Depp has chosen roles that do anything but elicit swoons from his female fans. Consider his gap-toothed swashbuckler in Pirates of the Caribbean – which last year brought him the biggest hit of his career, taking a whopping $305 million – and you will see what I mean.
Not that it`s stopped him regularly being voted one of Hollywood’s sexiest movie stars of all time. Maybe it`s that down-at-heel appearance of his, but Johnny Depp doesn’t have to play hunks to come across as sexy. His teen-idol status was all in his off-screen behavior; from dating a string of high profile starlets, from Winona Ryder to Sherilyn Fenn to trashing hotel rooms, fighting with paparazzi and owning the infamous Viper Room club. Depp isrock’n’roll to the hilt – so much so, he even played slide-guitar on the Oasis track Fade In-Out.
These days, however, he is a settled family man. Currently living with French singer-actress Vanessa Paradis, with whom he has two children – five year-old Lily Rose and two year old Jack – the 41 year old Depp’s roles now reflect this. Take his latest film, Marc Forster’s Finding Neverland. He plays Scottish playwright JM Barrie, the man who penned the magical play Peter Pan after he befriended the inspirational Llewelyn Dawes family (headed in the film. by Kate Winslet). “Being a Dad helped immensely to prepare.“ Depp admits. It helps you to understand that energy that children have – Barrie never let it go. He always believed. I think it`s important for us as adults to have that still, but it gets lost over the years – doesn’t it
No doubt, there’s something childlike in Depp’s performances – but would he take to be the boy that never grows up? “Of course, the notion is beautiful.” he replies. ‘The idea of staying a boy, or a child, forever But I think you can have known plenty of people who in their later years – were like little kids, and had the energy, curiosity and fascination of children. I think we can keep that. I think it`s important we keep that – that’s part of staying young.”
While Depp has had problems with accents before – notably his less-than-perfect ye ole London accent for From Hell – he totally nails Barrie’s North-of-the-Border brogue. “The Scottish for me was a great challenge, because it’s something that rhythmically and musically I initially couldn’t quite get a hold of. Luckily, I found this dialect coach, who is from a Scottish family. She helped me a lot, and I worked on it a lot.”
Since completing Finding Neverland, Depp has returned to more adult fare with The Libertine, in which he plays 17th Century rake the Earl of Rochester opposite Samantha Morton and John Malkovtch. But his love of children’s literature continues with his latest, an adaptation of Roald Dahl`s classic novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Currently filming at Pinewood in England with old friend Tim Burton, who has offered the actor some of the finest roles of his career (in Edward Scissorhands. Ed Wood and Sleepy Hollow), it also reunites Depp with “my pal Freddie- Highmore“ the young rising star who plays Peter m Finding Neverland.
Starring as factory owner Willy Wonka to Highmore’s pint-sized Charlie Bucket, it was Depp who recommended the child-star to Burton. It might just be that Depp, as the strong and sensitive father-figure, is entering into a new phase of his life. He has certainly won lots of under-age fans for his turn in Pirates of the Caribbean ‘All these kids would go and see the movie, and I was really touched. Out on the street, I would meet all these little kids and they would say ‘You’re Captain Jack Sparrow! ‘ It doesn’t get better than that.’ Gearing up to do the sequel after he finishes Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Depp is ready to shiver his timbers once again. “If you’re going to do a sequel, it’s got to be that much better.” he notes. “I don’t like the idea of just riding the wave to get the dough in.” Something I don’t think we could ever accuse Johnny Depp of.