Here is an interview posted by ScreenSlam at the European Premier of Alice Through the Looking Glass. Enjoy!
Press Conference Interview With The Cast, Writer And Director Of Transcendence
We Got This Covered
April 16, 2014
Transcendence marks the directorial debut of Wally Pfister, who is best known for being the longtime cinematographer of Christopher Nolan. The film stars Johnny Depp as Dr. Will Caster, an artificial intelligence observer who is looking to create a machine which possesses sentience and collective intelligence. But when he is targeted by an extremist group that opposes technological evolution, Will is forced to download his mind into a computer in order to save his life. The procedure works, but those closest to him are mixed on the outcome: Is it still Will Caster in there, or is it someone else? Whoever it is, he is gaining more and more power and putting the world in increasing peril.
It was a star studded event at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles, California last weekend when the cast, writer and director of Transcendence arrived for a press conference. Among those there were director Wally Pfister, screenwriter Jack Paglen, Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Kate Mara and Morgan Freeman.
Together, they spoke about what drew them to the project, the role that technology plays in this day and age, what it was like working with a first time director and more.
Check it out below and enjoy!
Johnny, when your character Will Caster becomes an image on a TV screen, did you think of the ‘80s MTV icon Max Headroom?
Johnny Depp: I did feel a little bit like Max Headroom. I guess the worst part is I liked it. I liked being in my little dark room, and they were on the other side. We couldn’t find each other sometimes. It’s all done through videotape and sound. I think this film is essentially about a man chosen by God to grow a long beard, grab a few insects, a couple of animals and know the rest of the world will be slaughtered, but the animals will come to him and follow through.
Wally Pfister: That was Noah.
Johnny Depp: That’s Noah? Oh No-ah! Sorry, I was in that one as well. I played Russell Crowe. That beard was a bitch too, seriously.
Your character seems to age backwards in this movie.
Johnny Depp: That’s (The Curious Case of) Benjamin Button. I was in that one too, as Brad Pitt.
What are your thoughts on artificial intelligence?
Johnny Depp: I thought there was something very beautiful to Wally Pfister’s idea of the sort of disintegration of the character, and to really watch him slowly kind of go out. That was well researched by Wally. It was pretty much the progression – to be uploaded and finally brought to this. Essentially, I suppose once he’s inside PINN, he could become anything. One of the things, hopefully, that came across as he became brighter, is that he became the version of Will that Evelyn wants to see, as opposed to the Will who can’t button his shirt correctly, and all that.
How did you enjoy your recent visit to China?
Johnny Depp: It was amazing. It really was an amazing experience on a cultural level. Just constant information and something new everywhere you look. Always something interesting, something different. I found a real warmth in the people. The people were very sweet and welcoming, too. It was quite a turnout.
Your character becomes both Dr. Frankenstein and the monster. Did Frankenstein inspire you when you were playing Dr. Will Caster?
Johnny Depp: It didn’t. I wish I had. It would have been brilliant to say, so I probably will say that for the rest of the day. But, no, I didn’t give it any thought at all. But in about an hour and a half, it will have been the whole basis for my character. Thanks for that.
Wally Pfister: I think the comparisons were there and were made. What I was doing in making the film was that I would throw ideas to Jack to see whether, as you’re crafting the screenplay, whether this was something you had in mind.
Jack Paglen: Frankenstein as an archetype? Yeah, it absolutely was there. We were very aware of that, and there are many stories like that. I looked at and re-read all of them.
This is your first screenplay.
Jack Paglen: It is my first screenplay.
How does this feel right now?
Jack Paglen: Unbelievably cool (laughs).
And Wally, this is your directorial debut. How does that feel?
Wally Pfister: Unbelievably cool (laughs). It’s thrilling.
Did you think of Will Caster as a good or a bad guy?
Johnny Depp: When we were doing the film, we were all very closely mapping everything out. We wanted to make sure everything came together in the right order. Especially for Will, in terms of that map, it should be a little vague. Is he losing it? Is it like any of us? I mean, you could make an analogy to a security guard guy who three weeks prior to, he was mowing lawns for a living, the second he puts on a uniform and a badge, boing, he’s like, a man. I’d imagine the majority of us all have felt the wrath of the overzealous security guard guy.
Is there something lying dormant in the man that’s waiting to be pumped up with that kind of power? I don’t know. Does it reveal him? Don’t know. Does it change him? Don’t know. Does any bad person think they’re doing bad things? Historically, they all thought they had a pretty decent cause. A few were off by quite a lot, and they were dumb. I think Will is dedicated to the cause and maybe the power. When you realize you’re essentially God, there ain’t nothing on earth more powerful than you, you can do anything you want. You can transfer every cent from the Bank of England into an account in Syria. You can do anything you want. Will was just so focused on the cause. It’s sort of like (Argentine revolutionary) Che Guevara. You get into it, too far into it, maybe.
You’re starting a movie in a couple weeks called Black Mask ,in which you play the gangster Whitey Bulger. What’s the appeal in doing that role?
Johnny Depp: I find it difficult to call him “Whitey.” In Black Mass I play James “Whitey” Bulger. The reason to play it is obvious to me. (He’s a) fascinating character. I don’t think it’s like anything I’ve done before on that level. So I’m very excited to slide into that skin for a little bit.
Kate, what is your take on technology?
Kate Mara: Well, I’ve been without my phone for the past three hours and I’m sitting here thinking about it right now. I didn’t think I was that reliant on technology, so I can understand a little bit where Bree’s ideas come from in RIFT. I think a lot of other people rely a little bit too much on technology, but I’ve always been somewhere in between.
Rebecca, what is your feeling about this whole technology thing?
Rebecca Hall: It’s an interesting topic that the film raises. Technology is arguably the thing that’s going to get us out of a lot of problems. It’s probably our greatest hope in terms of solving everything that’s problematic now in terms of our environment. But equally it’s likely to throw up a whole world of problems that we have no perception or even imagination to anticipate what they could possibly be at this point. It’s complicated but, whether we like it or not, we’re becoming more and more closely integrated with it so we have to deal with these problems.
Will is so romantic and did what he could do to be with his wife forever. But did he go too far? Have you ever done anything that went too far?
Johnny Depp: (Laughs) So many things come into my mind. I could come up with a 45-minute doozy for you… We’d all go to jail. We’d all be implicated. Yes! Paul (Bettany) told me to say, “Yes.” I’ve done horrible things in my life.
What went wrong?
Johnny Depp: Things go wrong all the time, especially between me and technology. I’m not familiar with it and I’m too old school a brain and dumb to be able to figure it out. Anything I have to attack with my thumbs for any period of time makes me feel stupid. So I try to avoid it as much as possible—to protect my thumbs, of course.
Evelyn does everything she can to save the man she loves. Do you think you should do anything for the one you love, and is there a line you shouldn’t cross?
Rebecca Hall: There probably is a line. I’d like to think that, were I in Evelyn’s shoes, I would think about the moral ramifications of deciding to maintain my husband in cyberspace. But those decisions come out of a place of high emotion, denial and grief, so who knows? The line is a bit difficult to draw in that respect.
Johnny Depp: The technology we’re talking about in terms of uploading a human consciousness is probably not all that far away.
Rebecca Hall: It’s probably going to happen whether or not we think there are lines. They’re all agreed about it happening, they are just arguing about when it’s going to happen.
Johnny Depp: Indeed, it will happen. It’s pretty close.
Paul Bettany: I spoke to a professor at Cal Tech who is gratifyingly enough called Professor Christoph Koch. He’s a brilliant man, and when I walked into the room he was also gratifyingly enough looking at a slice of the human brain whilst listening to Wagner; I kid you not. I said, “Professor Koch?” And he put his hand up like this to finish the aria. I said, “I’m a blonde actor and I’m not a science guy. I deal with trying to make the unreal things seem real, so what is the truth of this? How far-fetched is this?” And he said, “30 years.” It was a terrifying thought that they unified in the opinion that we have always been on a collision course with technology. The next stage of our evolution will involve machinery, and that’s a hell of a thought.
Would you make the same choice as Evelyn to upload her husband’s consciousness to a computer?
Johnny Depp: Technology is moving and reshaping itself every day, radically. If her character was in that situation and the technology/intelligence existed right this second and given a split second to decide, we’re all capable of answering that question ourselves with the person you love: would you do it? Would you be married to a hard drive? Think about how technology is moving so rapidly. Things become obsolete very, very quickly. So let’s say, Will Caster, in 15 years time, is going to be in some weird room in Vegas, and people are plugging quarters into him. Right? Who has a minidisc or laser disc player? It’s over.
Wally Pfister: In each character there’s a point of desperation. In Evelyn’s character she’s desperate to have some part of her husband who’s dying remain, and that drives her, along with the science in medical applications, to do what she does. It then becomes desperation with Will: we don’t know if this machine’s sentient or not, but he measures her hormones, which he thinks is making some sort of connection. But I think to us as an audience, certainly to Evelyn, it is quite a desperate level to reach and that’s what changes the course of her character’s direction. So there are a lot of things to think about in the question as to whether this machine is sentient or not.
Johnny, one of your trademarks of your performances has been the physicality of the characters and the look of your characters. This character undergoes a transformation but essentially keeps the same look. Does that make it harder or easier for you take on this role because you don’t have a facade?
Johnny Depp: It’s always more difficult and slightly exposing to play something that’s close to the surface, something that’s close to yourself. I always try to hide because I can’t stand the way I look. I think it’s important to change every time, and come up with something that’s as interesting as you can for your characters. In any case, it really depends on what the screenplay is asking of you and what your responsibility is to that character. You have the author’s intent to deal with and the filmmaker’s vision and then you have your own wants, needs and desires for the character. It’s collaborative, but I knew right off the bat that certainly there was no need to go into pink-haired, clown nose, Ronald McDonald shoes at the same time.
What was it like working with a first time director?
Morgan Freeman: I’ve known Wally for many years and worked with him on three other projects. His mindset is one that I’m familiar with. I think that his tutoring was of the highest order, and I wanted to be there for his first outing with the idea that he’ll be doing many more. You have to ask yourself what it takes for a first-time director to get this kind of budget for a movie. Somebody believed in him.
Rebecca Hall: I worked with Wally when he was a DP, and he was incredibly warm and kind to me in a moment when I was particularly frightened and didn’t know what I was doing, so I would’ve done anything for him anyway. I would argue that a DP observes an actor’s work far closer than a lot of people on a set. He gets it; he knew when to stand off, when to be there for you. He knows what’s he’s doing.
And Mr. Depp?
Johnny Depp: I met Wally, ironically, on a video clip for Paul McCartney. I was, of course, aware of his work as a director of photography. It’s legendary. He’s a legend. So I was very familiar with that. When the idea of this film arrived, I was beyond thrilled. Wally has such a drive and he worked nonstop. As Morgan (Freeman) says, you step into the ring with the guy and he snaps his finger and it’s just there. He’s definitely got enough years on set to sponge up the good bedside manner of a filmmaker and the bad ones, and recognize that. He came in like a champ, with the crew he’s been with for years supporting him, and it’s one of the greatest experiences I’ve had with a filmmaker, bar none.
He’s one of those guys who, if he wanted to film me staring at this (an empty can of Red Bull), I’d be more than happy to do it. In terms of a first screenplay, literally (he picks up his fedora hat from the table) my hat is off to writer Jack Paglen. I didn’t see any sort of virgin blather in screen direction or anything like that. It was just a beautifully executed piece and a complicated one. The mathematics involved in putting this film together and the great support of (the production company behind the film) Alcon, it was not an easy little operetta.
That concludes the press conference but we’d like to thank everyone for taking the time to participate. Be sure to check out Transcendence when it hits theatres this Friday!
Shelby runs a beauty blog and did an interview with Johnny Depp’s makeup
artist for The Lone Ranger! Thanks to her for sharing this with us.
Who/what inspired you to become a makeup artist?
I was always intrigued by the transformative power of makeup. More specifically the magic that could be achieved with the use of prosthetic makeup. The idea of creating a character and seeing it come to life when applied to an actor was always fascinating to me.
Click here to read the whole interview!
Johnny was interviewed by Jay Leno twice in 1995 (November 5), time of Don Juan DeMarco and Nick Of Time’s release. You can check it in the transcript below!
Jay Leno: -Get right to my first guest, one of the most respected actors working today, you know him in such films as Edward Scissorhands, Benny & Joon and Ed Wood. Latest film called Don Juan DeMarco and getting terrific reviews, with Marlon Brando. This is his very first talk show, glad to have him, Johnny Depp!
(Johnny comes in to the screams of the audience applauding wildly, shakes hands with Leno. Sitting down he looks very uncomfortable. He looks at the crowd and says ‘Geez!’)
Jay Leno: -Here we go, you want one of these? Here we go. Unless you brought enough for everyone.
Johnny Depp: -There was a tray back there…
Jay Leno: -That’s cool, that’s cool. So, this is like a strange environment, doing these kinda shows, is it weird?
Johnny Depp: (Smiles) -Yes. Yeah, to me.
Jay Leno: (Laughs) -I kinda thought that. You never did any kind of theater did you?
Johnny Depp: -No.
Jay Leno: -Mostly behind the camera. Is it odd to be in front of a large group, this many people, like an audience?
Johnny Depp: -Well, I just uh, I don’t have much experience with this type of… (Looks around at audience and looks taken aback at the many people in the audience as they clap and yell at his response).
Jay Leno: -Yeah, I know. But you were a musician, right,? You had a band.
Johnny Depp: -Yeah.
Jay Leno: -So you were in front of an audiences there.
Johnny Depp: -Yeah, but you go up there an play guitar and then you walk away and it’s over with.
Jay Leno: -Yeah, now you weren’t real successful with the band, just mostly bar gigs? That kinda stuff?
Johnny Depp: -Yeah, pretty much.
Jay Leno: -Did you like that? That’s what you did: you weren’t always an actor.
Johnny Depp: -No, I uh, I was a musician forever until I was about 20, 21.
Jay Leno: (Laughing) -Well, what’s forever to 21, actually ?
Johnny Depp: -Well, I mean, I started playing clubs when I was 14.
Jay Leno: -Really at 14?
Johnny Depp: -Yeah.
Jay Leno: -Oh, man that’s pretty young, actually.
Johnny Depp: -Yeah.
Jay Leno: -I started about nineteen doing clubs. That’s different, you were playing bars?
Johnny Depp: -Bars.
Jay Leno: -Rock ‘n roll bars?
Johnny Depp: -Yeah, same deal.
Jay Leno: -Yeah.
Johnny Depp: – They’d sneak me into the back and I’d play and I’d split.
Jay Leno: -So you did that a number of years. So what got you into the acting? At what point did you say I’ll try some acting?
Johnny Depp: (Smiles) -I never said that, still haven’t said that. Kind of a fluke. Hm, a good friend of mine Nicolas Cage suggested (applause from audience) yeah, great actor…
Jay Leno: -How did you know him? Did you know him through music connections?
Johnny Depp: -Just, when I moved out here, I met him through mutual friends. And he just suggested I meet his agent. So I did and he sent me to read for a film. That was it. It was really like, you know a freak thing.
Jay Leno: – All things being equal, would you rather have the success you have now as a musician or would do you like it better as an actor, I mean, which is. . .
Johnny Depp: -Well, I miss playing but I think everything, things happen that’s suppose to.
Jay Leno: -I mean, obviously, I see the intensity in which you bring to these characters that you play, so obviously once you stumbled into it you really loved it, I assume…
Johnny Depp: – Well, yeah, the first couple of years I was just trying to make some money, ya know. (Laughs)
Jay Leno: -Was that when you were doing 21 Jump Street?
Johnny Depp: -No, even before that, Nightmare on Elm Street.
Jay Leno: (Laughing) -Yeah, yeah, you were the guy in the bed?!
Johnny Depp: -Yeah, I got sucked into a bed. (Smiles)
Jay Leno: (Still laughing) -And the blood comes out!
Johnny Depp: -Yeah. (laughs) that was my claim to fame.
Jay Leno: -Did you work as a mechanic also, did I read that in the bio?
Johnny Depp: -I did, yeah, It was a strange deal because, I was pumping gas and my boss suddenly says ‘okay, you’re going into the garage and work on cars now.’ I said ‘well, that’s fine but I don’t know anything about cars’. And he said ‘No, that’s fine just do what I tell ya.’ I did it.
Jay Leno: -You kinda skipped the Mr.Good Wrench training.
Johnny Depp: -Yeah, and I got fired eventually, because a guy’s wheel fell off.
Jay Leno: -A guy’s wheel fell off. (Laughs); (Audience laughs and applauds)
Johnny Depp: -It’s true.(figure in ear)
Jay Leno: -Someone told me this but I don’t remember it, maybe we did meet. When Iggy Pop was here someone said you came with him. Did we meet back stage?
Johnny Depp: -No.
Jay Leno: -Were you like hiding out?
Johnny Depp: -No, I was hiding in his dressing room watching the monitor.
Jay Leno: -I was in the the dressing groom, did you hide when I came in?
Johnny Depp: -No. (Smiles)
Jay Leno: -So how did you team up with him? So what’s the connection there?
Johnny Depp: -Well, in 1989 we made Cry Baby together, John Water’s film. I’d met Iggy in uh, about in 1980, the band opened up for him, he was always a real big hero to me. I wanted to meet him but I didn’t want to meet him like ‘Hi how ya doin’ kinda thing, so I decided to get his attention a different way. I started screaming obscenities at him after the show. And uh, he responded. (Smiles) So I was happy. I was satisfied.
Jay Leno: -How did he respond exactly?
Johnny Depp: -Uh, he walked up to me and uh, got about an inch from my nose and called me ‘a little turd’. Yeah. And then, ya know. he waltzed off. (Smiles)
Jay Leno: -Kind of a beautiful, beautiful moment.
Johnny Depp: -Yeah, it was nice ya know, I was 17, I felt we bonded. Now we’re pals to this day, so.
Jay Leno: -There ya go, you did the right thing. Don’t get any ideas after the program. We have a clip here from the film. You’re a guy who was arrested as sort of a mentally unstable person who thinks he is Don Juan, the great lover. Is this scene with Marlon Brando and you guys are in his office? Take a look.
Johnny Depp: -Oh!
————-Clip from Don Juan DeMarco———– (audience applauds)
Jay Leno: -Terrific film. Very, very good. You make great choices.
Johnny Depp: -Thank you very much. I appreciate that.
Jay Leno: -I appreciate you coming here tonight. I know you gotta run I know you just ran off the set and you’re running back now. Thanks a lot, man!
Johnny Depp: -Thank you very much!
(Jay walks Johnny off the set. Johnny looks into the camera backstage, his eyes widen and he walks past.)
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, November 20, 1995
Jay Leno: -My first, guest one of the most respected actors working today. You know him from his work in movies like Ed Wood, Cry-Baby, Edward Scissorhands, and his latest film is called, Nick of Time, it opens Wednesday. Please welcome, Johnny Depp!
(Audience applauds with some standing up and clapping & screaming. Johnny comes out, nods to Jay and shakes his hand).
Jay Leno: -Good to see you again.
Johnny Depp: -You too, you too.
Jay Leno: -They tell me you . . .
(Audience still cheering. A woman clearly heard yelling ‘Johnny’!)
Jay Leno: (Laughs) -They tell me you went to that Sinatra thing. I got invited to that I couldn’t go we were in Las Vegas. Was it fun?
Johnny Depp: -Yeah, it was great.
Jay Leno: -You meet alot of…
Johnny Depp: -I met Don Rickles.
Jay Leno: (Laughs) -Oh, is that…how was Rickles? Was he alright?
Johnny Depp: -It was very exciting.
Jay Leno: -Yeah?
Johnny Depp: -Yeah.
Jay Leno: -You enjoyed meeting him?
Johnny Depp: -Yeah.
Jay Leno: -Was he giving you a hard time?
Johnny Depp: -I was waiting for him to insult me, but…
Jay Leno: -Was he familiar with your work?
Johnny Depp: -Apparently, yeah.
Jay Leno: -Well, that’s good. That’s pretty good. Rickles knows who you are.
Johnny Depp: -It was really nice I liked him.
Jay Leno: -Pretty broad base when you got Rickles in there then that’s good. This was Sinatra’s 80th Anniversary, did you meet Sinatra?
Johnny Depp: -80th birthday. No, no I just watched…stood there…stood very far away.
Jay Leno: -You could play a young Sinatra.
Johnny Depp: (Pauses) -Ol’ black Eyes, eh?
Jay Leno: (Laughs) -Be a little tricky. What have you been up to? You been working what, overseas?
Johnny Depp: -I was doing a film in Ireland for couple weeks another one with Marlon Brando (Divine Rapture) and uh, then they took the money away and it was over with. (Laughs) The rug was pulled out from under us.
Jay Leno: -Welcome to show busyness. Now, when you’re overseas, do you get recognized for different things then you do here? I mean is there a different, uh, I mean people know you here for Ed Wood … is it the same all over?
Johnny Depp: -Yeah, they don’t concentrate on hotel rooms so much. (Smiles)
Jay Leno: (Laughs hard) -Oh, yeah, are they not as much into celebrity gossip?
Johnny Depp: -I think they just watch the films.
Jay Leno: -Well,That’s good. Thank God for that.
Johnny Depp: -Which is always nice.
Jay Leno: -Let me ask you something about your work, this always struck me, when someone like yourself… (a loud groan from closing door interrupts the conversation) OK, thank you, they’re doing Tales from the Crypt apparently, next door.
Johnny Depp: -I thought it was my chest cavity bursting.
Jay Leno: -Like when I see a film you did a film like Edward Scissorhands, this is so unusual to me and so, I mean it works, but when you’re handed a script, and you know, every film makes or breaks you as you go along each time, someone says ok you play a guy and your hands are scissors, do you ever say to yourself ‘What the hell are you talking about?’ I mean, you know what I mean?
Johnny Depp: -Yeah.
Jay Leno: -In your own mind do you go’yeah I see where this goes’? Or do you….?
Johnny Depp: -I saw it yeah. (Laughs); (Applause)
Jay Leno: -Now that’s a great gift, though. (more applause)
Johnny Depp: -It seemed right to me; it seemed normal, it seemed good.
Jay Leno: -You get a script or does an idea like that you just sort of read it and you then find a director or is the whole thing sort of pitched to you at once. You know what I’m saying?
Johnny Depp: -Its always the filmakers, always really important.
Jay Leno: -Because like when I saw Don Juan DeMarco, all of these seem like if given to someone else could either make them a laughing stock if they screwed it up even just a little bit, or do a terrific job as you seem to be able pull off. I just wonder what you see when you…?
Johnny Depp: -Well, uh, part of the seduction is the potential failure that you could actually fall over and do a really bad job.
Jay Leno: -So you like that part.. Yeah, I know what you mean. Rather than go out, sometimes as a comedian you’ll play an impossibly tough room, ‘cause if you win you win big. If you lose it’s a tough room. Now this new film, Nick of Time, is this the first uh, hate to say big, ‘cause they’re all big films, I mean sort of action….?
Johnny Depp: -Well, it’s uh, first sort of thriller, like a suspense thriller, Hitchcock.
Jay Leno: -Now you play a guy, an accountant, and somebody kidnaps your kid and if you don’t kill somebody in ‘x’ amount of time, what an hour..?
Johnny Depp: -If I don’t croak the govenor (audience laughs and Depp laughs) in ninety minutes they’re gonna. (gestures with his hand across his throat) my kid.
Jay Leno: -Now I haven’t seen it yet, but they tell me the whole film is done in ‘real time’ by that I mean you have ninety minutes on film, days don’t go by, I mean, the theater is with you the whole 90 minutes. It seems like an exciting concept. Was it alot of fun doing it?
Johnny Depp: -It was interesting to shoot ninety minutes over the course of three months. Really pay attention to details.
—————-Clip of Nick of Time—————
Jay Leno: -Walken’s the bad guy.
Johnny Depp: -Yeah, he’s an amazing guy, he’s incredible.
Jay Leno: -Yeah, yeah. He plays a great, great creepy bad guy.
Johnny Depp: -He’s just incredible, has this amazing prescence.
Jay Leno: -I will check it out. I’ve seen everything you’ve done. I enjoy your work very much. I hope this is a big hit for you.
Johnny Depp: -Thank you . (Shakes hands with Leno making eye contact with Jay).
Jay Leno: -Johnny Depp! Johnny, I know you gotta run, thanks for coming by, man, see you later.
(Jay walks Johnny off the set).
This is it! I hope all of you enjoy it!
Sarah Angel from JD Forever
Title: The Hunter in Johnny Depp
Author: Nick Tosches
Publication: Vanity Fair
Issue: November 2011
It is Johnny Depp’s The Rum Diary as much as it is the late Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary. For one thing, The Rum Diary, Hunter’s only published novel, likely never would have seen the light of day if Johnny hadn’t discovered it in the writer’s basement while staying with him 15 years ago, preparing to make Hunter’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas into a movie with the director Terry Gilliam. Hunter himself had forgotten about The Rum Diary, which he had begun writing in 1959, at the age of 22, and had not been able to get published. Johnny found it when he was rummaging through some old boxes of Hunter’s works and notes.
“These perfect boxes,” Johnny says. “I pulled it out. I was like, ‘What is this?’ Hunter was like, ‘Oh, shit. The Rum Diary. Oh, yeah.’ It was hidden. Hunter didn’t know it was there.” Soon after Johnny found the book, it was finally published, in 1998, the year the movie of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas came out.
Thirteen years later, another adaptation, this one as much Johnny’s vision as Hunter’s. It’s an enhancement and a furthering of the novel, and brings to it the rich maturity that the voice of the young aspiring writer had not yet achieved. It is The Rum Diary seen as Hunter might have written it in his later prime.
I knew that Johnny, who was very close to and fond of Hunter, and very admiring of his work, would have some enlightening things to say about the movie, and I wanted to hear them. I also wanted to spend some time with him, as we hadn’t seen each other in years. As it turned out, this wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Several years ago, when I had arranged a dream date (disguised as an interview) with Charlotte Rampling, for whom I had lusted since seeing The Night Porter but had never even met, it took only a telephone call and a few minutes to set things up. But arranging time for a get-together with Johnny, whom I’ve known for years and whose son, Jack, is my godson, took more than a week of back- and-forth hurdlings.
You see, Johnny works a lot. He keeps to a grueling schedule. (Yes, that’s right: grueling schedule. This is supposed to be journalism, isn’t it? Don’t be surprised if shocking display or phenomenal or even pausing pensively before answering, as if turning a coin in his mind lurks around the corner. But I wouldn’t do that. To you maybe. But not to Revelatin’ John.) I want to ask him about this schedule, as 1 suspect he may have become, to use a bit of New Age psychobabble, a workaholic.
First, however, I want to ask him something I didn’t plan on asking him. We are both in London, where he is shooting yet another movie, Dark Shadows, directed by Tim Burton. Our strategy for the day has been for him to get the photo shoot for this story out of the way by mid-afternoon, then sit down for our interview, so as to leave us free to go drinking and gambling into the night, even though he does have to be on the Dark Shadows set very early the next morning. As it turns out, he has decided against doing the photo shoot, postponing it for another day. But it takes him four hours to resolve the situation. Which has left me in my room, nice as it is, at Brown’s Hotel, hanging around for those four hours waiting for a call, and I am sort of pissed off. But as the car finally passes through the gates to pull up to the imposing red-brick Mayfair manor that Johnny is occupying while working in London, I am no longer at all pissed off. I am merely looking forward to seeing Johnny.
I slouch into a big, deep, comfortable couch in a big, opulent room that is vaguely evocative of a royal Arabian majlis, or luxuriously welcoming lounging room. (The manor was indeed owned by a fabulously wealthy Arabian eminence.) Dominating the room, in an ornate gilt frame on the far wall, directly across from where I sit, is Banksy’s How Do You Like Your Eggs? The painting shows a woman in full black Muslim garb and veil and a cheap sex-novelty kitchen apron, a spatula in one hand, a skillet containing an egg in the other, her eyes narrowly visible, her eyebrows arched slightly, cryptically, defiantly. After negotiations with the artist and his representatives, Johnny acquired the painting in May of this year. It is one of the most bizarrely captivating images I’ve ever seen.
Then in walks Johnny. He sits down beside me with a big grin, lights a smoke, and out comes the Chateau L’Evangile 2002. The same old Johnny. The Johnny Depp who long ago pumped gas at a Shell station in Miramar, Florida, was pulled by the owner from the easier job of working the pump to the harder labor in the garage, and drifted west with members of his band, the Kids. In Los Angeles, he continued to pursue music- which he does to this day, having become a formidable guitarist-but he got along by attending the city’s many Scientology study groups, which paid attendees, even nonbelievers like Johnny, $3 each to sit through them. (“I went to a bunch, man. It was so great, it was so fantastic.”) Turning 20, he ended up in pictures, and today, at 48, he is regarded as the biggest movie star around. And yet he is the same old Johnny, his circumstances changed, but not his nature. I’ve never found it hard to imagine him still pumping gas with a cigarette dangling from his lips. And I’ve never ceased to wonder at the rare range and depth of his reading, intelligence, knowledge, and interests: from Baudelaire to Beckett to Burroughs; from insights into Ch’an Buddhism that pick up where The Transmission of the Lamp leaves off to observations on the nature of things that pick up where Lucretius left off to a connoisseurship of both wine and Mountain Dew-a range and depth even more rare among actors, most of whom lead hollow scripted lives, most of whose humanity is an awkwardly assumed pretense, a role playacted mawkishly;
But the question remains: How can someone who seems to have had hi picture on every magazine cover in the world seven times over so an antagonistic to having his picture taken. It turns out that “antagonistic” is to mild a word.
“Well, you just fell like you’re being raped somehow.” Strong words from an easygoing, down-to-earth man not given to drama in his everyday life. “Raped. The whole thing. It feels like a kind of weird-just weird, man. Weird. Like you meet people and they say, ‘Can I have a picture with you?’ and that’s great. That’s fine. That’s not a problem. But whenever you have a photo shoot or something like that, it’s like-you just feel dumb. It’s just so stupid.”
He says this antipathy is nothing new. He’s always hated to have his picture taken. Even a quarter of a century ago and more, back in the days of A Nightmare on Elm Street, when he needed all the publicity he could get, photo shoots creeped him out.
I move on to the workaholic angle. About five or six years ago, at a restaurant in Paris, La Closerie des Lilas, I asked him why he kept working, why he didn’t just wave it all away and live. He said then that it was because they might not want him in five years.
He was already rich and famous when I had first met him, maybe a dozen years ago. Then one day at a pizza place in London a few years later, in the early spring of 2002, he withdrew a script from his satchel, asked me to open it anywhere, look at it, and tell him what I thought. If you want to do it, I said, do it. It was Pirates of The Caribbean. So by the time I asked him that question at that restaurant in Paris, a few more years after that, he was really, really rich and really really famous. And now those five years after which they might not want him anymore have passed, too, and he is really, really, really rich and really, really, really famous. What is his excuse now for continuing to work so hard?
“Basically, if the re going to pay me the stupid money right now. I’m going to take it. I have to. I mean, it’s not for me. Do you know what I mean? At this point, it’s for my kids. It’s ridiculous, yeah, yeah, but ultimately is it for me? No. No. It’s for the kids.”
Though “workaholism” is an ungainly neologism (and the more sinister Japanese karoshi, meaning death from overwork, an even newer, if less ungainly, one), there is no escaping the impression that Johnny certainly seems to be working too hard. At least to me, who would like nothing more than to live out my days in quiet serenity in a hammock strung between two big old shady trees.
So I persist. I know him to be a traditional family man, in the best, truest sense of that phrase; Vanessa Paradis, his French better half, their two children, Lily-Rose, now 12, and Jack, now 9, are the center of his world. But-
“And, come on, it’s for you too.” “Not really, because I keep working-I’m constantly fucking like I’m slamming the fucking=you know, every day is like fucking … ” He takes a breath, takes a drag, takes a sip, and starts again. “There is a part of me that needs to have this kind of stimulation to the brain. I must have fucking stimulation.”
And what about all the Hollywood bullshit that comes with it? Is adulation addictive?
“It is what it is.”
What it all comes down to is irrefutable.
“I’m happy,” he continues. “I’m happy. It’s fine.”
The wine is going down good.
“Yeah,” Johnny says with a smile, “we have to go gamble.”
“What I wanted to ask you-”
“Oh, my brother, I’m so fucking happy to see you.”
“What do you get sick of being asked?”
“No. Really. No.”
“Is there something you wish somebody would ask you?”
“No.” This brings on a good deal of laughter. “No.”
I want to go gambling, too. I have my blue Ritz Club membership card in my wallet and fond memories of our last long night there at the blackjack tables and the bar; the night when a gambler of unknown ethnic origin at our table, asked by a cocktail waitress if he should like something to drink, said, “I like bean soup,” and Johnny and I, looking at each other, couldn’t suppress our laughter; the night we won a bundle. But I want to talk about The Rum Diary too.
Those who can recall back a number of column inches ago might remember my saying that The Rum Diary as brought to the screen is as much Johnny’s vision as Hunter’s, and that it is an enhancement and a furthering, rather than a faithful visualization, of the novel. The time and setting have been changed only slightly. The novel opens in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1958; the movie in San Juan, 1960. (The reasons for the change of year were to allow for television images of Richard Nixon as a presidential candidate and for a bit of surfing drum music that hadn’t existed in 1958. It also seems that in 1960 civilians would more easily have been able to obtain military eyedroppers of LSD, as the characters in the film do, than in 1958.)
The film’s three main confederates – Paul Kemp (Johnny), Sala (Michael Rispoli), and Moberg (Giovanni Ribisi), all workers at an English-language San Juan rag – are consolidations and mergings of attributes drawn from these and other characters in the novel. Though the essence of the tale remains true to the book-Hunter was at heart a moralist in the tradition of Thomas Paine, and this is at heart a story of down-and-out good against respectable evil, as well as the story of a writer finding both the truth of himself and his own true voice-aspects of the movie’s plot are often more inspired by than based on the novel. Several of the picture’s most impressive and imaginative scenes are not to be found, or even suggested, in the novel, and certain minor elements of the novel take on greater significance in the movie.
Bruce Robinson, the British writer and director of the picture, told me that “there are only three lines of Hunter’s in the entire screenplay.” (“Have some fun with a fucking Luger” is one of them.) But at the same time, he insisted, “I’d say the movie is faithful to him in context of vernacular.”
Johnny has spoken of making this movie for more than a decade, and his desire to do so never wavered.
“It’s been there for so long,” he says. “So, yeah, I made this film before I made it.”
Robinson, best known as the screen-writer of The Killing Fields and the writer-director of Withnail and I, was cooling his heels in 2005, having not made a film since 1999, when Johnny, who long had been very enamored of Withnail and I, sent him a copy of Hunter’s novel and asked if he should like to “kick it into a screenplay.”
Johnny knew that Hunter had also admired Withnail and I So, as Johnny says, “I pulled the fucker out of retirement.”
Speaking from his farmhouse four hours west of London, Robinson tells me he “suffered incredible problems trying to get a grip on” The Rum Diary. He read the book twice, then threw it away. The main problem, as he saw it, was that Hunter had split himself into two characters, Kemp and another named Yeamon, and Hunter’s spirit needed to be embodied in the character of Kemp alone.
Johnny agreed. “Bruce handled it brilliantly, amazingly. You’ve got Kemp and Yeamon, who represent Hunter. With Kemp there’s no way to follow these two characters. So Bruce just went”-Johnny pantomimes tossing aside an imaginary book-“which was actually Hunter’s kind of thinking, you know?”
“I wrote it entirely in isolation,” says Robinson of the script, the final version of which was finished in February 2009. “Fortunately Johnny liked it.”
Robinson was well aware that the character of Kemp as he had written him was a nuanced, complex, and difficult one. Johnny had played Hunter before, for Gilliam. But this was a different Hunter.
“Hey,” Johnny told Robinson as shooting was about to begin, “just trust me.” As for his approach to directing the picture, Robinson was firmly convinced that the strength of the acting and the tale should have dominance over any selfindulgent arty camerawork. It was his preferred way of directing:
“I don’t want the camera to be a participant. I want it to be a privileged observer.”
Johnny says that the most arduous part of making the movie was “just every day sort of policing it, being the police of what Hunter would or would not have wanted, and really kind of going. All right, here’s the scene. That’s great. Here’s a scene, but we have to police this scene.” Some things work in books that just don’t work in movies, Johnny points out. “And Hunter understood that. He understood it. He understood.”
Me, I think Hunter would have gotten a bigger kick out of the movie than he did out of the novel he had stashed and forgotten.
I tell Johnny that, to my eye, the movie is timeless, the way great old-fashioned pictures-and I mean that in the best wayused to be. Most movies these days are short-lived, soon outdated and forgotten, relying on special effects that become quickly superseded, or on numerous cellphone calls from hand held devices that become just as quickly outmoded. But here is a movie that will hold up, that will be as exceptionally fine and enjoyable as it is today for many years to come.
Johnny doesn’t mention it until I say what I do, but he agrees to having similar feelings: “It’s kind of Casablanca in a way, isn’t it?”
Cockfighting figures in Hunter’s book, but it is more central to the plot of the picture. In this day of animal-rights lunatics and political-correction camps, this is wonderfully refreshing and far more daring than the sex-scene one-upmanship of other movies.
The cockfighting scenes were, of course, done in accordance with the American Humane Association rules, but they look real.
“They harnessed the cocks with pieces of invisible monofilament,” Johnny tells me. “Oh, that kept them from going the whole distance and getting at each other for the kill?”
“Yeah, we did hold them back. We did. I think it was stupid.”
(Johnny’s sister Christi, who runs their Infinitum Nihil production company, was of a gentler nature when it came to the cocks, which now live comfortably in her big backyard, outside of LA “All good,” Christi reports.)
Even more difficult to film than the cockfighting scenes was the film’s LSD sequence, which is as unnervingly realistic as the goings-on in the – gamecock pits. Except for a sole hallucination involving a character’s tongue in one of the LSD scenes, there are no other special effects in the movie. Yet, through words and acting alone, this is the best, truest-to-life LSD stuff I’ve ever seenconveyed on film. The sequence also contains what to me is the essential line in the film, the revelation given to Kemp by a lobster in a filthy tank in the dark of night on a filth pier: “Human beings are the only creatures on earth that claim a god and the only living thing that behaves like it hasn’t got one.” –
In the original script, the encounter with the mystical lobster led to lines from Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”: The very deep did rot: O Christ! / : That ever this should be! / Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs / Upon the slimy sea.
But from alcohol, as much as things most wretched, come wonders sublime.
Robinson recalls that the words of the lobster’s revelation “occurred to me five years ago and, somewhat oiled, I wrote them in one of Johnny’s notebooks on his plane, not thinking I’d use them in the flick. Then, when I came to write the acid scene, this line seemed appropriate (and true), so I incorporated it and gave it to the lobster. I got the idea of the lippy lobster from an ad I’d seen in some 1940s magazine where such a dime-in-the-slot ‘fishing machine’ was featured. Hence the religious lobster.”
The revelation of the lobster was a great line. What does Johnny do when he comes across a bad line in a script?
“I change it. I just go: ‘You know what? It ain’t right. It’s not right.’ I change it. I do. I re-write.”
Years ago Johnny directed his friend Marlon Brando in a movie called The Brave. He spoke of editing it, of re-editing it, but it never came out in the U.S. I ask him about that one. How does he feel about that picture today?
“I’m proud. You know?”
Now that his production company is becoming a powerful presence in the movie business, will he finally release it?
“No, no, no. The idea of releasing that, like-no, no. I feel like it’s for, like, a few, you know? It’s like the idea of saying, ‘Here’s my middle finger, but in that middle finger, I’m trying to say, you know, I love you.’ It’s very complicated.”
With the Tim Burton movie about to finish shooting, I ask him what’s next.
“The Lone Ranger and Tanto.” In that one, if it gets made=Disney was reportedly balking at its budget in August=Johnny will be playing Tonto. (Arrnie Hammer had been scheduled to play the Ranger.)
Johnny is also thinking of remaking The Thin Man, which he’s wanted to do for quite a while. He would step into William Powell’s shoes as Nick Charles. I ask him, “Do you think you could be William Powell? I mean, that guy was fucking singular. There was only one of him.”
“I could do it. I think.”
“You probably could, because you’ve got that fine line between humor and seriousness.”
“That’s the whole point. What he had, William Powell, was so fucking beautiful.”
Johnny too. As Bruce Robinson later points out, the association of Johnny in the public brainpan with the hugely successful star-driven hits of his recent years has sometimes obscured the true versatility and abilities that are his. It is films such as The Rum Diary that remind us of that versatility and those abilities. But still, William Powell … ?
“He’s a hard guy to beat if you’re going into the ring with him,” I point out.
“That’s the thing,” Johnny says. “You can’t beat him. Just embrace him. Embrace the fucker. Embrace him.”
Talk of William Powell leads to talk of, Keith Richards, who played Johnny’s father in the last two Pirates of the Caribbean pictures. Keith has been a friend of Johnny’s for some years now. I ask Johnny if he found himself emulating Keith’s mannerisms and persona somewhat with the passing of those years.
“I sucked him dry,” he says without hesitation.
When I mention that Keith, who I know and who is certainly not one for musicals, had been full of praise a few years back for Johnny’s singing in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and recommended that I see it, Johnny is visibly pleased.
“Keith always has the most beautiful things to say about you,” I say, “but when . he brought up Sweeney Todd, he was like, ‘Oh, and to hear Johnny sing.”’
“He never told me that,” Johnny says with a smile of deep satisfaction.
It was while making Sweeney Todd with Tim Burton that the movie he’s now finishing with Burton was conceived. “We were on Sweeney Todd, and I said to him, ‘Man, we should do a vampire movie.’ He’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, we should.’ And then I went, ‘Fuck, man, Dark Shadows.’ ‘Yeah, good idea. Good idea.’ And then, boom.”
“Is there a movie that you always wanted to make but have never been able to?”
“Tonto,” I reflect. “Nick Charles,” I reflect. Then he raises his glass of wine, looks straight at me, and says, “There’s also In the Hand of Dante.”
As I mentioned, Johnny had been wanting to make The Rum Diary, had been making it in his head for a long, long time. Hunter S. Thompson, to whose memory the film is dedicated, never lived to see it. He blew out his brains, at the age of 67, in 2005, just before the real making of the picture got under way.
I mention to Johnny, as a lighthearted joke but with a hidden degree of truth on my part, that it scared me to see that dedication to Hunter at the close of the movie. He knows immediately what I mean…..
When it was still in typescript pages, Johnny had been the third person, after my agent and publisher, to read my novel in the Hand of Dante. He called me-it was early morning where he was, at his hameau in France; it was late night where I was, in New York. “I’m reading this,” he said, “and it’s not a book; it’s a living thing.” In Paris, one afternoon almost a year later, when the book was about to be published, we shook hands to seal a deal that my novel would become his movie. A lot of time went by, as handshake deals mean nothing to the lawyers, executives, gonifs, and golems of Hollywood.
Finally-years, years-we had our legal arrangement, settled on a screenwriter, and brought in Johnny’s old pal Julian Schnabel to get things going as a director. That’s why the loving memorial to Hunter at the end of The Rum Diary gave me the willies.
“So,” I say, “the way I see it, In the Hand of Dante will come out two years after I croak. I’ve got it figured out. I’m going to beat Hunter by three years.”
“Cocksucker,’ He laughs. “You prick.”
“No, really.” I laugh. “It falls in line with everything else.”
“Should we plan that now?”
“No. I don’t want to do that, no.”
More wine, more smoke. “No, my brother,” he says, “I’ll tell you now: the film will be made.”
Some of Johnny’s finest work remains far less known than the big pictures that brought him his fame and fortune. Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man, of 1995, is one of these. (It was also Robert Mitchum’s last notable
film, Johnny still laughs when he tells of Mitchum’s practice of stashing his marijuana in a Baggie taped to his crotch, on the theory: Who’s gonna go down my pants? Who’s gonna touch Robert Mitchum’s balls?)
Laurence Dunmore’s The Libertine, of 2004, in which Johnny played the dissolute 17th-century poet John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester, is another.
It was perhaps the most strenuous role he has played, and both his performance and the film were magnificent. Based on the play by Stephen Jeffreys, who also wrote the screenplay, the movie paired Johnny with John Malkovich, who is probably one of the only other actors whose imagination, literacy, and skills are commensurate with Johnny’s, and who had played Johnny’s role on the stage and taken the role of Charles II in the film. I remember being blown away by the Libertine. But it was given only very brief and limited distribution. It came and it went, so quickly withdrawn that by the time I recommended it to people it gone, killed off by the then new Weinstein Company, which produced and distributed the film as its second release,
“Are you still pissed at Harvey Weinstein for that?”
“We’ve come to a sort of agreement.”
“Did he have a reason why that movie was so ill-circulated?”
“Yeah, he basically said he fucked it.”
“Meaning he made a mistake?”
“No. He made a choice. He made a choice to kill it. Which was understandable. I mean understandable if you look at it from his kind of point of view.”
Meaning, I assume, a monetary point of view. “But yeah,” Johnny continues, “Harvey killed a great film.”
The Libertine was brought to mind by The Rum Diary and another superb picture in the age of hundred million-dollar junk movies full of gimmickry and idiotic sound and fury instead of any enduring quality or substance.
The new movie is being handled in the U.S. by FilmDistrict, the producer Graham King’s distribution company. But surely, I suggest, with Johnny’s own production company behind The Rum Diary, it will be far less vulnerable to an unjustified fate.
“Can I do better? Maybe not. I’m not sure.”
“You’re not going to kill off your own movie?”
“I’m not sure. You know what I mean? I worked like a cocksucker on it but-“
Anything can happen.
So we’ll see. Can this Lowlifes of the Caribbean attract, as it so deserves, just some of the attention and gelt that the likes of Pirates of the Caribbean got?
Who knows? Our talk drifts, carried along by the tow of the wine and the night.
When I first met Johnny, I think he believed he was part Cherokee and part Irish. Years later, through genealogical research, French blood entered into the picture. I remember Vanessa Paradis announcing to me “Johnny’s French!” Depp from Dieppe, a Cherokee with French blood. The French blood was supposed to have come through his mother, Betty Sue. It made sense.
“What are you now?” I ask him. He doesn’t answer for a moment. “You’re getting all serious,” I say.
“Doesn’t bother me.”
“Do you ever think of yourself as anything?”
“I mean, it makes more sense, the Dieppe.”
“There were a lot of American Indians that had French names. Is that something you would prefer to be?”
“Indian?” he suggests. Another taste of that good red wine. “If they’ll have me.”
“How do your siblings” – besides Christi, there’s a brother and another sister – “feel about the fact that you never seem to physically age?”
“They seem O.K.”
It’s getting late. Not many hours remain until Johnny has to be back on the set. Even I’m getting slightly drowsy. But the Ritz Club, the blackjack tables, more wine await us. Johnny slowly rises, goes to put some cold water on his face and fetch a necktie. I light a smoke, sit with my wine, and rest my eyes. Eventually it occurs to me that Johnny has been gone for a while. I push myself up off the couch and call his name. No answer. I look around for him.
He is dead-out asleep in the toilet, the perfect picture of the wages of exhaustion. I don’t want to wake him. I just stand for a moment wondering. He has a beautiful chateau and secluded grounds in France. He has an estate in Los Angeles; He has an idyllic island of his own. But does he have a hammock?
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: It’s a big show; going to get a big star – like Johnny Depp.
First guest is a three time academy award nominated actor and one of the all time coolest guys on the planet, he stars in a new film entitled ‘the Rum Diary’, which opens tomorrow
Ladies and Gentleman, here he is: Johnny Depp.
That’s good, good to see you.
JOHNNY DEPP, ACTOR: Nice to see you.
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: That sounded great Paul, thank you very much.
Johnny, Johnny, Johnny how are you?
JOHNNY DEPP, ACTOR: I’m allright.
LETTERMAN: Good to see you my friend.
DEPP: You too, thank you.
LETTERMAN: How was your summer? What did you do? Were you working?
DEPP: I was working.
LETTERMAN: Creating movies?
DEPP: I made a film.
LETTERMAN: What film did you make?
DEPP: I made another film with Tim Burton called ‘Dark Shadows’.
LETTERMAN: ‘Dark Shadows’ – and it’s a vampire movie?
DEPP: Something like that.
LETTERMAN: How is your family?
DEPP: They’re great.
LETTERMAN: How are the girls? You get like a teenager and a nine-year old.
DEPP: My girl is 12
LETTERMAN: Boy and a girl
DEPP: Yes, and my boy is nine and they’re just growing all too fast.
LETTERMAN: I remember one time, when the kids were much younger you described them like beeing taking care of small drunks
DEPP: Yes, there is that syndrom ‘the tiny drunk’
LETTERMAN: And how has that evolved, hopefully it’s evolved, what is it evolved to now?
DEPP: It’s slightly less drunk, but still teetering.
LETTERMAN: What I’ve run into here now is a patch I hope it’s only a patch of everything is no.
Whatever I suggest, whatever I ask for – everything is no. And then you have to work around it
and boy, is it tiring
DEPP: Yes, there’s the ‘no’ and then there’s the ‘why.’
LETTERMAN: Believe me, I’m not a a quip for a ‘why’
DEPP: Yeah ‘why comes that’ – but it’s the endless ‘why’
LETTERMAN: But the girl now what is she – I mean she’s going to be in high school isn’t she?
DEPP: Yes, she’s in Junior High. She’s verging on tennagedom – which is frightening; I mean really frightening…make up and things.
LETTERMAN: Make up – believe me, if that’s all you got to worry about you’re home free.
DEPP: Yeah, she’s quite astonishing. I mean big trouble.
LETTERMAN: Listen: what happens if she comes home and says: ‘Dad I spent 14 years admiring your body art…what do we do then, Johnny?
DEPP: My fear is that she’ll bring someone home – that she’s been admiring his body art.
That’s my fear.
LETTERMAN: Oh man… and the kids spend equal time in California and France?
LETTERMAN: And the kids… I mean that’s pretty worldly experience for kids – does it show? Does it manifests itself? Or are they just kids? They speak french, right?
DEPP: Yeah they’re bilingual it’s immediate – they don’t have an american accent when they speak french or french accent when they speak american…
LETTERMAN: Do you know: when they dream – are they dreaming in french or in english?
DEPP: You know – I don’t know that, but I sometimes dream in french….
LETTERMAN: Dream in french? Well I’ve been told that’s a sign that you have absorbed the language as your own. Good for you.
DEPP: Well I made it 😉
LETTERMAN: Your daughter likes Justin Bieber?
DEPP: Oh yes, she does. But I’m not sure anyone’s daughter doesn’t.
LETTERMAN: And do they know? I mean he’s in show buisness you’re in show business…have you all gotten together?
DEPP: There is this weird connection… I’ve met the young men and a very sweet kid
LETTERMAN: How did you happen to meet him?
DEPP: Well, he was playing a concert, you know, and my daughter Lily-Rose was desperate to go to the show and so we got tickets and passes and things like that…and brought her to show and introduced them… it was quite astonishing to see your child in this like kind of frozen –
LETTERMAN: Really? At all? Do you remember when you were her age,
having someone with that effect on yourself?
LETTERMAN: And what is the word ‘belieber’ ? Do I have that right? Justin Bieber-lieber..?
What is it? Is that his name in german? Is that what it is…? Herr Belieber-Bieber…
DEPP: I know – I was kind of struck with that word when I was doing a press conference for Rango
and out of nowhere somewhere out of the audience asked me if I was a ‘Belieber’… And I thought maybe he had some of….(makes gesture with his hands)
LETTERMAN: Yeah that would not be a bad guess.
DEPP: I was confused and then ‘aahh’ – synapse fired – I understood what he was saying.
So I said ‘Yes of course I’m a huge ‘Belieber’ ‘And then about three and a half seconds later to the right of the room Justin Bieber enters.
LETTERMAN: And how do they do that?
DEPP: Exactly; I don’t know if we summoned him up… I don’t know what it was.
LETTERMAN: I think that’s what it was. Something quiet right about that dynamic…
DEPP: He was just there.
LETTERMAN: I’m fascinated with Hunter Thompson and your friendship with him ans the movie I saw last night; and oh the premier how did the premier go?
DEPP: It went very well.
LETTERMAN: I know you are uncomfortable watching yourself work on screen –
what did you do?
DEPP: I didn’t watch it.
LETTERMAN: Now we have this picture, if there had been a crime this would be evidence,
but this is you entering the premier. Are you all right?
DEPP: He was giving me the Heimlich maneuver. It was a piece of animal flesh stuck into my throat and
LETTERMAN: everything is fine now
DEPP: It’s all good.
LETTERMAN: Well I want to tell you, I don’t mean to tell you how to do your business but this photo right here – this will sell tickets. This is all you want right here.
But now in the movie we see you without tattoos
DEPP: Yeah, there’s a brilliant make up man who covers these things up.
LETTERMAN: So you have to go through make up everyday all over your body, well most days when you’re without your –
DEPP: Yeah when you’re standing there in your box or something. I had to get all cover up here.
LETTERMAN: This Hunter S. Thompson a friend of yours, you met him late in his life, we talked about this earlier in this literary firmament, where, in the contemporary literary firmament, where would we place Hunter S. Thompson?
DEPP: Well I think for me, Hunter is one of the most, without question, one of the most important writers of the 20th century. He reinvented a stile of writing by putting himself in a situation,
by living it.
LETTERMAN: This was the phrase ‘ the guns old journalism’ and stuff;
and as prolific as he should have been or not?
DEPP: Pretty prolific for a very long time and then later in life just kind of weird off….
LETTERMAN: He was on the old show two or three times and I can remember those segments
I can hear in my head the second hand clicking, because with him you just didn’t know; is an
ambulance on it’s way? What will Hunter do? Will he be here? Will he not be here?
DEPP: Yeah, he was very unpredictable in a lot of I mean in every way;
The first time I met him I happened to be in Aspen in December 94 I got an invitation from a mutual friend said: ‘Would you like to meet Hunter? Come to the woody creek tavern
at midnight or something. So I go to the woody creek tavern I make may way as far back in the place as I can, you know the back wall just the kind of be invisible and then around and then around 1.30 the front door bursts open and I literally saw sparks; but sparks. And then I saw people like throwing themselves out of the way in this kind of opening, parting the sea and people jumping and diving themselves into safety and then I heard: ‘Out of my way, you basterds!’
and as he got closer I realized that he had a three foot cattle prod in his left hand
and a taser in his right…
LETTERMAN: Just trying to make friends. But I mean beyond that, what kind of guy was in there?
DEPP: I mean he was a wonderful guy, he was brilliant, incredibly quick with it, he was very very fast and very very funny, but he sort of….he just was the kind…he just wanted to have fun; he did.
I mean he dictated exactly the way he was going to live his life, and you know…
LETTERMAN: Was he frustrated maybe because he was on the wrong planet? Was he just one of these guys who didn’t fit in or maybe he didn’t care?
DEPP: Oh he couldn’t give a rat’s. Really didn’t.
LETTERMAN: So it didn’t make any difference what planet. It’s all going to be about him.
I’ll tell you what, when we come back we continue chatting here with Johnny Depp Ladies and Gentleman.
Johnny Depp Ladies and Gentleman. You lived and spend some time in Venice.
DEPP: Yes I have.
LETTERMAN: You own property there?
DEPP: No I don’t. There’s a strange room….
LETTERMAN: There is a strange room, but that’s was I was alerting to;
people say: ‘You see there. Johnny Depp owns that and lives right there.
DEPP: Yeah, I wish I did but I don’t.
LETTERMAN: But it’s a little sad, it’s a dying city, other than tourism the culture is all vanishing.
DEPP: Yeah, well there is certainly nothing that you can get out of this water.
LETTERMAN: Yeah, that’s right; except out of the water if you know what I mean….
So this movie: where did you guys shoot the film?
DEPP: San Juan, Puerto Rico
LETTERMAN: So it was actually shot in Puerto Rico and it is autobiographical.
DEPP: It is. It is basically Hunter in 1995/96 the pre fear and loathing the pre hells angels;
the guy who was trying to find his voice; find that outlet for that rage.
LETTERMAN: And starting as a newspaperman; this was a first job on the newspaper?
DEPP: Yeah, I think before he worked for the San Juan Star he went down there and worked for a bowling magazine.
LETTERMAN: A Puerto Rican bowling magazine? Honest to god: subscribers? Really?
Who subscribes to a Puerto Rican bowling magazine?
How long did it take to shoot the film?
DEPP: It was pretty quick actually. It was only a couple of months.
LETTERMAN: It looks fantastic. Wonderful experience. It creates a nostalgia for a time
in my life I never had. That make sense? You wish:’ Oooh I wish I had that life’ but I never did.
When Hunter died, killed himself; what did you miss immediately? Other than just the guys spirit?
DEPP: Hhm you know everything….
LETTERMAN: Did you guys talk regularly before he died?
DEPP: definitely…I think what I miss the most of Hunter are these three a.m. Phone calls where e would say, he used to call me ‘Colonel, Colonel Depp, yeah he mad me an official Kentucky Cornel, which he was very proud of; which I don’t think is very difficult to do.
LETTERMAN: He’s not from Kentucky, is he?
DEPP: Oh yeah, he is.
LETTERMAN: So he had that power.
DEPP: We had that sort of connection; but the three a.m. Phone calls where he would say:
‘Colonel, wake up man! What do you know of the hairy black tongue disease?’ And you: ‘ I’m sorry?!’
‘The hairy black tongue man, it’s everywhere. You must avoid it’ Of course you must avoid it.
It was that kind of stuff.
LETTERMAN: And that would be the whole conversation?
DEPP: Oh no, it would go on two and a half hours
LETTERMAN: That was just ‘hello’ You had me at the hairy black tongue disease.
This is a lovely piece of work this film ‘the Rum Diary’. This was a manuscript written and published later, published in 1998 but it has been overlooked and rejected many years hadn’t it?
DEPP: What happened was, what I think, Hunter wrote the thing, looking to write a great american novel, as he out it later the great Puerto rican novel, it was about 96/97 when we were going over the manuscript of ‘Fear and loathing’ which consisted out of all kinds of madness: You pull out a cocktail napkin with some sort of matter on it and an old dried gum and some of these brilliant passages and I pushed that box away, opened another cardboard box and it says ‘the Rum Diary’
and we sat there cross legged on the floor started reading the thing and he said: ‘Good god man,
this is really good isn’t it? And I said: ‘Yes it is.’ And he said: ‘We should make a movie.’
And I said:’ Maybe you should publish it first.’ And I think he didn’t look at it since 1995/96.
LETTERMAN: The clip we are going to see here, the film opens tomorrow, what do we need to know about what we are going to have here?
DEPP: I think this is after we had a series of bad luck, car has been stripped,….
LETTERMAN: It’s ‘the Rum Diary’, beginning tomorrow and here is a little bit right here.
A couple of guys having some fun in Puerto Rico. In the movie your character is carrying around a copy of ‘the ancient mariner’ and was Hunter Thompson obsessed with that or was that just an affectation in the script?
DEPP: Hunter was obsessed with Coleridge and all those great writers, this sort of soul.
LETTERMAN: It’s pointed out in the movie. Colderidge wrote that in his twenties or even younger.
DEPP: Yeah he was a bad junkie.
LETTERMAN: Hallucinating drugs or something.
I give you 100 bugs for that hat.
DEPP: It’s yours.
LETTERMAN: Anyway do yourself a favour watch this movie; this is Johnny Depp!
Thank you very much.
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: He’s one of the biggest stars in the world. One of the most acclaimed actors or our time.
Tonight Johnny Depp. The man who rarely grants interviews sits down with me and opens up about his fame.
JOHNNY DEPP, ACTOR: This is the card I drew, so I’ll deal with it, that’s fine. Doesn’t mean every single moment you have to be sort of OK with it.
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: He’s one of the biggest stars in the world. One of the most acclaimed actors or our time.
Tonight Johnny Depp. The man who rarely grants interviews sits down with me and opens up about his fame.
JOHNNY DEPP, ACTOR: This is the card I drew, so I’ll deal with it, that’s fine. Doesn’t mean every single moment you have to be sort of OK with it.
KING: His family.
DEPP: I don’t want my kids to experience me as a novelty. I want my kids to know me as dad.
KING: And his famous friends. Brando had that big an effect on you?
DEPP: He was a wonderful man. You know? He’d give you anything.
KING: Plus we’ll go on a tour of his private office full of personal memorabilia and his paintings.
It’s all ahead on this LARRY KING SPECIAL, “Johnny Depp.”
We’re sitting here in Johnny Depp’s office. An office like none I have ever seen. That later we’ll get a chance to explore a little. He, of course, one of the most celebrated and versatile actors of his generation. He’s also a director, producer, accomplished musician.
His new movie “Rum Diary” will open October 28th. The only novel ever written by Hunter S. Thompson. We’ll talk about that a little later.
You don’t do many things like this. Do you not like to be interviewed or —
DEPP: No. I’m just not very good at it, you know. Never have been very good at it.
KING: Why not?
DEPP: I don’t know. There’s a — you know, there’s a strange thing, you know. I’m OK when I’m a character. If I’m playing a character, I can do, you know, virtually anything in front of a camera. But if I’m just me, I feel, you know, exposed and sort of, you know, it feels awkward.
KING: We won’t expose you.
DEPP: OK. Good.
KING: Do you like being other people?
DEPP: Yes, I do. I do because I’m fascinated with people. I mean, I’m fascinated — I like to watch people. And that’s the one sort of thing, you know, as an actor in terms of job necessity is the ability to be able to watch people, to observe, to be the observer. As a journalist, you know, to observe. And it’s one of my favorite things, to sort of pick apart, you know, various traits.
KING: Marlon Brando told me that one of the problems is when you get very well known is they’re observing you.
DEPP: That becomes the problem.
KING: You can’t — you’re not observing them really.
DEPP: Yes. Exactly. No, that becomes the problem. You become the focus of others. So, therefore, your ability to observe is tainted. You know it’s a little bit — yes. It changes quite radically.
KING: How did you go from guitar to acting?
KING: How did it happen?
DEPP: I’d moved to Los Angeles in 1983 and was living here playing — you know, playing music. And we did a couple of good gigs. You know, the band and stuff. And we went on the road for a little bit. And that was all fine. But, I mean, in terms of making a living, it was pretty straight — you know pretty close to the bone there.
So I was filling out job applications for just various — like video stores or anywhere, you know. And I happened to be with an old buddy of mine, Nicolas Cage. And who was — who was then coming up the ranks. And he said that, you know, why don’t you just — I think you should meet my agent. You should investigate acting.
KING: You hadn’t thought of it?
DEPP: No, not really, no. No. And so I met his agent. She sent me to read for a part. And got a call back and then they hired me for the gig. You know that was the first “Nightmare on Elm Street.” That was 1984? Three or four.
KING: Did you like it right away?
KING: It was a job?
DEPP: It was just a gig. You know I just thought, well, this will get me through, you know, until, you know, the music picks up or whatever. You know. So I just — you know, the first two or three, four films to me were just, you know, a lark. You know, just —
KING: Would you rather have been a musician?
DEPP: In retrospect, no, you know. In retrospect, no. Because it’s — I suppose had that become my bread and butter, as they say, you know, the main gig, I would have probably fallen out of love with it on some level. And I still to this day, you know, have the — the same love, you know, first love feeling for music as I did when I was 12.
KING: Do you play?
DEPP: All the time, yes. Constantly. Still, yes.
KING: How did you react to getting famous?
DEPP: I’m still reacting, you know. I’m still sort of dealing with it. I don’t think it’s anything you ever get used to, you know. I could never — for many years I could never sort of put my name in the same sort of category as the word “famous” or anything like that. And I just found it very uncomfortable. So it’s weird.
It’s something like if you — I find if you get used to it, then something must be wrong, you know. If you get used to that constant kind of thing, it’s — something’s got to be wrong. There’s got to be still a part of you that — somewhere in there that pines for anonymity.
KING: Allen Alda told me one that he doesn’t like giving autographs because he feels it demeans the person asking for the autograph. It put them on a lower level. And Brando didn’t like much being photographed. Is it true you don’t like being photographed?
DEPP: I suppose, like, for example when you’re doing something organized like a photo shoot, essentially amid the faux pas of, you know — there was a piece in “Vanity Fair” where I should have used the word “violated.” However, you know, in my — in my lack of vocabulary in the moment I used another word, which I’ve, you know, apologized for radically.
But the thing — the thing with doing a photo shoot, that’s sort of an organized thing. You feel dumb. OK. But you just get through it. But what I find still to this day, kind of, like an attack on the senses, is really just being bombarded by paparazzis.
You know I’ll take photographs with kids. People, you know, who want to take photographs with me. People who like the movies. People who supported me. I’ll do that all day, all night, that’s fine. But the bombardment, you know, of the paparazzi is just — it’s like a — it’s just —
KING: What do they get out of it? I mean, they take your picture.
KING: And then they take it a minute later. It’s not any different than a minute before.
DEPP: And it’s not any different than the year before, or the year before that.
KING: So what is the — what do you think it is?
DEPP: I truly don’t understand. I think it must be just this kind of — I don’t know. It just feels like this kind of gluttonous, horrific sport. It’s like sport. It’s like hunting or something.
KING: Do you therefore go out of your way to try to avoid them?
DEPP: Yes. I try to avoid, you know, any and all, you know, press or — especially that nature. You know, just to — yes. I just —
KING: So do you —
DEPP: I don’t want my kids to experience me as a novelty. I want my kids to know me as dad, you know. And already, you know, if they have access to the Internet or whatever, I mean they understand what the deal is. But I don’t want them to have to live through and experience that kind of attack, you know.
KING: So what do you do when you go out to eat?
DEPP: I don’t go out very much, you know. I stay at home a lot. Or when you go out to eat, you know, you’ve got to — it becomes a strategic sort of plan.
KING: Getting in through the side door.
DEPP: OK, we’re going in the back. We’re going to walk through the slippery kitchen and we’re going to go into the private room or, you know, that kind of thing.
KING: It’s a tough way to live.
DEPP: It’s — you know, I suppose it’s what I — it’s the card I drew. So I’ll deal with it. That’s fine. But you know it doesn’t mean that every single moment you have to be sort of OK with it. I certainly am not one of those guys and would — you know, can’t stand the idea of, you know, one of those guys who whines about, you know, how horrible success is.
I do realize and understand very well on a profound level how lucky I am and what a privileged position it is and what it’s done ultimately for me, my family and my kids. But at the same time, you know, there are moments in a man’s life when you just kind of want to feel somewhat normal, you know.
KING: He’s one of the biggest stars in the world. But it wasn’t always that way.
DEPP: I had been essentially known within the confines of Hollywood as the — you know, as box office poison. You know basically I’d built a career on 20 years of failures.
KING: Plus, later, Johnny shows me the inside of his private office. It’s an up close and personal look at a Johnny Depp you will not want to miss. When this LARRY KING SPECIAL, “Johnny Depp” returns.
KING: Paul Newman told me that any successful person in any field who in discussing their career doesn’t use the word luck is a liar.
DEPP: Yes. He’s absolutely right, yes.
KING: So you consider yourself lucky?
DEPP: Very lucky, yes.
KING: But you have to have talent to meet the luck, right?
DEPP: Somebody hands you the ball and you run, you know. And then if you get hit, you get hit, or maybe you make it through, you never know. But, I mean, I just know that somebody handed me the ball at a certain point. And I was hungry enough to keep running. And I’m still running. So —
KING: Now what do you think makes you good at what you do? You have to think you’re good.
DEPP: I’m OK.
KING: You don’t watch yourself, right?
DEPP: I don’t. No. I don’t. I don’t like to watch myself. I think, you know, I maintain a hunger, but not an ambition. You know, I — I’m very happy to explore all possibilities of a character and really, you know, dive into the role. You know to the point where Disney wanted to — wanted to fire me.
KING: They wanted to fire you from “Pirates”?
DEPP: They couldn’t understand what I was doing. You know? They didn’t understand the character. They were actually contemplating subtitling the film, you know.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEPP: You will always remember this as the day that you almost caught Captain Jack. What are you doing? You burned all the food, the shade, the rum.
KYRA KNIGHTLY, ACTRESS: Yes, the rum is gone.
DEPP: Why is the rum gone?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Ever turned down something you regretted?
DEPP: Don’t regret any of it, no. No. Everything that I turned down was — it was — weirdly, it was more important what I turned down than what I accepted in terms of films.
KING: For your own happiness?
KING: So even if it became a hit?
DEPP: Yes. “Pirates” was a complete accident, you know? I mean prior —
KING: What do you mean?
DEPP: Well, prior to “Pirates of the Caribbean,” you know, the first one in 2003, that was — I mean I had been essentially known within the confines of Hollywood as the — you know, as box office poison, you know what I’m saying? You know basically had built a career on 20 years of failures.
KING: Did it surprise you, its success?
DEPP: Hugely. I had no idea.
KING: Are you going to do more?
DEPP: You know, it depends.
KING: Does it ever become maybe too much?
DEPP: Not yet, you know. Not yet for me. I mean, maybe — maybe to the masses. I don’t know. Maybe. I don’t know. I still feel like in terms of character, Captain Jack is one that I’d like to explore.
KING: He’s still evolving?
DEPP: Yes. Because he’s — because he’s fun, you know. It’s his fun. It’s a license to be totally and utterly irreverent and get away with it.
KING: He’s going to age, then?
DEPP: I suppose he’ll have to.
KING: Discuss some others. Some incredible roles you’ve played. Edward Scissorhands.
DEPP: Probably the most important film that I’ve ever done, just in terms of the — the transition for me, you know, from basically at the time, you know, being known as having come up the ranks as a TV actor, essentially, in the minds of Hollywood. “Scissorhands” was the one that sort of put me on the road that I wanted to be on. So for me that one’s — yes, that’s probably the most important of all.
KING: “Mad Hatter.”
DEPP: A gas. You know, I mean, just a gas. Again, one of those things where you get a call from Tim and he says what do you think about this? And you just — you just start to travel, you know.
KING: You just did “Dark Shadows,” right?
DEPP: Just finished.
KING: Finished. That was a soap opera about a vampire.
KING: What attracted you to that?
DEPP: Well, I had watched it as a kid, you know. Religiously. I remember sprinting home from school to see it. Didn’t want to miss, like, a minute of it. Ironically, you know, Tim had gone through the same experience. You know running home from school. And then back when we were doing Sweeney, we were doing “Sweeney Todd” a couple of years ago, it — one day we’re just sitting there talking, and I said, you know, we should do a vampire movie sometime.
Let’s do a vampire movie. It was before all the “Twilights” and all that, you know, stuff. And yes, that’s a good idea. I went, oh, “Dark Shadows,” man. And so we got on the “Dark Shadows” tangent. And then one thing led to another.
KING: So was “Willy Wonka” fun?
DEPP: Absolutely fun. Yes. Really fun.
KING: Do you have to enjoy it to do it? DEPP: I think you have to. I mean I think it’s got to be fun. The process itself must be fun. You have to enjoy what you’re doing. And as we all know, as you know as well as I do, it’s a collaborative process, you know. It’s not just let’s put the actor in front of the camera. There are many people behind the scenes that make it all go.
So I would — I would find it really a drag if they stick me out in front of the camera and the guys behind the camera weren’t having a good time, too. All I do is try to make them laugh.
KING: Still ahead, Johnny talks about his famous co-stars and friends. Al Pacino.
DEPP: He says, I’m nuts, but he’s really — like, he’s certifiably nuts.
KING: Marlon Brando.
DEPP: We got along like a house on fire. You know. Instantly. There’s a dangerous element. You never know what to expect from him.
KING: And Hunter Thompson.
DEPP: I realized that this was the voice of truth. He was without question I mean, I think the most important nonfiction writer of the 20th century.
KING: Plus, get a tour of his private office. Wait until you see what’s in there.
But first, after supporting them for years, Johnny opens up on the release of the West Memphis Three.
Did you have anybody say to you, you know, Johnny, you go out on a limb on a thing like this?
DEPP: Oh, yes.
KING: Find out why when this LARRY KING SPECIAL: JOHNNY DEPP” continues.
KING: What do you make of finally the release of the Memphis Three? You got involved in that battle. We did a whole show on it.
KING: We had them on. And they still not — they’re guilty. They’re out. But it’s crazy.
DEPP: It’s a very strange thing the state of Arkansas presented to them. Essentially, you know, to say, OK. All you have to do is say that we have the evidence to convict you again, and — but we’ll do time served and you’re out. Admitting guilt, maintaining your innocence. So it’s a very — you know, it’s a really floppy piece of ground to stand on.
KING: Why did you get involved?
DEPP: Because I — I knew immediately, you know, when I — when I first started to get, you know, kind of familiarize myself with the case, I knew instantly that they were innocent. I knew instantly that they were wrongfully accused. And the more research I did and the more people I spoke to, it was absolutely apparent.
KING: Did you have anybody say to you, you know, Johnny, you go out on a limb on a thing like this.
DEPP: Oh, yes, yes. A lot of people.
KING: Like what if they did it? You’re going to look bad.
DEPP: There was that kind of thing. Yes. But I just knew. I just knew, you know. I — it was just — it was ugly and — and a raw deal from the get-go. Back in ’93. And you’re thinking of these three kids, you know, one, Damien Echols on death row for 18 years. Ten years in isolation. You know, for a crime that he did not commit.
KING: You think Obama should pardon them?
DEPP: I mean, it would be wonderful. I don’t — I think he’s probably got a few other things on his mind at the moment. But, yes, yes. What I’m hoping is that the investigation will continue outside the courthouse right now and we will be able to prove the real killers.
KING: Back to some roles. One I want to play a little clip for you here. Because you did one of my favorites, one of my all-time favorite movies with one of my dear friends, Al Pacino. And that was, of course, “Donny Braskow.” So let’s hear — let’s watch Al talking about you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Working with Johnny Depp.
AL PACINO, ACTOR: I love him. I love Johnny Depp.
KING: What makes him special? You did “Donnie Brasco”.
PACINO: Yes. Yes. And he’s done so many things. I mean He’s gone from A to Z, you know. It’s just gifts. It’s really his gifts. And has a personality. And as a person, I just loved him. I loved being with him because he made me laugh every day I was there. He’s really nuts, too.
KING: He’s nuts?
PACINO: Oh, yes. He’ll say I’m nuts but he’s really nuts. He’s nuts in that way that just — you know, it’s just fun to be with. (END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: You the same way toward him?
DEPP: Yes. Although when you’re working with Pacino, you know he’s great. I mean in that moment, you know, of course you lock in, as he said. You lock in and you’re in the scene and stuff like that. But you know, as soon as cut comes, you go, Jesus Christ, man. Wow. He’s monumental.
KING: He said you’re nuts.
DEPP: He might be right. But he’s — I mean, he’s really — I mean he says I’m nuts but he’s really — he’s like certifiably nuts.
DEPP: And one of the funniest human beings I’ve ever known in my life.
KING: From Pacino to Brando. Now there’s a puzzling aspect of your life that puzzles me. You directed and appeared with Brando in a movie.
KING: That we have never seen.
DEPP: Yes. “The Brave,” yes.
KING: Why have we never seen it?
DEPP: I was sort of rushed to take it to the Cannes Film Festival. Took it there. And then —
KING: And it was praised there, was it not?
DEPP: It was kind of praised. The first night was really wonderful, you know. I mean you had Bertolucci there and Antonioni and Kustavitza (ph) and all these filmmakers that I really admired and have admired for years, you know, saying bravo, bravo. And then, you know, and then the next day the American press just absolutely lambasted, you know, me and the film saying it’s the — you know we haven’t seen a weirder group of people since Bunel and, you know, and all these kind of strange things. And I just —
KING: Shelved it?
DEPP: Yes, I didn’t shelve it. You know I owned the North American rights. And I just thought, you know what? I mean, what’s the point? You know?
KING: Might you release it?
DEPP: Yes. Maybe. I tell you why. For one reason only. It’s certainly not a perfect film. What I will say about that film and what I will say about Marlon in particular, it’s one of the best performances he’s given since “Last Tango.” It’s one of the performances where he dug down deep and gave of himself so monumentally.
KING: Was he a little ticked that you didn’t release it?
DEPP: No. He didn’t care. No, he was fine.
KING: That’s Marlon.
DEPP: Yes. He was fine with it.
KING: Now you did do a movie with him. Did you enjoy doing that?
DEPP: “Don Juan”?
KING: “Don Juan.”
DEPP: Yes. Very much. That was the first. That’s when we met and we got along like a house on fire, you know, instantly. And that’s where we got very — we got close doing “Don Juan.”
KING: What did he do that others in the — what did he do that the rest of you didn’t do?
DEPP: Well, Marlon early on, I mean, Marlon reinvented — Marlon reinvented acting. He revolutionized acting. He made it — it was not about behavior in a sense as it was just about being in a moment. And he was a dangerous element. I mean, he was a dangerous element. He remained a dangerous element.
KING: Risk taker.
DEPP: Oh, yes. All the way through, man. Until, you know, his last — his last breath. You know, he was — he was a dangerous element. You never knew what to expect from him.
KING: Coming up, Johnny explains how he made Hunter S. Thompson’s final wish come true. Shooting his ashes out of a cannon.
DEPP: He came down over all of us. You know we were covered in Hunter’s ashes. It was something that I knew that had to be done and we got it done, yes.
KING: And get an inside look at his office. It’s all next on this “LARRY KING SPECIAL: JOHHNY DEPP
KING: Johnny Depp’s personal office. As interesting and unique as the man himself. Inside the walls are lined with personal mementos and photos from his life and work. Here, a cabinet of curiosities from his movie “Sweeney Todd.” Willy Wonka’s throne from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” And his walking stick and that golden ticket. One of his guitars. Awards and accolades.
Perhaps one of the most interesting things to see, Johnny’s self-made portrait of his friend and mine, the legendary Marlon Brando.
DEPP: I said, hey, I made this painting of you. You know? And he’s, you paint?
KING: Another amazing man in Johnny’s life, Hunter S. Thompson. Here he shows us a letter and a check. Something he received after Thompson lost a bet over the 1998 World Cup. Johnny became friends with Thompson before he filmed “Fear and Loathing” in Las Vegas. It was a friendship that endured for years and one that led to his latest movie “The Rum Diary.”
All right, let’s talk about Hunter Thompson. And your friendship with him. You led to this movie, “Rum Diary” based on him. You found this novel, right? He never written — we never knew he wrote a novel. DEPP: No, no. I happened upon it. Hunter and I — it was when I was researching “Fear and Loathing” in Las Vegas, and I was living in his basement, you know, and I happened upon this box. As we were looking through the manuscript of “Fear and Loathing,” and I see this, you know, folder.
“Rum Diary” across it in his hand. I thought, wow, what’s that? You know — so we started to read it, sitting, you know, cross-legged on the floor. You know, reading this amazing thing. And he’s like, my, god, that’s pretty good, isn’t it? Yes, it’s very good, Hunter.
You know, what are you doing? But then he brought up the idea of, you know, he used to call me Colonel. Colonel Depp, you know. As a colonel, we must produce this. We’ll produce this together. It’ll be our — you know, so that was the plan.
KING: Did he know you were going to do it?
DEPP: It took a little while. And you know, years, years happened. And then Hunter made his exit, you know. So he never got to —
KING: Did you kind of make a promise that you’d make it?
DEPP: Yes. Absolutely. Yes.
KING: So this is a commitment?
DEPP: For sure. No, this was — this was fulfilling a commitment to hunter. This was absolutely a major promise, we are going to produce this thing together. And I even so far as to have — you know I mean Hunter had his chair on set every day with his name on it. He had his script there with his name on it. He had — there was a bottle of Chivas there every day. A highball glass filled with rocks. And we’d bang in the Chivas. We had his Dunhills, we had his cigarette filters.
KING: It’s a very unusual film, you’ll agree with that.
DEPP: It is, yes.
KING: People will react different ways to it.
DEPP: I think so, yes.
KING: So explain to the uninitiated who Hunter Thompson was?
DEPP: He was without question, I mean, I think the most important nonfiction writer of the — of the 20th century.
KING: When he died, you — you blew his ashes?
KING: How did you come to do that?
DEPP: It was — KING: From a cannon?
DEPP: Yes. Built a cannon. He — it was his last request.
DEPP: You know? And it was something that we’d talked about here and there. But I knew that that’s what he wanted. And I knew that that had to be done at whatever, you know — at whatever cost. So I met with some — you know, some kind of architectural wizards and stuff. And we built — we devised a cannon of 153 feet in the shape of the gonzo fist that would shoot Hunter into the stratosphere.
KING: Did it make a big sound?
DEPP: Oh, boy. It was huge.
DEPP: He came down all over all of us. You know we were covered in Hunter’s ashes. But the idea also is to take Hunter — you know, his ashes and then mix that in with gun powder, there was something so poetic about that. You know it’s something so kind of symmetrical about Hunter becoming basically large bullets.
DEPP: That he would have loved. So I mean it was — again, it was something that I knew that had to be done and we got it done, yes.
KING: He’s gone from pumping gas to being one of the highest-paid actors in the world.
DEPP: I haven’t changed. I’m still exactly the guy that used to pump gas, you know. I’m still the guy that was a mechanic for a minute, you know. I’m still exactly. I just happen to have a weird — weirder job at the moment.
KING: And Johnny tells us the latest on the “Lone Ranger.” Finally back on? It’s going to happen?
DEPP: Yes. We got the budget down.
KING: That’s good to hear.
KING: That’s coming up on this “LARRY KING SPECIAL: JOHNNY DEPP.”
KING: Ever want to do theater?
DEPP: Yes. There is a part of me. There is a part of me that wants to do it, you know.
KING: I mean to have the audience and get the reaction.
DEPP: Yes, yes. There is a part of me that wants to do it. But at the same time, you know, I — I suppose the reason to do it is because it just scares the absolute, you know —
KING: It does scare you?
DEPP: Oh, yes.
KING: You don’t have the protection of “cut.”
DEPP: Yes. You don’t have the protection of cut. But also you just walk out there and suddenly just go — line. You know, I mean — I’m up. What’s the line, you know? That would be a real drag.
KING: Is there a play you’ve liked that you’ve said to yourself, if I do do it, I would do that play?
DEPP: It was one — one conversation with Marlon where he said — he asked me how many movies I did a year. And at the time I said, I don’t know, maybe three or something. He says, too much, kid. That’s too much. We only have so many faces in our pockets, you know. I said, OK, I get it. He said, why don’t you play Hamlet? You should play Hamlet.
I said, I don’t know, you know, Hamlet’s the kind of cliche thing. He said, no, man. Do it before you’re too old to do it. He said, I never got the chance. I never did it. You should do it. Go do it. And — so that still sticks in my head is the possibility of, you know, before I’m too long in the tooth to play Hamlet. It’s just —
KING: Have you —
DEPP: Have I?
DEPP: Yes. Every time. Me? Yes. Sure.
KING: But what got you down?
DEPP: Well, I don’t know — throughout life, and many things, but I mean certainly, you know, losing Marlon, you know, took me down. Losing Hunter took me down. Because, you know that these — these friends, these mentors, these teachers, these father figures, you know, these — someone who you really — it was amazing to be accepted by them and to — and to be loved by them. And suddenly they’re gone, you know. Yes. Those are pretty down times.
KING: Do you have faith?
DEPP: I have faith in my kids.
KING: Me, too. DEPP: Yes. I have faith in my kids. And I have — I have faith, you know, that as long as you keep moving forward, just keep walking forward, things will be all right, I suppose, you know. Faith in terms of religion, I don’t — religion is not my specialty, you know.
KING: Do you enjoy success? Now you know you’re successful. Are you — do you enjoy it? Do you enjoy the fruits of it?
DEPP: Sure. I mean, I’ve been very — like I said, very, very lucky, you know, in a sense that, you know, I mean, how ironic is it that, you know, as I said you get —
KING: You were pumping gas.
DEPP: I was pumping gas, most definitely. Printing T-shirts and selling ink pens, and you know anything and everything. Yes. And then the fact that you have a 20-year career of failures and then you do a pirate movie and that buys you an island is pretty — the irony of that is pretty good.
KING: Do you think about the times when things weren’t so good a lot?
DEPP: Yes, yes. Oh, yes. You know, there was a guy who I worked with many years ago. And we were talking about success and money and all that stuff. And he told me this one thing. He said, you know, money doesn’t change anybody. Money reveals them, you know. Same thing with success.
And I believe that, you know, wholeheartedly. I think I’ve been revealed. I don’t think — I haven’t changed — I’m still exactly the guy that used to pump gas, you know. I’m still the guy that was a mechanic for a minute, you know. I’m still exactly. I just happen to have a weird — weirder job at the moment, you know?
KING: It is a weird profession.
DEPP: As Marlon said, he had — Marlon had the best definition of acting that exists, you know. It’s a strange job for a grown man. And that’s it.
KING: You do that good.
DEPP: It’s a strange job for a grown man. Right?
KING: But he called something else that people in the business got mad at. He said it on our show. He called it lying for a living.
KING: And most actors say they’re not lying.
KING: Did you think that was an unfair expression?
DEPP: I think it’s totally — I think it’s totally right, yes. It’s lying. It is lying. Why wouldn’t it be? You can make it lying. You can make it not lying. You know it’s — you can find your own truth. But it’s still a lie. You know what I mean? You’re going to go to the craft service table. You’re not Henry VIII, man. You’re not going to have some Fritos or whatever, man. You know?
KING: Have a donut and then go, yes.
DEPP: Right. You know? He’s not going to eat a giant chicken leg and chuck it somewhere and start screaming “wench”. Right? You know? And that’s not —
KING: Do you like the camera? Burt Reynolds used to say every day he’d go up and say to the camera, love me today.
DEPP: Oh, really?
KING: Please love me. You don’t look at your films, right?
DEPP: I don’t. I don’t look at my films. But what I do is — the strange thing is what happens at a certain point, it’s kind of like that thing Marlon said about being observed and having been the observer. You get to a place at a certain point where you’re more comfortable in front of a camera doing, behaving, living in front of a camera than you are in normal life. That is to say, like, out at a restaurant or something like that. You know, the camera becomes sort of just part of the —
KING: Same thing in my profession. I don’t want to discuss myself.
DEPP: But you know what I mean?
DEPP: It’s just there and that’s part of it and that’s it.
KING: It’s your comfort zone.
DEPP: Yes, yes.
KING: Up next, Johnny talks about being a family man.
DEPP: Kids are great. So fun. As you know, they just grow up so fast. It’s just shocking.
KING: Explains those tattoos.
Do the kids like it?
DEPP: Yes, they’re OK with it, you know. Yes. I mean they’re sort of used to it by now, you know. When I come home with a new one they’re like oh, yes, that’s good. Nice one, dad.
KING: And announces details on his next projects. Are you doing a film about Dr. Seuss?
Find out all about his future coming up on this “LARRY KING SPECIAL: JOHNNY DEPP.”
KING: You’re not into “National Enquirer.”
DEPP: No. I mean, thank god. You know, early days, you know, they tried to sort of slop me into those things but now not so much. You know I think they kind of — after almost 14 years of Vanessa and two kids I think they kind of —
KING: How did you meet Vanessa?
DEPP: I had met her before. But very briefly. And then it was ’98 when I went to do this film with Roman Polanski in Paris. I was in the hotel lobby sort of getting my messages. And I turned around and was walking back towards my room and then I saw — I saw across the room, I saw this back, this sort of skin of this back and this neck attached to it.
I just thought, my god, what’s that? And then instantly it turned towards me and walked over and said hello. And it was Vanessa. And it was that moment when I knew I was absolutely in deep trouble. It’s over. I just knew it. It was over. And she — you know, we were going to have a kid. You know within three months she was pregnant, so it was over.
KING: What are the kids like?
DEPP: The kids are great. So fun.
KING: Now you live here, right? You live in Los Angeles?
DEPP: Yes, yes. We basically try and spend — spend sort of half and half. But with the kiddies in school we do a lot here. The kids are great, you know, they just — as you know they just grow up so fast. It’s just shocking.
KING: I mean you and your sister are very close, right?
DEPP: My sister, yes. Christy is my best friend in the world. She’s always kept me alive since I was a little kid.
KING: So you were family oriented early.
DEPP: Very much so.
KING: Maybe you changed. It’s hard to change.
DEPP: Well, unfortunately I have a tendency, you know, especially these days now when — you know the way the work is coming, I work a lot. And I probably work too much. If I could change that, I’d love to be able —
KING: You can change that.
DEPP: — to spend more time. Yes, you can. But once you’ve committed to certain things.
KING: You need that camera.
DEPP: Well, I need to have the brain occupied for sure. You know, the brain canopy occupied at all times. Otherwise I will go sideways.
KING: Why tattoos?
DEPP: Like a journal. You know.
KING: You keep a journal of your life on your body?
DEPP: Basically, yes. It started when I was 17 I got my first tattoo. And every single one means something and they all —
KING: And the kids like it?
DEPP: Yes. They’re OK with it, you know. Yes, I mean they’re sort of used to it by now. You know? When I come home with a new one they’re like, oh, yes, that’s good. Nice one, dad.
KING: What happened to “The Lone Ranger”?
DEPP: It’s still up and running. They —
KING: I heard that the budget was too high and they’re not going to do it. You’re going to play Tonto, right?
KING: You have Indian blood, right?
DEPP: Yes, yes.
KING: What tribe?
DEPP: I was told — you know I was always told it was Cherokee growing up and stuff. It may be Cherokee. It may be Creek. I don’t know exactly, you know?
KING: Is there a script?
DEPP: There is a script. There’s a very funny, good script.
KING: Is it a takeoff of “The Lone Ranger”?
KING: It’s funny.
DEPP: There’s humor. Yes. There’s a boat load of humor.
KING: Does Tonto get to say kimosabe?
DEPP: Yes, yes.
KING: Who’s Lone Ranger is made?
DEPP: It going to be Army Harmer. Looks like it’s going to all come together in January.
KING: So it’s going to happen.
DEPP: Yes. We got the budget down, yes.
KING: That’s good to hear.
KING: So you play him tongue in cheek? How are you going to approach Tonto?
DEPP: I think — what I like about Tonto is the idea that this character who’s thought of as the sidekick, you know, it was the thing that bugged me always about “The Lone Ranger” is why is the Indian the sidekick? Why does he have to go get you that thing? Why does he —
KING: Because he’s the slave.
DEPP: Right. And I couldn’t stand that always. And my approach to Tonto is that he’s this sort of — there’s sort of a crazy like a fox stoicism to Tonto, you know, that — that Tonto probably believes that the Lone Ranger is his slave, his sidekick. So he’s like, go get me the thing. No, no, no.
KING: He’s going to say no?
DEPP: You go get it. You go.
DEPP: You’re the one dressed in the funny outfit. You do it.
KING: Are they going to do the beginning where all these bunch of rangers are killed and Tonto saves the Lone Ranger’s life and —
DEPP: Yes. There’s certainly elements of that, yes, for sure. You remember it well.
KING: Oh, is there a love interest?
DEPP: Not for Tonto.
KING: I see, he doesn’t get —
DEPP: Not for Tonto, no.
KING: Will you do your own Tonto makeup?
DEPP: Will I do my own Tonto makeup?
KING: Have you figured out will Tonto — one little feather?
DEPP: I think it’s a little more than that. I think —
DEPP: I’ll tell you what, I’ll send you a picture of it.
DEPP: I’ve done some tests. I’ll send you a picture of it. Because it’s — it’s a little — it’s a little different than that. What I like about Tonto, what I feel good about in terms of Tonto is that I feel like he’s, you know, when I — when I came up with Captain Jack, I thought, OK. I’ve really arrived at something, you know, different here, you know. And Tonto feels right on par with Captain Jack. It feels like another Captain Jack to me.
KING: Are you doing a film about Dr. Seuss?
DEPP: It’s something, yes, something we’re developing. With Seuss’s widow, you know. Guisele’s widow. And it’s a very exciting possibility. Because it’s a sort of combination of live action and —
KING: “Cat in the Hat”?
DEPP: Not “Cat in the Hat” so much but the characters. The characters will certainly have a role.
KING: Thank you, Johnny.
DEPP: Thank you. What a pleasure. What an honor.
KING: Let’s go around then.
DEPP: That was fine really, yes.
KING: Johnny Depp.
Tim Burton’s name is synonymous with words like, genius, dark, quirky, strange, eccentric and yes even to some scary. But none can deny his influence on pop culture and film today. His persona can be a bit intimidating, but unlike the stereotype some may have, I found him to be fun and cheerful and a glmmer in his eye of mischief. His most recent inspiration is in the form of art at the LACMA museum in Los Angeles. This exhibit is full of past works from Burton himself and spans his whole career. Tim was on hand for the opening and to meet and greet a few hundred lucky fans who stood in line for hours just to gain a signature and a copy of his book, “The Art of Tim Burton.” The day after the opening he was off to continue his work in England on the new film “Dark Shadows” with of course his partner in crime, Mr. Johnny Depp and his most beautiful wife Helena Bonham Carter. There wasn’t much time for a lot of questions but any time this icon can spare is precious to be sure…
To watch this exclusive interview with Johnny Depp about the new Pirates just click on the link:
Thanks to Corinna for this information!