Jo Whiley Audio Interview with Johnny Depp

Your little ears will delight with this Jo Whiley-Johnny Depp audio interview on bbc/radio1. Johnny chats about his fans, about the weirdest thing one of his fans has done and about the prospect of making Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. You will need Real Player to listen to this Audio interview. This interview was first published on 22 April 2004.

BBC.co.uk/Radio1 Excerpt:

Whiley: On chatting a lot with fans…
Depp: “There’s no reason to be otherwise really…I think that the kids that come around the people who come around, it’s so nice to meet them. For all intents and purposes they’re my boss aren’t they? they keep me employed.”

Go to Audio Interview

© bbc.co.uk. Reprinted with permission.

UK Mirror June 2005 – I love playing with Barbie dolls

UK Mirror June 2005 – I love playing with Barbie dolls

Title: I love playing with Barbie dolls

Author: Eveyln Moore/Corrine Barraclough

Publication: UK 3AM Mirror

Issue: June 2005

He’s one of the sexiest stars in Hollywood but Johnny Depp couldn’t be less bothered about his A-List Hollywood heart-throb status.  The 41-year-old hunk prefers the simple life with his family in France to the glitz and glamour of Tinseltown. But don‘t worry you haven’t seen the last of those smouldering came-to-bed eyes, girls. Johnny’s back in two films this month. Starring along side him in The Libertine is Brit talent Smantha Morton and funny man Johnny Vegas, in which Johnny D plays the lead as a drunken 17th century poet.  Dreamy Depp also shares a screen with Kate Winslet in Finding Neverland, the story of J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan. And if that isn’t enough to keep Depp fans happy,  you can also start fantasying about his return as Jack Sparrow in the sequel to box office smash Pirates of the Caribbean.

You‘ve always been labelled as a bit of a rebel in Hollywood — Is that true?

Well I’ve never though of myself that way! I never got that whole rebel thing, you know, the rebellious image.  It was something they slapped on me just to have a name for the product I think.

Maybe it’s also because you’re no pushover?

Well, my mum told me never to take any sh*t from anybody. That’s probably the best advice I’ve ever been given.

Fair enough. You’ve always done such different roles, we couldn’t pigeonhole you even if we wanted to.

I think this second you get pigeonholed one of two things happens. You either become rich and successful or it’s game over. If you find something that you’re good at and stick to it, you’re unfair to the audience.

Lily Rose will be pleased that you‘re doing a sequel to Pirates. You must have really enjoyed the first one…

Oh yeah. The amount of fun that l had on the first one was criminal. There were moments where the director and I would look at each other and just go ‘Do you actually believe we’re getting paid for doing this? This isn’t a job.’  So with the original team coming back, it’s a no brainer really.

Who Inspired those crazy rings in Pirates?

Oh! I’ve been wearing those skulls for a long, long time!

ls it true that you’ve never watched ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’?

l don’t watch most of my films. L always figured that once my job is done then anything beyond that is none of my business. So if I can avoid seeing the final product, then I will. Because all I have in my head is the experience, and I feel very good about the experience.

Do you miss Hollywood at all now you live in France?

Oh, being in France has done wonders for my relationship with Hollywood! I’m so removed from it that I  don’t know anything any more – I don’t know who anybody is, who’s rich, who’s poor, who’s successful, who’s a drag. I don’t know anyone. So it’s great. I come in and I don’t have to think about anything but my work.

Would you ever move back to Hollywood?

I still live there sometimes, well, I go back and forth. But I wouldn’t move back fulltime, no. I certainly don’t want to raise my kids there.

So what is it about France you love so much?

I’ve been drawn to France for years. I’ve never really understood why, and then I went over there in 1998 to do a movie with the director Roman Polanski. I met my girl and never left! She got pregnant, had a baby, and it’s been really refreshing to be away from America.

Rolling Stones, December 30 2004 – Johnny Depp: How He Found His Own Private Neverland

Rolling Stones, December 30 2004 – Johnny Depp: How He Found His Own Private Neverland

Title: Johnny Depp: How He Found His Own Private Neverland

Author: Erik Hedegaard

Publication: Rolling Stones

Issue: December 30, 2004 – January 13, 2005

In “finding neverland” Johnny Depp plays Peter Pan author, J.M. Barrie with muted, understated ease, and in so doing he may well wind up with his second Oscar nomination. It’s been quite some year for Depp, 41, both good and not so good. His friend Marlon Brando died in July. But then came Never-land. He recently finished filming Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for his friend and frequent director Tim Burton. He’s soon to start shooting the sequel, maybe two, to his biggest hit ever, Pirates of the Caribbean. He recently plunked down $3.6 million for a deserted island in the Bahamas.

What was the best present you got this year?

Probably this gig. playing Willy Wonka.

Favorite movie this year?

Yeah, it’s an old one [1944] called The Mask of Demitrios with Peter Loire and Sydney Greenstreet. I watched it about five times in a row. Brilliant. I don’t see new movies that much. If I do see a new movie, it’s a kids movie. The Incredibles was really, really great. My son. Jack, now runs around with his little Mr. Incredible doll. The beauty is, Jack calls Mr. Incredible “Mr. Credible.” which really killed me. Mr. Credible. Ha ha.

Are you ready for four more years of W?

Oh God. Did you watch the debates? It’s so perverse. I actually enjoy watching him talk. And it pisses me off, certainly – it’s like looking at something you’re not supposed to be looking at. You shouldn’t be watching, but you can’t help yourself.

What are your plans for 2005?

If we do Pirates of the Caribbean Two and Three together, that’ll be the whole year. Work and kiddies. Work and kiddies.

UnCut, December 2004 – Cooler Than You

UnCut, December 2004 – Cooler Than You

Title: Cooler Than You

Author: Stephen Dalton

Publication: UnCut

Issue: December 2004

FOR A WHILE back there, we almost lost Johnny Depp. Torn between success and excess, art and commerce, Hollywood’s Lost Boy could easily have coasted into a perpetual twilight of self-loathing like his friend and idol Marlon Brando. More likely still was a slow drift into art house exile in France. There were even moments when the darkness of River Phoenix or Kurt Cobain could have consumed him.

And yet, in 2004, Depp isn’t just back, he’s back on top. After countless flops punctuated by a couple of hits, the uncompromising 41 -year-old is currently basking in the glory of a sustained run of box-office smashes – first his Oscar-nominated turn as buccaneer Jack Sparrow in the theme-park swashbuckler Pirates Of The Caribbean then running away with Robert Rodriguez’s splatterpunk “taco western” Once Upon A Time In Mexico, and now his sensitive portrayal of Peter Pan creator JM Barrie in Finding Neverland, from Monsters Ball director Marc Forster. After years playing emotionally scarred fuck-ups, drug addicts, freaks and outcasts, the Lost Boy has come in from the cold.

GLIDING THROUGH the ballroom of Venice’s Des Bains hotel to meet Uncut, Depp radiates the serenity of a man with nothing left to prove. In his dreamy, faraway voice, he talks about Barrie.

“It’s important to keep in contact with those qualities we had as children,” Depp tells Uncut.” I think that’s what Barrie was talking about, the idea that we grow-up all too fast. The world gets a hold of you pretty quickly in your youth, and there comes a day when you’re just no longer a child. It happens too last – it really happened to me fast,”

Inevitably, parallels will be drawn between Depp and Peter Pan. Of course, he’s already played his own version of Captain Hook in Pirates Of  The Caribbean, even the rock’n’roll fan, Depp famously based Sparrow’s louche cockney mannerisms on Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, his long-time partner in late-night drinks and jam sessions. Has Keef seen the movie? Was he flattered?

“I think he was.” Depp grins.” He certainly would never say that to me, but I think he felt all right about it. The good news is he didn’t attack me physically…”

MANY ACTORS WOULID KILL to be rock stars, but Depp is the real deal. He was born on the road, a part-Cherokee daydreamer from a nomadic blue-collar family who lived in dozens of motels and short-term apartments across Kentucky and Florida. A lover of Kerouac and Ginsberg, his childhood was closer to classic muso-hobo outlaw myth than all those drama-school bad-boy wannabes.I lost my virginity at 13.” Depp told Rolling Stone’s  in 1988, “did every kind of drug there was by 14, swiped a few six-packs, broke into a few classrooms, just to see what was on the other side of that locked door.” Infatuated with KISS, Van Morrison, Aerosmith and The Sex Pistols, Depp had been through a dozen garage bands by the time he turned 20. Relocating to LA with his most serious group, The Kids, he tried his luck as a guitar hero. They were good enough to open for Talking Heads, The Ramones and Iggy Pop, but never broke through to the next level. Depp’s first encounter with Iggy, a lifelong hero, was hardly promising.

Monumentally wasted, he greeted the godfather of junkie-punk by screaming: Fuck you! fuck You! FUCK YOU!” Iggy- squared up to Depp, called him a “little turd”, and turned away. A few years later, they were acting in movies together.

“When I first started doing films, the band was making little money.” Depp told Gavin Martin in the NME in 1994.”I thought of acting as a way to finance my music habit. My whole upbringing was playing in bars and clubs since I was 14; I still feel like I’m a musician. There’s nothing like being on stage with four or five guys with a really loud guitar and all the adrenalin, there’s nothing to compare with it.

“It was my friend Nicolas Cage who suggested I should try acting. For the first two or three years I was in movies, I never thought I’d be doing this as a living. I thought it was a way of making some money and then I can go back and play in the band. I didn’t care if my acting was good, bad or whatever. I just wanted to get a pay cheque.”

Depp drifted into TV teen dramas, was catapulted to overnight pin-up status, and soon had a reputation as a hot-head, notching up several arrests for drunken misconduct. But beneath the bad-boy caricature, there was something of Kurt Cobain about Depp’s disgust with his sex symbol straitjacket. Like Cobain. Depp was a dirty-sweet “white trash loser” with a morbid sense of humour, an inherent distrust of the cult of success and an unhealthy interest in guns and drugs. Director John Waters goes so far as to say that “Johnny invented grunge.”

The first of many father-mentor figures that later included Tim Burton, Marlon Brando and Hunter S Thompson, Waters rescued Depp from teenybopper hell with 1990 comedy Cry-Baby. Part high camp musical, part affectionate Elvis spoof, it starred the 27-ycar-old Depp as a tearful teenage serial killer. Aptly enough, Iggy Pop played his hillbilly trailer-trash dad.

A string of spooked outsider roles followed, most memorably in Tim Burton’s gothic fairy-tale Edward Scissorrhands (1990) and Jim Jarmusch’s ghostly Wild West symphony Dead Man (1995). Depp credits Burton with saving him from being “a loser, an outcast, just another piece of expendable Hollywood meat”. Their solid bond continues to this day with the upcoming remake of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory.

Following romances with Jennifer Grey and Sherilyn Fenn, Depp became engaged to Scissorhands co-star Winona Ryder. With “WINONA FOREVER” tattooed on his right shoulder, he claimed to have left his wild years behind him. But his 1993 split with Ryder coincided with a period of heavy drink and drug use.

“Mostly alcohol.” he told Playboy in 1997.”There were drugs too, pills, and there was a danger that I would go over the edge”. While filming What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (l993), he admitted, “I was poisoning myself with alcohol and medicating myself.” Rumour had it Depp was on heroin. “I never had a monkey on my back,” he insisted in Playboy”. I just wanted to self-medicate, to numb myself through liquor.” To this day, Depp claims, he still can’t watch Gilbert Grape. An “intervention” by family and friends helped straighten Depp out for a triumphant reunion with Burton on the story of the cross-dressing king of no-budget movie trash Edwood (1994). Depp modeled his performance on Ronald Reagan, the Tin Man from The Wizard Of Oz and John Waters. Co-star Martin Landau even likened Depp to his former best friend, James Dean; “I don’t know anybody who’s closer to Jimmy than Johnny.” Meanwhile, the now critically acclaimed Depp gave his Ryder tattoo a witty remix: “Wino Forever”.

But Depp’s bad-boy image continual to plague him, especially after the bar he bought in 1993 with rocker Chuck E. Weiss, The Viper Room, became the most notorious stretch of Sunset Strip sidewalk overnight when Riser Phoenix died of a massive drug overdose on Halloween. Tabloid reports, inevitably, branded the club a den of vice and excess.

“It was fucking wake-up call for everybody,” Depp told Vanity Fair.” I don’t give a fuck what the tabloid press writes. But to drag River’s name through the mud and turn the incident into a fucking circus was such a horrible thing. It was unforgivable.”

Another wake-up call came 11 months later during Depp’s romance I with supermodel Kate Moss, after he smashed up their $1,200-a-night suite at Manhattan’s Mark Hotel. Ironically, it was rocker Roger Daltrey who alerted staff to the fracas. “Keith Moon would have been embarrassed for him,” Depp joked afterwards. In Depp’s account of the incident, he apologised and offered to cover the damage. But hotel staff insisted on calling the police, and he spent 48 hours in three different New York jails.”He looked good under arrest” quipped Waters.”I loved the handcuffs. Criminal Movie Star is a good look for Johnny.”

But Depp’s reputation and eccentric film choices began to hamper his bankability. The situation wasn’t helped by his 1997 foray into directing, The Brave. a left-field fable starring Depp himself as a penniless Native American who sells his life to a snuff film-maker in a bid to protect his family. Tapping into Depp’s Cherokee ancestry, this engrossing indie oddity co-starred Marion Brando, but reviewers were savage. “I think they were just upset that I had the nerve to say that I have some semblance of a brain,” Depp tells Uncut. “Not much, but just a little.”

Depp worked with another Method heavyweight, Al Pacino, on Mike Novell’s gritty 1997 mob thriller Donnie Brasco. It gave the star a rare commercial hit, but Terry Gilliam’s 1998 film of Hunter S Thompson’s counterculture classic Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas bombed with critics and audiences alike.

Before filming began, Depp visited Thompson’s fortified compound in Colorado, and the two Kentucky outlaws bonded by blasting a nickel-plated shotgun at gas canisters topped with nitroglycerine, detonating giant fireballs in the Rocky Mountain night. Thompson later shaved Depp’s head for Gilliam’s film, and even look a brief cameo. Bored during the shoot, the mischievous author phoned a bomb scare through to The Viper Room. “Man, he’s a sickness,” Depp groaned in Rolling Stone. “He is a fucking disease that has penetrated my fucking skin.”

FEAR AND LOATHING was a bad omen for Depp. His third collaboration with Burton, supernatural shocker Sleepy Hollow, followed in 1999 but was a relative flop. A string of subsequent movies including Ted Demme’s slick cocaine saga Blow and Albert and Allen Hughes’ atmospheric comic-book thriller From Hell, also underperformed at the box office.

Despite these setbacks, Depp remains loyal to his friends and collaborators. He will soon be directed by his Fear And Loathing co-star Benicio Del Torn in another Thompson adaptation. The Rum Diary. He also agreed to star in Gilliam’s time-travelling fantasy The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, which imploded barely a week into production. It made for a great behind-the-scenes documentary. Lost In La Mancha, but will the real film ever resurface?

“I hope so,” Depp sighs. “Boy, it was one of the most satisfying six days I’ve ever had on a film, but it was one of the most dissatisfying experiences because it was coitus interruptus. It was going to be a great film.”

As the new century dawned, it seemed Depp had succeeded in exiling himself to the arthouse fringes. But then came Pirates Of The Caribbean, a shameless blockbuster made with his kids in mind. After years of turning down lucrative studio vehicles like Speed, Thelma And Louise and Interview With The Vampire, does he ever regret taking the road less travelled?

“No, no, no,” Depp insists, rolling his sixth cigarette of the day. “I think everything’s worked out just perfectly, and I’m certainty amazed I’ve been able to stick with it this long. Because I started about 20 years ago, so it’s amazing to me that I still get jobs. Then when something like Pirates happens – you get the call, and it’s a hit! I was still like: come on, you’ve got to be kidding? But I did it for the right reasons. I never thought about the money”.

Depp’s rock’n’roll ambitions burn less brightly now. In the ’90s he appeared in Tom Petty and Lemonheads videos, guested with The Pogucs on Top Of The Pops and directed a promo for Shane MacGowan. He also played slide guitar for Oasis on Be Here Sow track “Fade In-Out and jammed with Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers and Chili Peppers bassist Flea in the punk group P. He recently composed some soundtrack cuts for Once Upon A Time In Mexico, but concedes rock stardom is no longer a serious option.

“Gibby s gone back to doing stuff with the Butthole Surfers,” Depp reveals to too Uncut. “We haven’t played together in a long time. No, I think that that career option ended a long time ago. It seems to be popular, though. A lot of actors are in bands these days”

Now dividing his time between LA, Paris and Provence – where he lives with girlfriend Vanessa Paradis and their two children – family life has quelled his demons. His last brush with the law was five years ago, outside a swanky London restaurant, when he threatened a gaggle of paparazzi with a plank of wood after they tried to snap pictures of a pregnant Paradis.

“I look at it as a scientific experiment in human behaviour,”he later joked in the Daily Express. “And the unfortunate result that I came up with that night is that violence works. Since then, they’ve been OK and left me alone”

With a Pirates sequel and the much anticipated Charlie And The Chocolate Factory remake on the way, Depp’s commercial stock could hardly be higher – there’s even talk of another Oscar nomination for Finding Neverland. His next film, The Libertine, finds him playing scabrousle rude 17th-century poet and rake the Earl of Rochester.

“He was a pretty wild guy, Rochester,” Depp smiles, a wicked glint in his eyes. “I think he was great, very gifted but just debauched. He died when he was 33 of drink and syphilis, but 1 think he had an absolute ball. Honestly, though, I think he was tragic.”

A great story, but no longer a role model for Johnny Depp. Because somewhere between the twin temptations of success and excess, Hollywood’s original lost Boy has found his way again.

The Oprah Winfrey Show

HOST: Oprah Winfrey

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Ellen Rakieten
JOHNNY DEPP AND KATE WINSLET
Unidentified Man #1: All right. Here we go, guys.
Unidentified Man #2: Oprah’s on the way.
Unidentified Man #3: Good show, good show, good show.

OPRAH WINFREY: Johnny Depp’s OPRAH show debut, the sexiest man alive. When you look at the cover…
Mr. JOHNNY DEPP (Actor): I tried not to look at the cover.
WINFREY: A rare interview.
Most romantic encounter…
Mr. DEPP: Wow.
WINFREY: …that you can speak of.
Mr. DEPP: Yeah. Better have a drink.
WINFREY: From ’80s teen heartthrob to A-list movie star…
Mr. DEPP: I was convinced that I was going to be fired.
WINFREY: …and the love of his wife.
Mr. DEPP: I just knew.
WINFREY: Plus…
Ms. KATE WINSLET (Actress): Oh, this is my kind of talk show.
WINFREY: …the ultra-talented Kate Winslet.
A lot of people make a big deal about your weight. You look spectacular.
Next.

Yes. Good to see you. Good to see you. Great. Good to see you. Whoo! Thank you. Thank you. Too much. Thank you. So I hope you go out and vote today, because I just did. I just did. Everybody has to vote today. Now,
OK, I know my next guest is not going to like this. He’s not going to like
it. But whether he likes it or not, I’m going to hold it up. There you go:
Sexiest Man Alive. I’m going to hold it up. Sexiest Man Alive. I don’t
know, what would that feel like? I don’t know.Now I haven’t seen him. I have not seen him at all. I have not seen him,
because I don’t meet the gu–if I’ve never met a guest, and I like to meet
them when you meet them so I can have the same drool factor that you do. But my producers have met him. And they just came in and went, `Oh, my God!’ And I said, `Really, what is it?’ and she went, `Oh, my God!’ So, OK, I can’t
wait. Did you just see the movie, though, right? Isn’t it wonderful? It’s
really wonderful. OK. And let me ask you this. Who cried? Did you cry?
Oh, you all cried! You cried. I was–you know what? I said they are not
going to get me. I tried so hard not to cry! And only till the last–I
didn’t cry for the (mumbles), I didn’t cry when the (mumbles), even when the (mumbles). But then the last scene, I was like gone.

OK. Johnny Depp’s new movie, “Finding Neverland”–it’ll get you. It’ll get you. His performance is just superb, is it not? It really is superb. It’s
no wonder why he’s called one of the most gifted actors of his generation. Let’s take a look.

(Excerpt from “21 Jump Street”)

WINFREY: The year, 1987. Teen girls everywhere just lost their minds over a young Johnny Depp in “21 Jump Street.”

(Excerpts from “21 Jump Street,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street”)

WINFREY: Fans screamed for his big-screen debut in the classic horror flick “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”

(Excerpt from “A Nightmare on Elm Street”)

WINFREY: Johnny shredded his pretty boy image in “Edward Scissorhands” and critics raved. His smoldering sex appeal cannot be denied. Who could forget
his performance as a passionate Gypsy in the Oscar-nominated “Chocolat.” This year, Johnny swashbuckled his way through “Pirates of the Caribbean”…

(Excerpt from “Pirates of the Caribbean”)

WINFREY: …and scored an Oscar nomination for best actor. He is a self-proclaimed Hollywood outsider, who lives with his beautiful girlfriend Vanessa Paradis and their two children, Jack and Lily-Rose. Though reluctant he may be, Johnny Depp has been named the Sexiest Man Alive.

Reluctant, sexy, Johnny Depp!

It’ll be fine.

Mr. DEPP: Uh-oh.

WINFREY: Uh-oh. So, listen, they told me you like good wine. They told me you like good wine.

Mr. DEPP: Well, that’s the one.
WINFREY: So I pulled up one of my bottles. This is for you. A toast to you, toast to you.
Mr. DEPP: Oh, we’re going to be drunk in a minute.

WINFREY: No, we won’t. We’re not going to drink the whole thing. Here’s to your superb performance in “Finding Neverland.”

Mr. DEPP: Thank you. Thank you.

WINFREY: Ooh, good.

Mr. DEPP: What do you mean we’re not going to drink the whole thing?

WINFREY: That is pretty good, isn’t it?

Mr. DEPP: Don’t you think we should?

WINFREY: Yeah, well, the–we can.

Mr. DEPP: All right.

WINFREY: You can. You can. I know it’s all a daze. But I remember seeing you briefly on the red carpet at Oscars.

Mr. DEPP: That was real weird, I mean, just because I’m not used to that kind of event.

WINFREY: Hoopla.
Mr. DEPP: Yeah.
WINFREY: Hoopla.
Mr. DEPP: Function.
WINFREY: It’s been quite a year for you. Mr. DEPP: Yeah.

WINFREY: How did you feel about being nominated and being in all of that hoopla?

Mr. DEPP: Shocked, you know. Completely shocked. WINFREY: Yeah.

Mr. DEPP: It was just–yeah, it was just super bizarre, you know. I mean, I’m still in shock over that.

WINFREY: Yeah. And so when you’re–OK. First of all, it was a Disney film. It’s “Pirates of the Caribbean.” It has since raised $650 million worldwide.
But I think…

Mr. DEPP: That’s real weird.

WINFREY: I think in the beginning, people just thought, you know, it’s a summer movie. It’s about some pirates and the Caribbean and it’s kids. Nobody…

Mr. DEPP: That’s kind of what I thought.

WINFREY: Yeah. And nobody–but, obviously, when you read this script, you thought that you could bring something to the Captain Jack character that nobody else could.

Mr. DEPP: Well, I had–I mean, I had this sort of very strong idea of Captain–what Captain Jack…

WINFREY: Sparrow.
Mr. DEPP: …Sparrow should be. And was that his name? Ba… WINFREY: Yeah. His name’s Captain Jack Sparrow.
Mr. DEPP: Thank you very much.
WINFREY: OK.

Mr. DEPP: And just sort of stuck to my guns and went in there and did it.
So, I mean, as you say, you know, the Academy Award nomination was a very strange thing, especially since for the first month, I was convinced I was
going to be fired.

WINFREY: Really? Mr. DEPP: Oh, yeah.

WINFREY: Because I heard that the studio wasn’t so delighted at first with your interpretation.

Mr. DEPP: They were a little nervous.

WINFREY: What? They thought he was a little–what was the word they used?

Mr. DEPP: They used a lot…

WINFREY: OK.

Mr. DEPP: …a lot…

WINFREY: Yeah.

Mr. DEPP: …but understandably nervous.

WINFREY: What, they didn’t like the gold teeth or they didn’t like–they thought he was a little flirty?

Mr. DEPP: Effete… WINFREY: Yes.

Mr. DEPP: …was one. Yeah. They didn’t like any of it at first, yeah. The gold teeth, the beard dangles, the things in the hair, the dreadlocks, the…

WINFREY: They didn’t like any of it.
Mr. DEPP: No.
WINFREY: And is it true that you modeled…
Mr. DEPP: They especially didn’t like me.
WINFREY: And is it true you modelled him after Keith Richards? Mr. DEPP: Keith was one of the main ingredients. Absolutely. WINFREY: Really? You did.

Mr. DEPP: Oh, there he is. He’s the best pirate in the world.

WINFREY: I bet that’s fun because you just sta–get to live out of your imagination.

Mr. DEPP: Yeah. No. Exactly. WINFREY: Yeah.

Mr. DEPP: I mean, you get to sort of–and for me, I mean, having done the homework for the character, I just have to sort of step in…

WINFREY: Yeah.
Mr. DEPP: …step into frame.
WINFREY: What was the homework? What was the homework?

Mr. DEPP: I actually–Captain Jack was–this is going to sound very weird, but he was sort of born in a sauna. Yeah. I was–I figured the pirates would have, you know, spent a lot of time in the sun.

WINFREY: Yeah, in the sun.
Mr. DEPP: Sometimes, you know, grueling, you know… WINFREY: Heat, yeah.

Mr. DEPP: Yeah, serious heat. So I would go into the sauna for great lengths of time, which I don’t recommend, by the way. And you start to get a little woozy after about 30 minutes. I don’t think it’s very good for you.

So…

WINFREY: No, they advise not to stay in that long.

Mr. DEPP: Yeah, yeah. I know.

WINFREY: Yeah.

Mr. DEPP: I know.

WINFREY: And that’s where the character came from?

Mr. DEPP: Yeah. That’s where the…

WINFREY: Are you making this up or is that one wine sip…

Mr. DEPP: No, no, it’s–no, no.

WINFREY: …that one little sip did that to you? Yeah.

Mr. DEPP: Yeah, that’s where he came from. Yeah.

WINFREY: So I read–starting at the beginning, by the time you were 15, that you were–already had lived in 20 different homes. Is that true?

Pages: 1 2 3 4

Playboy, May 2004 – Playboy Interview: Johnny Depp

Playboy, May 2004 – Playboy Interview: Johnny Depp

Title: Playboy Interview: Johnny Depp

Publication: Playboy

Issue: May 2004

Johnny Depp has one of the quirkiest resumes in Hollywood. After starting his career as a TV heartthrob, he reinvented himself as a serious actor in offbeat and usually brutally uncommercial movies: He was critically ac­claimed box office poison. But now, thanks to his role in last year’s $300 million-grossing smash Pirates of the Caribbean—a big, goofy Disney family film that is the antithesis of Depp’s indie work—he has at last emerged as a mainstream star. He notched his first Oscar nomination. People magazine dubbed him the sexiest man alive for 2003, even as he turned 40. And the actor with a penchant for getting in trouble—and landing in jail—has been replaced by a kinder, mellower Depp, a family man who has given up drinking and drugging in favor of days in the park with his kids. Who the hell is this guy anyway?

Depp’s early days are well documented. As an undercover cop on 21 Jump Street, he emerged as an instant teen idol in 1987. But a future as a lunch box icon scared him, and he quickly fled to movies. He turned down star-making parts that later went to Tom Cruise, Keanu Reeves and Brad Pitt, but he found a niche playing idiosyncratic misfits. He became a muse for director Tim Burton, who first cast him in the title role of Edward Scissorhands and later in Ed Wood and Sleepy Hollow. He played a tormented intro­vert in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, a drug-addled Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and a conflicted un­dercover FBI agent in Donnie Brasco. There’s barely a normal guy in his repertoire.

Born in Owensboro, Kentucky, Depp was an indifferent student. At the age of 16 he dropped out of high school, began pumping gas and joined a band that opened for Iggy Pop and the Ramones. In 1983 the band moved to Los Angeles but struggled to find gigs. For a while Depp sold ballpoint pens by phone. His then wife, Lori Allison, introduced Depp to Nicolas Cage, who arranged a meet­ing with an agent. The rest is history.

Flash-forward a couple of decades, and Depp is the hottest actor in town. His latest film is Secret Window, and future projects include J.M. Barrie’s Neverland, in which he plays the author of Peter Pan; The Rum Diary, based on a Hunter S. Thompson nov­el; and The Libertine, in which he will play a debauched 17th century poet. More is on the horizon, including a Burton-helmed version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the inevitable gazillion-dollar sequel to Pirates.

Depp’s run-ins with paparazzi are tabloid fodder, as are his bad-boy exploits involving drink, drugs and a long list of beautiful women, including Sherilyn Fenn, Jennifer Grey and Winona Ryder. He and Ryder were serious enough that he emblazoned himself with a winona forever tattoo. (When they broke up he had it laser-altered to wino for­ever.) He was dating model Kate Moss when he famously trashed a New York hotel room and was arrested. Depp co-owned a popular Hollywood club called the Viper Room. It was there on Halloween night 1993 that rising star River Phoenix died of a drug overdose. The tragedy contributed to Depp’s image as an actor teetering on the edge.

Depp has since settled down with his girl-friend of six years, Vanessa Paradis, the French actress and pop singer. They have two children, Lily-Rose, four, and Jack, two. The couple divide their time between Los Angeles and St.-Tropez, France.

PLAYBOY sent journalist Bernard Weinraub to meet with Depp in a suite at the Chateau Marmont Hotel in Los Angeles. Depp arrived decked out in a cowboy hat, with a Che Gue­vara charm, an amulet and a tiger’s tooth around his neck. He promptly opened a bottle of water and rolled a cigarette.

Photo1aPLAYBOY: You’ve been through quite a few changes lately, not the least of which is that Pirates of the Caribbean has made you one of the hottest stars in town. You were even nominated for best actor.

DEPP: It’s really weird, [laughs]

PLAYBOY: What impact did Pirates have on your career and your life?

DEPP: I’m the wrong person to answer that. For one thing, four- and five-year-old kids and people in their 50s, 60s and 70s—a broad spectrum—loved that movie. That hasn’t happened to me be­fore. That was great. I just want to con­tinue getting good jobs.

PLAYBOY: Has Hollywood’s view of you changed?

DEPP: I don’t know if Hollywood’s view of me has changed. I’m certainly getting calls from people and filmmakers who maybe didn’t know my name before. That’s all right. My next film has been planned for a while. The story takes place in Restoration England. I play John Wilmot, the Second Earl of Rochester, a debauched poet. He killed himself with drink and syphilis at the age of 33. A real piece of work.

PLAYBOY: You’re now consid­ered a bankable movie star.

DEPP: I’ve always been some dis­tance from that game. I guess there have been times when I was on the brink of being bank­able. But that’s all so weird. All these weird lists—top five stars, top 10, “Let’s get this guy be­cause he’s bankable.” I don’t think about that. You’re on the list two weeks and then—poof— you’re gone. It never jarred me that I wasn’t on the list. If I’m considered bankable this week, that’s great. Next week I’ll be totally off. I’m used to that. I’ve never had an allergy to the idea of commercial suc­cess. When you put a movie out and it’s successful, that’s great. I just wanted to get there in the right way, in a way that’s not too compromising or demean­ing or ugly. Whether I’m there as a bankable movie star or not, I don’t know. If I stay there, who knows?

PLAYBOY: Do you consider your­self a star?

DEPP: Well, the real movie stars were Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Spencer Tracy, Montgomery Clift. How could I put myself in the same category as Clark Gable? Tom Cruise is a great movie star. Do I consider myself a movie star? I consider myself a guy with a good job, an interesting job.

PLAYBOY: Maybe better than a good job. You’ve become big box office. You’re spending less time in France and more in L.A. to be closer to the action.

DEPP: Well, I still live in France part-time.

PLAYBOY: Are you as at home in France as you are here?

DEPP: Now I am. It was amazing at first, because I didn’t speak the language. I loved that, because I didn’t have to talk. It was great just to be out among people and not have the responsibility to say anything. I wasn’t thrown into the spot­light to be the novelty or to entertain.

PLAYBOY: Are you often in that position?

DEPP: Yeah, and this was nice. I could sit there and drink wine. Ultimately, though, what I love about being over there is the culture, which is very old.

PLAYBOY: What’s your life in France like?

DEPP: Simplicity, really. We have a little house in the country. We wake up in the morning, the sun’s coming out, we make coffee, and then we make break­fast for the kids.

PLAYBOY: Now that you’re back in the public eye in a big way, do you feel more exposed?

DEPP: We’ve always had our run-ins with the paparazzi. That hasn’t changed. They are very ambitious. They’re look­ing for God knows what. You think, Why that kind of intense invasion?

PLAYBOY: Did it cause you to question making Pirates of the Caribbean in the first place?

DEPP: No, I’m not going to complain. When we’re in a public place, like at some opening or a premiere, I don’t mind the press. It’s the nature of the beast. But when you’re shopping for Christmas presents for your kids, I just don’t understand the fascination. The other day I had a lunch meeting in the San Fernando Valley. There was a literal convoy, with seven or eight vehicles, be­hind us. My girl took my kids to the park the other day, and the paparazzi sur­rounded the perimeter just to photo­graph her playing with our children. It’s ugly. I don’t mind so much when they do it to me, but when it’s my kids, that’s another story. It’s evil.

PLAYBOY: Is there less harassment in France?

DEPP: Not necessarily. They fly heli­copters over our property, in front of the kitchen window. They have these long lenses.

PLAYBOY: Here’s another big change: You recently turned 40. Are you surprised that you made it?

DEPP: It was questionable for a while.

PLAYBOY: Were you genuinely worried that you wouldn’t?

DEPP: In your teens and your 20s, you’re immortal, you’re untouchable. It’s only later that you begin to realize you are mortal.

PLAYBOY: You once said that everyone thinks of you as a drug-addicted, brooding, an­gry and rebellious mental case. How apt was that description?

DEPP: Well, for many years they said I was a wild man. Now they say I’m a former wild man, for­mer bad boy, former rebel. I guess “former” because now I’m a dad. The media tries to stuff you into a mold. It hap­pens to everybody. He’s the new bad boy, the new James Dean, the new whatever. It’s both amusing and annoying. My mom reads that stuff. So do my nieces and nephews and all my family. At times it was flat-out fiction.

PLAYBOY: At one point your life did seem out of control. Was it drugs?

DEPP: Mostly alcohol. There were drugs, too—pills—and there was a danger that I would go over the edge. I could have. I thank God I didn’t. It was darkest during the filming of Gilbert Grape.

PLAYBOY: What were your drugs of choice?

DEPP: I was never a cokehead or any­thing like that. I always despised that drug. I thought it was a waste of time, pointless. But I was poisoning myself with alcohol and medicating myself. I was trying to numb things.

PLAYBOY: What things?

DEPP: I was trying not to feel things, and that’s ridiculous. It’s one of the dumbest things you can do, because all you’re do­ing is postponing the inevitable. Some­day you’ll have to look all those things in the eye rather than try to numb the pain.

PLAYBOY: How far did it go? Were you ever an addict?

DEPP: No, thank God I was never hooked on anything. I never had a monkey on my back. I just wanted to self-medicate, to numb myself through liquor. It’s how I dealt with life, reality, stress, change, sadness, memories. The list goes on. I was really trying to feel nothing.

PLAYBOY: What led you to stop?

DEPP: Family and friends sat me down and said, “Listen, we love you. You’re important to us, and you’re fucking up. You’re killing yourself. You’re killing us in the process.”

PLAYBOY: Did you listen to them?

DEPP: Not right away. You don’t listen right away because you’re dumb. You’re ignorant. You’re human. Finally it seeps in. Finally the body and mind and heart and psyche just go, “Yeah, you’re doing the wrong thing.”

PLAYBOY: Did your family and friends actually do an intervention?

DEPP: At a certain point they intervened. At the time I said I appreciated it. I went through the motions. I said I was okay, and I went for a couple of months being a dumb ass. But 1 could see things turn­ing into a nasty tailspin. And then I thought. Maybe I’m slow, but this is ridiculous. Fuck it, just stop! So I stopped everything for the better part of a year. I guess I just reached a point where I said, “Jesus Christ, what am I doing? Life is fucking good. What am I doing to my­self?” Now I drink a glass or two of red wine and that’s it.

PLAYBOY: River Phoenix died of a drug overdose outside your club. What im­pact did that have on you? DEPP: It was devastating. 1 can’t imagine the depth of pain that his family and close friends felt. It was rough for me, but for them it must have been unbearable.

PLAYBOY: How well did you know him?

DEPP: We knew and were certainly re­spectful of each other. There was always the sort of promise, “Hey, we’ll get to­gether and do something sometime.” I liked him. I liked his work ethic, and I liked his choices. He was a sharp guy. He had so many amazing possibilities before him. Fuck, what a waste. For what?

PLAYBOY: Did it affect your drinking and drug use?

DEPP: That was 1993, when I was doing Ed Wood. I was completely sober—no hard liquor, no wine, no nothing. Even so, all the tabloids started saying we were having drug parties. The whole thing was weird, awful, ugly and sad. The incident is seared onto my brain, onto my heart.

PLAYBOY: Are that and the other darker times in your life reflected in your work? Tim Burton once said you had an affini­ty for damaged people. Do you?

DEPP: 1 do have an affinity for damaged people, in life, in roles. I don’t know why. We’re all damaged in our own way. Nobody’s perfect. I think we are all somewhat screwy, every single one of us.

PLAYBOY: Did you feel damaged as a child, or was yours a relatively normal childhood?

DEPP: Normal? I wouldn’t go that far.

PLAYBOY: Then how was it abnormal?

DEPP: It was strange, though then again, it was normal to us. It wasn’t until I start­ed going to other kids’ houses and hang­ing out, having dinner, seeing what a family is supposed to do that I saw that we weren’t normal.

PLAYBOY: How was it different?

DEPP: Even down to sitting around a din­ner table together—it wasn’t an every­day occurrence in my house. At my house dinner easily could have consisted of a bologna sandwich, and then you’d split. You might come back later and grab a few peanuts, and then you’d split again. That was it. I would go to my bud­dy Sal’s house for dinner. I couldn’t understand what was going on with everyone sitting down together. I’ll nev­er forget seeing romaine lettuce for the first time. I thought it was weird—I was afraid of it. There was salad and appetiz­ers and soup. I had no idea about that. I grew up on hillbilly food. PLAYBOY: Apparently you were no more at ease in school. Were you a problem student?

DEPP: Yeah, in high school.

PLAYBOY: In what way?

DEPP: There was this vicious woman, a teacher. If you weren’t in her little hand-picked clique, you were ridiculed and picked on. She was brutal and unjust. One day she told me to do something, I can’t remember what. Her tone was nasty. She got very loud in my face in front of the rest of the class and tried to embar­rass me. I saw what she was doing, that she was trying to ridicule me. I turned around and walked away. As I did, I dropped my drawers and mooned her.

PLAYBOY: How did she react?Photo1b

DEPP: She went out of her mind. Then of course I was brought before the dean and suspended for a couple of weeks. At that time it was coming anyway. I knew my days were numbered.

PLAYBOY: What in school interested you?

DEPP: I was more interested in music than anything else. Music was like life. I had found a reason to live. I was 12 when my mom bought me a $25 electric guitar. I had an uncle who was a preach­er, and his family had a gospel singing group. He played guitar in church, and I used to watch him. I became obsessed with the guitar. I locked myself in my bedroom for the better part of a year and taught myself chords. I’d try to learn things off records.

PLAYBOY: Which records?

DEPP: I was very lucky to have my broth­er, who is 10 years older than me and a real smart guy. He turned me on to Van Morrison and Bob Dylan. I remember listening to the soundtracks to A Clock­work Orange and Last Tango in Paris. I loved Aerosmith, Kiss and Alice Cooper, and when I was older, the Clash, the Sex Pistols and the Ramones.

PLAYBOY: Why didn’t your music career pan out?

DEPP: At a certain point I realized that, in terms of a job, maybe I didn’t have the passion for it.

PLAYBOY: What effect did your parents’ divorce have on you?

DEPP: I was 15, I think. It had been com­ing for quite a long time. I’m surprised they lasted that long, bless their hearts. I think they tried to keep it together for the kids, and then they couldn’t anymore. PLAYBOY: How were they as parents?

DEPP: They were good parents. They raised four kids. I was the youngest. They stuck it out for us all those years. But we lived in a small house, and no­body argued in a whisper. We were ex­posed to their violent outbursts against each other. That stuff sticks.

PLAYBOY: What led you to acting?

DEPP: Opportunity. I never really had an interest in it in the beginning. Nicolas Cage—we had some mutual friends—in­troduced me to his agent. She sent me to a casting director, and I auditioned for the first Nightmare on Elm Street. I got the job. I was stupefied. They paid me all that money for a week. It was luck, an accident. I did it purely to pay the rent. I was literally filling out job applications at the time, any kind of job. Nic Cage said, “You should try being an actor. Maybe you are one and don’t know it.” I began acting, and I thought, Well, this is an interesting road; maybe I should keep traveling on it. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, so I started to read everything I could about acting—Stanislavsky, Uta Hagen, Michael Chekhov. I started soaking it up.

PLAYBOY: Then you landed a starring role on 21 Jump Street. How do you look back on that experience?

DEPP: It did great things for me, and I’m thankful for the experience. It was a great education, but it was very frustrat­ing. I felt like I was filling up space between commercials.

PLAYBOY: Yet it was very successful and launched your career.

DEPP: Yeah. I’d been evicted from an apartment and had moved into a friend’s place. I was scrambling to pay the rent, waiting for residual checks from other things that I’d done to pay the bills. I went from that to making a bunch of money. I went from anonymity to going to a restaurant and having peo­ple point at me. It was a shock. But what really bothered me was that I could see the machine. I could see the wheels turning. I could see where it was all going, and it scared the shit out of me.

PLAYBOY: Where was it going?

DEPP: Fox was creating the Fox network, using 21 Jump Street to build it. They were shoving my face out there, selling me as this product. It made me crazy. I thought, After this you’ll be in a sitcom. You’ll be on a lunch box and then a ther­mos and a notebook. And in two years you’ll be ridiculous. It paid good money and was a good gig, but I wanted some­thing else.

PLAYBOY: What did you do to change your career?

DEPP: I waited and waited and waited to do a movie, because I wanted to do the right one. I wanted to go as far away from the series as I could. The first film I did after Jump Street was Cry-Baby with John Waters. That was a great experi­ence. After that I did another season of the series, and then I did Edward Scissorhands. During that movie I got the phone call saying I was out of the show. I felt like, Ah, possibilities. I was freed up. I swore to myself that I would never again compromise to the degree that I had. I swore that I wouldn’t just follow the commercial road. I wouldn’t do what was expected of me or what was neces­sary to maintain whatever it is—a popu­lar or financially rewarding career. I promised myself that I wouldn’t do that.

PLAYBOY: Has the success of Pirates changed that attitude?

DEPP: Years ago I said to myself, I’ll nev­er do television again. No way. Nothing in the world could get me to do it. And then somewhere in the back of my mind I’m thinking that it might be cool some­day to do a television series, just to be in one spot for a while. You never know what’s going to happen. One minute you’re doing one thing and people are in­terested, and the next minute they’re not interested. It’s just an odd game. I mean, I may want to do dinner theater. Maybe it’s not so bad. I’ve always said I might end up being forced to do McDonald’s openings dressed as Ed­ward Scissorhands. You never know.

PLAYBOY: You’ve turned down roles later played by people such as Brad Pitt, in­cluding a part in Thelma and Louise. Was that a mistake?

DEPP: I don’t regret any of the things I didn’t do, and I certainly don’t regret any of the things I did do, down to the dumbest. Everything happened the way it should happen, even ridiculous things that I did in the beginning. I don’t re­gret any of it.

PLAYBOY: You’ve starred with some im­pressive actors, including Al Pacino and Marlon Brando. What did you learn from them?

DEPP: I watched them like a hawk. I sponged as much of an education as I could. Ultimately it solidified what I al­ready knew from being a musician: Do what’s right for you. Whether you’re a musician, an actor, a painter or a writer, there’s some degree of compromise in what you do, but don’t compromise un­less you think its right. Stick to your guns, no matter what. Don’t let them step on your toes, man. PLAYBOY: And then there was Traci Lords in Cry-Baby. Is the former porn star a method actor?

Photo1cDEPP: I remember meeting her. I could sense she was a little bit protective of herself, wary of people. She was a little closed off in the beginning, but soon she was incredibly sweet and really profes­sional. Kind of adorable. I loved her, man. I love her to this day.

PLAYBOY: These days how do you choose which movies to do?

DEPP: I can tell in the first 10, 15 or 20 pages of a script, sometimes in the first three pages. I can tell if it’s something that’s going to be right. I start getting images in my head, then I start writ­ing things down.

PLAYBOY: What are you looking for?

DEPP: I just want something differ­ent. I want to be surprised. I want something that doesn’t feel formu­laic or beaten to death. For Secret Window, I read the script, and I loved it. The ending is great. I didn’t see it coming. It’s based on a Stephen King novella. It’s ex­tremely well writ­ten. Even the screen direction is enter­taining: “Looks left, looks right, walks to the fridge, grabs a Cheeto and splits.” The story has a great twist.

PLAYBOY: Is it true that you based your Pirates of the Carib­bean character, Cap­tain Jack, on Keith Richards?

DEPP: And Pepe Le Pew.

PLAYBOY: The cartoon?

DEPP: Yeah. When I was a kid Pepe was one of those great Saturday morn­ing cartoons. Pepe is a French skunk who hops along, the most happy-go-lucky guy in the world. As he’s hopping along, people are falling over from the stink, but he never notices. I always thought. What an amazing way to go through life.

PLAYBOY: And why Keith Richards?

DEPP: When I decided to do the movie I started thinking about pirates of the 17th and 18th centuries. It came to me that the modern-day equivalent is a rock-and-roll star.

PLAYBOY: How are they like pirates?

DEPP: They live dangerously. They’re wild and capable of anything, just like pi­rates. And once I made that connection. I thought. Who is the ultimate rock-and-roll star? Keith Richards.

PLAYBOY: Do you know Richards?

DEPP: I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with him over the years, and yes, I have gotten to know him. And he is kind of a pirate. For the movie, I didn’t want to do an imitation of Keith, but I wanted to take the spirit of Keith, the beautiful, laid-back confidence.

PLAYBOY: Since when do pirates wear all the makeup your character wears?

DEPP: Actually, for a while Keith did. Bob Dylan did too in the 1970s. He went through a period when he wore dark kohl eyeliner. I looked into the kohl thing. It comes from the nomad tribes in the desert in Africa. It’s protection for the eyes from the sun. Football players use it for that today. And I took other stuff from Keith, too—things dangling in his hair, the beads.

PLAYBOY: Richards isn’t your only influ­ence. Apparently you based Ichabod Crane in Sleepy Hollow on Angela Lansbury, and Ed Wood on Ronald Reagan. They seem a strange sampling of choices.

DEPP: Well. Angela Lansbury is an amaz­ing actress. I thought of Ichabod Crane as a very nervous, ultrasensitive prepu-bescent girl. That’s where Angela Lans­bury came in. I thought of some of the work she’s done over the years, espe­cially in Death on the Nile. I also based Ichabod a bit on Roddy McDowall, who was a very good friend.

PLAYBOY: And President Reagan?

DEPP: Ed Wood was based on Reagan, yes, but also on the Tin Man in The Wiz­ard of Oz. And Casey Kasem. It was a weird little soup of those three.

PLAYBOY: Why those three?

DEPP: I remember watching Reagan make speeches. He had this kind of in­nocence and a naive, blind optimism— “Everything’s going to be fine.” You’re like, “Well, it’s not! It’s not going to be fine.” Jack Haley’s performance as the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz is one of the strangest I’ve ever seen. Watch that film and think about a grown man giving that performance. It’s really astounding.

PLAYBOY: What about Casey Kasem?

DEPP: [Doing a Kasem impression] What I always liked about Casey was that he had a delivery that was so upbeat.

PLAYBOY: Are you the only actor who uses such weird in­spirations?

DEPP: I don’t know. Something happens to me when I’m reading a screen­play. I get these Hashes, these quick images.

PLAYBOY: You re­ceived some unfa­vorable press last year during the war in Iraq. You said that America is like a dumb puppy that can bite and hurt you. Were you sur­prised by the re­action?

DEPP: I would nev­er be disrespectful to my country, to the people, espe­cially the kids who are over there serv­ing in the armed forces. My uncle was wounded in Vietnam, paralyzed from the neck down. I would never say those things the way they claim I said them.

PLAYBOY: What exactly did you say?

DEPP: I essentially said the United States is a very young country compared with Europe. We’re still growing. That’s it I wouldn’t say anything anti-American. I’m an American, and I love my country. PLAYBOY: What’s your view of Presi­dent Bush?

DEPP: What can I say? He’s somebody’s kid. He’s somebody’s father. God bless him. Good luck. You know what I mean? I don’t agree with his politics, and I’m not going to pretend to, but I don’t agree with a lot of people’s politics.

PLAYBOY: You’ve had other public troubles; including the time you trashed a hotel room with Kate Moss. What happened?

DEPP: Very simply, 1 had a bad day. I’d been chased by paparazzi and was feel­ing a little bit like Novelty Boy. Obvi­ously something wasn’t working in my life. For a few years I wasn’t angry but just sort of frustrated and upset because I didn’t know what it was all about.

playboy What do you mean?

DEPP: I didn’t know what it was all for. When they said, “Come on, do this movie. You can make tons of money,” it just pissed me off. Fuck that. What does that mean? That’s not what it’s about. So it built up, and I lost it. It was the culmi­nation of many things, a bad spark, and I went off 1 did what I felt was necessary. Thank God it wasn’t a human being but a hotel room that I took it out on. It was a weird incident. There was a hotel secu­rity guard who was really kind of pissy and arrogant. I wanted to pop him. But I knew that if I did, it would obviously be a horse of a different color—lawsuits and God knows what else.

PLAYBOY: What happened exactly?

DEPP: I did my business, and they came up to the room. By that point I had cooled down. 1 said, “I’ll of course pay for any damages. I apologize.” That wasn’t enough. The guy got snooty and shitty. The next thing you know, the police were at the door. As dumb as the incident was, I don’t have any regrets about it. I don’t think it merited the amount of press it got, and I certainly don’t think that I needed to go to the Tombs in New York City in handcuffs. I was in three different jails that night. But it was all part of my education, you know?

PLAYBOY: You had another run-in with the police, in London, this time directly related to a clash with paparazzi.Photo2

DEPP: We were at a restaurant, and Vanessa was extremely pregnant. All they wanted were photographs of me and Vanessa and the belly. At that point I thought, Man, I’m not one of those whiny actors who says, “Oh, the pa­parazzi, they won’t leave me alone.” I could give a fuck about it. However, on this particular night I just decided, “Look, this is my girl. This is our first baby. I’m not going to let you fucking people turn this into a circus. You ain’t turning this deeply, profoundly beauti­ful, spiritual, life-changing experience into a novelty. Not without a fight.” I went out and talked to them. I said. “Look, guys, I know what you’re after. I understand you have a job to do. But you’re not going to turn this into a cir­cus. Just give us a break. You’re not going to get what you want tonight. I’ll see you another time.”

PLAYBOY: To which they of course said, “We’re sorry. We’ll leave.”

DEPP: Right. They were very aggressive: “Fuck you, Johnny.” That kind of shit. I swung around and told Vanessa, “Go out the front door, get in the car so they don’t get us together or get your belly.” She did. She was in the car, so everything was going to be cool, but they were so shitty. One guy was trying to hold the door open. He had his hand wedged in there. I looked down at the ground, and there was a 17-inch wooden plank, a two-by-two or something. Instinct took over. I picked it up and whacked the guy’s hand. I went outside and said, “Now I want you to take my picture, be­cause the first fucking guy who hits a flash, I’m going to kick his skull in. Let’s go. take my picture.” They didn’t lake my picture. I was livid. They walked backward down the street. I walked them away from Vanessa in the car and down this other street. It was beauti­ful. It was well worth it. Il was kind of poetic. The next thing I knew, I saw flashing lights on the buildings around me. And a paddy wagon.

PLAYBOY: How long were you in jail?

DEPP: It was brief. It was around 11:30 or midnight, and I was out by five or six the next morning. No one filed charges against me, because they didn’t want their names exposed. Had they filed charges they would have had to give their names and would have lost their anonymity. The cops were actually terrific, real sweet. As I said, I didn’t mind as much before I had kids. Everything changes when it comes to my children.

PLAYBOY: Like what?

DEPP: Everything. The way you sleep changes. Your whole life is changed. Every inch of it is different. PLAYBOY: How are you different?

DEPP: I think it just wakes you up and kind of gives you the opportunity to be who you really are. Before my kids came along I was freaked out to hold a kid. When I was a teenager and my brother had babies, I was always freaked out to hold them. They just seemed so fragile. I’d hold them for a minute and then, “Okay, here. Take the kid.” So I was sur­prised how quickly, almost instantly, I was okay with my own baby. Within 24 hours I was fine with it all—the diapers, everything. One of the most amazing moments in my life was holding my brand-new baby, Lilly-Rose, just after she was born. She wasn’t three hours old, and I was holding her. Her little eyes were kind of half open. She was drifting into sleep. Looking into those little eyes. I thought. My God, I’ll never be closer to another human being in my life. And you’re not, until your second one comes. Before the second one came, there was this strange thing, a snippet of worry. I thought, How can I love the second as much as the first? Is it possible? And when little Jack arrived, it was instant. Instant. They just seem so fragile.

PLAYBOY: Who gave you parenting tips?

DEPP: One of the greatest pieces of advice I got was from my brother. When I told him Vanessa was pregnant, he said, “Congratulations. You’ll never sleep the same way again. You’ll never have an­other calm day as long as you live, but it’s worth it.” He said it just off-the-cuff, but it was right on the money. PLAYBOY: Has parenthood influenced the movies you’ll take on?

DEPP: Yes. I actually feel as though I make choices with my kids in mind. It helps me to be clear about what I will and won’t make. I want to have my kids say, “My pa did only the things that he felt he should do.” I don’t want them to be embar­rassed. I think may­be they can be proud of some of the work I do. Maybe they will be proud that I decided to go against the grain a little bit and fight the good fight. When you’re older, drooling, and your children are chang­ing your diapers, they will know that there was integrity.

PLAYBOY: Vanessa is French. Are French women dif­ferent from Ameri­can women?

DEPP: They speak French better.

PLAYBOY: Beyond that?

DEPP: You know, Vanessa could have been anything—Icelandic, Armenian, Egyptian, whatever. It would have hit me with the same force. I wouldn’t say that it was the French thing.

PLAYBOY: How did you meet?

DEPP: We met briefly years ago. I remem­ber thinking, Ouch. It was just hello, but the contact was electric. That was in 1993. It wasn’t until 1998, when I went to do the Polanski film The Ninth Gate and was in the lobby of the hotel, getting messages. I turned around and across the lobby saw this back. She had on a dress with an exposed back. I thought. Wow. Suddenly the back turned and she looked at me. I walked right over, and there were those eyes again. 1 knew it was her. She asked, “Do you remember me?” I said, “Oh yeah.” We had a drink, and it was over with at that point. I knew I was in big trouble.

PLAYBOY: What was different about this relationship?

DEPP: Everything. After we started dating I worked a long, long day and night, and I came home, back to my apartment in Paris, at three or four in the morning. Vanessa was there, and she was cooking for me. That’s not to say that a woman must cook for a man—that’s not what I’m saying—but it took me by surprise. It was a whole new ball game for me. I’d never experienced that before. It was like she was a woman not afraid to be a woman. I hope that doesn’t sound weird or sexist, because it’s not. I’m totally in

agreement that women are the stronger, smarter, more evolved sex.

PLAYBOY: Have you considered marriage?

DEPP: Sure, but it would be a shame to ruin her last name. It’s so perfect— Vanessa Paradis. So beautiful. It would be such a drag to stick her with Paradis-Depp. It’s like a flat note. But for all in­tents and purposes, we are married. We have two kids together, and she’s the woman of my life. If she ever said, “Hey, let’s get hitched,” I would do it in a sec­ond. We’ll do it if the kids want us to, or maybe when the kids are old enough to enjoy it with us.

PLAYBOY: Your kids’ names are tattooed on your body. Is the jack tattoo after your son or the pirate in Pirates of the Caribbean?

DEPP: Both, actually. I had a fake one for the movie, but I moved it and flipped it to make a real one for my son, Jack. My daughter’s here, on my heart.

PLAYBOY: How many tattoos do you have in all?

DEPP: Let’s see. [counts] There are 10, I think.

PLAYBOY:  The winona forever tattoo is somewhat famous.

DEPP: Yeah, it’s here on my arm. It was the kind of thing you do on the spur of the moment—”Fuck it, let’s do it.” Then you break up, but it’s still there: a girl’s name on my arm.

PLAYBOY: Did it put a damper on new relationships following your split with Ryder?

DEPP: Yeah, it can turn a situation a little sticky. I changed it to wino forever, which is actually a bit more accurate.

PLAYBOY: How pain­ful is it to have a tattoo removed?

DEPP: Painful. The guy said, “I should give you a local anesthetic,” but I said, “No, I’m fine.” He hit me with a laser and it seemed as though some­one had stretched an electric rubber band all the way to Mars and snapped it on the end. Your skin burns and bubbles up.

PLAYBOY:  Do you find it ironic that after your public relationships with people like Winona Ryder, it’s only now—when you’re married and have children—that Peo­ple magazine pro­nounces you the sexiest man alive?

DEPP: I suppose.

PLAYBOY: Who gave you the news?

DEPP: My sister called me and said, “Hey, guess what.” It’s so odd. I was glad I was in Paris at the time, because I thought nobody would know. Then, at the bar at the Ritz Hotel, a guy goes, “Hey, man, congratulations.” A friend of mine ran into Gerard Depardieu. When I saw my friend, he said, “Oh, by the way, Gerard says to tell the sexiest man alive….” I mean, if somebody actually believes it, I’m deeply flattered, but I don’t get it myself. It’s mortifying. You think, Where does that come from? Why did they choose me? Why now? I guess it’s just my time.

Sky Magazine, September 1991 – Johnny Deeper

Sky Magazine, September 1991 – Johnny Deeper

Title: Johnny Deeper

Author: Bill Zehme

Publication: Sky Magazine

Issue: September 1991

Photo1Johnny Depp is his real name. As a boy he was ridiculed for it. In the schoolyard he was called Dipp. Or Deppity Dawg. Later he was cal­led Johnny Deeper, this being based upon a popular adolescent joke he barely remembers: “Something about some guy having sex with some girl who kept saying, Johnny, deeper!'”

The day we meet he extends his hand to shake mine, except that his hand is more like a piece of weaponry. In place of fingers there are blades. We are on a Twentieth Century Fox sound stage where he is making Edward Scissorhands, his second major film, in which he portrays the man-made boy with scissors for fingers. He laughs quietly at his own comic gesture.

Later we meet one morning in a coffee shop, where Winona Ryder, his movie-star fiancée, has left him before driving off to do some errands. He is smoking too much and drink­ing too much coffee. He says he is ensla­ved by caffeine and nicotine and doesn’t sound proud of it. “I like to be pumped up and hack­ing phlegm at the same time,” he says wryly.

“Coupla tequila worms flying out here and there,” Depp says, but he is joking about that. He hasn’t touched the hard stuff for a solid month, maybe longer. Depp is as dry as he’s ever been in all of his 27 years.

Nobody recognises Depp in public places, not while I am with him. He doesn’t stand out much. Yes, he continues to be a teen idol and a heart-throb (“a throbbing thing,” he calls him­self), but frankly he looks like someone else. Director John Waters, who cast Depp as a delinquent grease ball in the film Cry Baby. used to imagine him as “the best looking gas-station attendant who ever lived”. Or, as Waters later told me appreciatively, “Johnny could play a wonderfully sexy mass murderer. I mean, it is a part made for him.” Which is to say, there is shadiness to Depp. He looks attractively unwashed. (“Nobody looks better in rags,” said Waters of the basic Depp sartorial statement.)

If Depp is anything, he is interesting. He takes the big risks. Though Michael Jackson expressed an early interest. Tom Cruise, the rumour goes, wanted to play the role of tragic, disfigured Edward Scissorhands – but only if his face was cosmetically restored by the end of the film. Not Depp. He wore Edward’s scars like medals. And he wore the unwieldy, impos­ing hand shears with brio, recognising the lyric poetry in Edward’s fateful curse. (Edward, who cannot touch anything without slashing it, is a metaphor for the outsider in all of us, including Depp, who knows what it’s like to be mocked for being a little different. He is, after all, a teen idol.) “He certainly was closest to the image of the character,” says Tim Burton, who directed Depp in Edward, Jack Nicholson in Batman, Michael Keaton in Beetlejuice and Pee-Wee Herman in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure! “Like Edward. Johnny really is perceived as some­thing he is not. Before we met, I’d certainly read about him as the Difficult Heart-throb. But you look at him and you get a feeling. There is a lot of pain and humour and darkness and light. I think for him the role is probably very personal. It’s just a very strong internal feeling of loneli­ness. It’s not something he talks about or even can talk about, because it’s sad, ya know. What are ya gonna do?”

“If there’s any movie in the history of the entire world, and even in the history of any liter­ature, Edward Scissorhands was the movie I would want to do. And I fuckin’ did it. When I first saw it, I was scared, because I kept thinking, ‘God, I just can’t believe I did this fuckin’ movie, “says Depp.

But then Depp is an impassioned, if unlikely, aesthete. He is a high-school dropout with a lust for first editions. Once I saw him pay $75 for a rare Hemingway as if it were a pack of Marlboros, and I noticed the swagger in his stride when he carried the book off. He cites Jack Kerouac and JD Salinger, two idols, with staggering frequency. His most prized posses­sion – and one that cost him a good portion of his burgeoning fortune – is a book on black culture in whose margins Kerouac has scrib­bled and doodled. “It’s a piece of history,” he tells me reverently. “I look at it every day.”

And then there is fine art: “Gacy!” Depp says excitedly, in reference to imprisoned mass murderer John Wayne Gacy who used to dress in a clown costume and bury his victims under his house. In the coffee shop I hand him an order form listing Gacy’s latest oil paintings, knowing that Depp is the owner of a Gacy clown portrait. (Depp, incidentally, lives in mor­tal fear of clowns.) “The Hi Ho Series’.1‘ he exclaims, impressed. “Shit!” He peruses the form, shudders, then tells me that he’s got rid of his Gacy canvas. “When I got it, I heard the money was going to the victims’ families,” he says, but later he suspects otherwise. “The paintings are really scary and weird and great, but I don’t want to contribute to something as evil as that.”

Depp likes to walk. “It’s good butt exercise.” he tells me as we walk along Los Angeles’ Beverly Boulevard. “It’s good for the rump.” Depp, it turns out, has no car. He does have a broken truck. For a long time he had no home. He and Winona moved from hotel to hotel before they recently got a place in Beverly-Hills. They did share a loft in New York for-a brief time, but they tired of the East Coast. So they came west where no one walks except Depp. But even on foot, Depp is like a dedicated motorist, ever vigilant of traffic minutiae. “Your seat belt! Your seat belt!” he shouts into the snarl of the traffic. Depp has spotted a man driving with his seat belt dragging out on the pave­ment and can’t bear to think of the con­sequences. He also spots a woman driving with her door ajar. “Your door!” he yells. “Your door is open!”

By now Depp’s origins are familiar to most functioning Americans – although he is still relatively unknown here, in the States he is a massive star.

Born in Owensboro, Kentucky, the self-styled barbecue capital of the world, Depp was the fourth child of John Depp, a city engineer, and his wife, Betty Sue, a waitress. (Her famous son would later have her name tattooed above his left bicep. so as to balance the Indian chief tat­tooed on his right one, a talisman of his partial Cherokee bloodline.) Depp was a small boy, so early on he learned to rely on his fists. Event­ually his family settled in Miramar, Florida, when Depp was seven.

Rebellious in school, he was once sus­pended for mooning at a gym teacher. He learned to smoke by age 12 and then drink and finally take drugs. By 14, however, he is said to have sworn off drugs forever. Two years later his parents divorced, and, soon after, Depp quit high school to join a rock band called The Kids, who became a local sensation and opening act for the likes of Talking Heads, the B-52’s and Iggy Pop. (He remembers that his first words to Iggy Pop, one of his heroes and later a friend, were, inexplicably, “Fuck you, fuck you. fuck you.” In response, a perplexed Pop called him a “little turd”.)

At 20 he married Lori Anne Allison, a 25-year-old musician and relative of a band mate, and together (band included) they left Florida for Hollywood, where The Kids broke up and so did Depp and Lori. Alone and starving, Depp turned to acting and made his screen debut in the original Nightmare On Elm Street as a guy swallowed by a bed. (Grateful to this day for that break, Depp will appear in the next Elm Street sequel as a cameo murder victim.) Then came Platoon, in which Depp played an inter­preter who dies off-camera. But his movie career would have to wait: Depp became, for four years, America’s favourite boy detective.

He was undercover high-school cop Tom Hanson in Fox’s 21 Jump Street, a television series Depp hated and never saw more than six episodes of. Still, it transformed him into the major show-business figure he is today, and, better still, girls loved him. Beautiful actresses flocked to his side. Before it was over there were two failed engagements: to Sherilyn Fenn {Twin Peaks) and to Jennifer Grey (Dirty Dancing). Then the TV show was cancelled. But by now John Waters had hired him to star as the misunderstood hood Cry Baby Walker-his first big-screen lead role-in the troubled-teen musical Cry Baby. And it was at that time he met Winona Ryder.

The following day Winona Ryder arrives with Depp. She is smoking his cigarettes, and she is not a smoker.Photo2

Hands locked, they descend upon Bar­ney’s Beanery, a frequent haunt, for caffeine, which they now take in desperate helpings. She wears a Tom Waits T-shirt and Depp’s engagement ring. She is saying, “I’d never seen anyone get a tattoo before, so I was pretty squeamish, I guess.” Depp chuckles and says. “She kept taking the bandage off and staring at it afterwards.” They are talking about winona forever, the third and final (for now) Depp tat­too, eternally etched onto his right shoulder. (Depp tells me he plans to have his tattoos pickled after his death as keepsakes for his children, should there be any.) This one was carved on at a nearby tattoo parlour as Winona watched with awe. “I sort of was in shock,” she says. “I kept thinking it was going to wash off or something. I couldn’t believe it was real.” Her eyes widen. “I mean, it’s a big thing, because it’s so permanent!”

“It ain’t goin’ nowhere,” Depp says. Over hash and eggs, they then trace the history of their romance for me: He knew her work (Beetle-juice. Heathers).and she knew his, but they did not know each other. At the premiere of Great Balls Of Fire, a film in which she played Jerry Lee Lewis’s chi Id bride, they spotted each other from across the room. “I was getting a Coke,” Ryder says. “It was a classic glance,” he says, “like the zoom lenses in West Side Story, and everything else gets foggy.” She says, “It wasn’t a long moment, but it was suspended.” He says, “I knew then.” They did not meet that night though.

Months later, a mutual friend dragged her to Depp’s hotel room at the Chateau Marmont, where John Belushi last drew breath, and this is where they began. “I thought maybe he would be a jerk,” she says. “I didn’t know. But he was really, really shy.” They knew it was love when they both professed deep feelings for Salinger and the soundtrack of the film The Mission. Their first date, a few weeks later, was a party at the Hollywood Hills home of counter­culture guru Dr. Timothy Leary, who is Ryder’s godfather. “We were kinda blessed,” says Depp, a Beat disciple. As it happens Winona’s father is an esteemed Beat bookseller in Petaluma, California, where she and Depp spend their weekends. “My parents really love him a lot,” she tells me. Depp says: “It could have been easy not to like me. Other people might have just seen tattoos.”

Tim Burton calls the couple a “kind of an evil version of Tracy and Hepburn.” Which is to say, as celebrity couples go, these two are dark, spunky, glamorous and resilient, all requisite traits in this cynical age. And they need them. Tabloid photographers terrorise them at air­ports, and tabloid reporters regularly report imaginary squalls and breakups. So he gets angry, and she gets incredulous. Winona: “They try to trip me up at airports!” Depp: “What’s shitty about it is they feel like you owe them! That you should stop dead in your tracks and let them piss on you!” Winona: “I will say that there are some really nice ones.” Depp: “A couple of them are real nice.” Winona: “But aren’t we allowed to be in a bad mood some­times? Everybody else is.”

We meet Jesus after lunch. Winona leaves (taking the car again), and Depp and I step out into daylight and see a miracle. There, on Santa Monica Boulevard, in front of the Beanery, stands a man who looks very much like the Son of God – in pictures, at least. He is swad­dled in robes, his face is serene, his eyes benevolent, his hair long, his beard crisp, and he wears Reeboks.

Depp compliments him on his clothing.

“I have always dressed like this,” says the man in a soft, commanding voice. What, Depp asks, is his name? “Jesus,” the man says, although he uses the Hispanic pronunciation (Hay-zoos). Where has he come from? “Oh, I don’t know,” he says. “Heaven.” His age? “Over forty.” Why is he in Los Angeles? “I’m here for a special occasion.” What is the occa­sion? “I like it here.” Where does he like it best? “Beverly Hills.” At which point Depp whispers to me, “Apocalypse. Second Coming. Armageddon.”

“You want a cigarette for the road?” Depp asks him. Jesus assented, and together the robed one and the young actor smoked for a while. “Take the pack,” Depp tells him. “I can buy some more.” Afterwards, Depp seems thrilled. “I smoked with Christ!” he exclaims.

“I wish I could grow more facial hair,” he says that evening, bemoaning the wispiness of his whiskers. “I can only get an Oriental sort of beard.” Spooning up corn chowder in a tiny res­taurant, he is openly penitent about his “younger, hellion, hitting-the-sauce kind of days.” He owns up to his short fuse: “I’ve got a bit of a temper.” He speaks of a tussle or two and of the circumstances surrounding his arrest in Vancouver during his 21 Jump Street tenure. Apparently, he tried to visit some friends late one night in their hotel, where Depp himself had once lived, and a security guard got in his way. “The guy had a boner for me.” Depp says. “He had a wild hair up his ass, and he got real mouthy with me, saying, ‘I know who you are, but you can’t come up unless you’re a guest here.’ The mistake he eventually made was to put his hands on me. I pushed him back, and then we sort of wrestled around a bit, and I ended up spittin’ in his face.”

The police didn’t want to hear Depp’s story. He was jailed for a night, fingerprinted, posed for mug shots (“I wish I could have them”), and in the morning he walked.

But most of the stories about Depp are not about violence – they are about women. He has been engaged to four women – including the one he married. Even now there are constant rumours that he and Winona are splitting up.

“I knew this was gonna come up,” he says, looking stricken. But Depp is nothing if not courageous. “I’ve never been one of those guys who goes out and screws everything that’s in front of him …. When you’re growing up, you go through a series of misjudgments. Not bad choices, but wrong choices…. You know, peo­ple make mistakes. We all fuck up…. I was really young for the longest time. We were young. My relationships weren’t as heavy as people think they were. I don’t know what it is; possibly I was trying to rectify my family’s situation or I was just madly in love…. You’re the first person that I’ve talked to about this kind of stuff. And I’m being really honest with you when I say that there’s been nothing ever throughout my twenty-seven years that’s com­parable to the feeling I have with Winona… .It’s like this weird, bounding atom or something. You can think something is the real thing, but it’s different when you feel it. The truth is very powerful. Now I know. Believe me, this winona forever tattoo is not something I took lightly…. Her eyes kill me.”

He then says this about his engagement to Winona: “People don’t realise this, but we’ve been together almost a year and a half. Out of any, whatever thing I’ve been through before, it hasn’t been this long. It wasn’t like Hi. nice to meet you, here’s a ring.’ It was about five months [before we got engaged]. They thought we ran away to Las Vegas and got married.” When would their nuptials actually transpire? “The wedding thing?” he says. “We’re just gonna do it when we both have time, because we both know we’re gonna end up working in the next couple of months. And we want to be able to do it when we can get hitched and then go away for a few months. Leave the country, just go wandering around, and be on a beach somewhere with tropical drinks.”

On my last day with Depp I pick him up at home, which isn’t really home but a small bun­galow he and Winona are briefly renting. (Their new house is not yet habitable.) Depp is on the kitchen phone, pacing furiously. Heaps of laun­dry and luggage and books clutter the living-room floor. A stray cat is wandering round the house. Winona is out. Mail is strewn about Depp tells me about his fan mail, unique in its female pubic-hair content – “I’ve gotten some weird pubes” is how he puts it. We get into my car and drive.

Photo3We pass a coffee shop adorned with a giant rooster. “I have one of those,” he says, meaning the rooster. “I have a nine-foot roos­ter. I have the biggest cock in Los Angeles.”

This is the old Depp, spry and antic as ever. He sees a dog and says, coincidentally, that he bases his Edward Scissorhands performance on a dog.

“He had this unconditional love,” says Depp, who probably cherishes that role above any other in the Depp repertoire. “He was this totally pure, completely open character, the sweetest thing in the world, whose appearance is incredibly dangerous – until you get a look at his eyes. I missed Edward when I was done. I really missed him.”

We drive to the escape artist Harry Houdini’s house, which isn’t really a house but a scatter­ing of ruins perched above Laurel Canyon. Houdini’s ruins, they say, are haunted. Depp reads from a guide book: “Nearby Canyon resi­dents tell of strange happenings on the hilltop site.” Depp, incidentally, believes that he was once Houdini. So we drop over to see if any­thing looks familiar to him. We scale a steep hill and find a crumbling staircase and little else. “There’s no house,” says Depp, dis­appointed. “I bet this was a really romantic place at night,” he adds dreamily.

The myths of the Hollywood Hills enchant Depp endlessly. “I would love to buy Bela Lugosi’s old house,” he says. “Or Errol Flynn’s. Or Charlie Chaplin’s. I want some old, depressing history to call my own. Plus, I love the idea of a view.” He sits in silent reverie, but within moments is overtaken with purpose. “I think I just have to make a lot of cash,” he says calmly “I also think I want to be a sheik. I want to be the sheik of Hollywood. What do you have to do to become a sheik, anyway? I wonder if it just takes cash…”

DEPPTH PERCEPTION

Brooding Johnny muses on his motley career and reinventing Ichabod Crane for Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow – by Rob Blackwelder.

Blackwelder: You’ve said you patterned the character after Roddy McDowell, Angela Lansbury in “Death On the Nile” and the old Sherlock Holmes. How did you use those influences to create Ichabod?

Depp: It’s funny, because what happens to me when I read a script, when something grabs hold of me, I start getting these flashes of people or places or things or images…With “Sleepy Hollow,” I was (after) the kind of drive that Basil Rathbone had as Sherlock Holmes, but what’s going on behind that is total and utter confusion. Basil Rathbone knew exactly what he was talking about. He hit in on every note. Ichabod would (seem to) hit it, but he would miss it, in fact.

With Roddy,…he had this very ethereal quality (I wanted), and (with) Angela Lansbury (it was) the energy, the sort of righteousness that she had. I haven’t even seen “Death On the Nile” since I was very young, but she was this force, she was this presence. So those are the ingredients and you just sort of mash then all together and see what you come up with. It’s always dangerous when you try that stuff. With Ed Wood, it was this sort of blending of Ronald Reagan, the Tin Man from “The Wizard of Oz” and Casey Kasem.

Copyright Contactmusic.com Ltd 2005

This is an article excerpt. To view the article in full, please visit the contactMusic website.

US Magazine February 1994

US Magazine February 1994

JOHNNY DEPP APPEARS TO BE IN A TRANCE. HIS EYES ARE GLAZED, registering something halfway between panic and pure bliss; his arms twitch in a kind of slow morion; his famously bowed lips are frozen in a secretive semi-smile. 

This is how Depp behaves when he’s really huppy. He is standing in his favorite store, the Heritage Book Shop, on Melrose Avenue, in Hollywood, sraring at a stack of letters – unpublished correspondence between two well-known writers (whose names Depp has requested be kept off the record in case he buys them) – on a desk. Moments before, Depp’s arrival caused a cheery flutter of greetings from the sraff, all of whom the actor knows byname. “This is where he gets into trouble,” says owner Lou Weinstein with a wink, 

The 30-year-old actor has been coming here since he arrived in LA. from Miramar, Fla.,some 10 years ago as a high school dropout who thought playing guitar in a rock & roll band was his destiny. “I didn’t have any money, but they were always nice to me,” he says. Though Depp prohably looks the same as he did back then -today he’s wearing chinos and a black jacket so frayed it gives new meaning to the word threads -now he can afford the pricey first editions and rare manuscripts that put him over the moon: He’s a movie star. 

In the hierarchy of young Hollywood, Depp stands alone. While other actors in his age group compete for the privilege of toting tOm’ my guns, swashbllckling on horseback and diving from planes, he has managed to find roles in movies remarkably free of such cliches. Instead, Depp’s body of work consists of playing innocents

who wander quirkier roads: He was the ultimate juvenile delinquent in John Waters’ sublime teen sendup, Cry-Baby ( 1990), an exploited orphan in Tim Burton’s suburban fairy tale, Edward Scissorhands (1990), and a love-struck dyslexic with Buster Keaton tendencies in last year’s Benny &Joon. Currently he’s onscreen as a grocery delivery boy who has to care for his retarded younger brother and 500-pound mother in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. And mere days ago, he wrapped Ed Wood, his second collaboration with Tim Burton, in which Depp stars in the title role as the legendary bad-movie director with a penchant for wearing women’s clothes. 

Depp’s been turning down high-profile, big-studio pictures for some time now. For example, a few years back when he was TV’s actor du jour via 21 jump Street and Dawn Steel was running Columbia Pictures, she tried convincing him to take a leading role in Point Break. It should have been his big break, but he passed, and it went to Patrick Swayze. “And I’ve just offered him another movie and an enormous amount of money,” confesses Steel, who now heads her own production company at Disney. “And I know he will make the decision not based on anything other than whether or not he likes the part. Rising to the top of thc heap is irrelevant to him.” 

His friend Faye Dunaway doesn’t buy it. ~You may not see him saying, ‘God, I want to make it big in Hollywood,’ but he has – in his soul and in his belly – the fire for good work,” says Dunaway, who co-starred with Depp in Arizona Dream, the 1992 Emir Kusturica movie that has yet to be released stateside, “It would be too easy for him to go for the next Musketeers movie, you know? That’s not what he wants.” 

Says Gilbert Grape co-star Juliette Lewis; “A lot of actors and actresses just want to be safe and look really pretty and cool in front of the camera. Johnny’s not like that. He’s in it for the work and for creating.” 

As successful as he’s been at constructing a unique American art house career, Depp has been unable to control certain aspects of his fame. Although he claims not to understand why anyone cares about his love life, his romantic entanglements make for interesting gossip-column fodder. Married and divorced by the age of 22, he has subsequently been engaged to actresses Sherilyn Fenn, Jennifer Grey and Winona Ryder. His profile rose again when he opened the Viper Room, the Sunset Strip nightspot where rock stars have been known to play impromptu sets. And when River Phoenix collapsed and died outside the club last October, Dcpp again found himself in the news, held personally responsible for any and all of young Hollywood’s mistakes. 

Disarmingly friendly (he’ll say hello to passers-by who’ve recognized him) and unfailingly polite, Depp appears serious, responsible and in control of his life. Over endless cups of coffee and legions of cigarettes – his two vices – he responds to questions, his low voice stopping and starring to clarify a point. Darkly handsome to begin with (“I told him! was leaving my husband for him!” jokes Dawn Steel), he becomes more attractive, but for a different reason: He seems like a man who knows who he is. 

Are you ever gonna quit smokIng?

I’m no quitter. 

Never tried? 

I quit once for two weeks, and I was really, really miserable. And I had boundless energy, and I was having huge conversations with people I couldn’t stand, and at that point I just thought, What are you doing?! I’m really shocked at this whole nonsmoking thing. I mean, let’s just really go the distance: Let’s make it absolutely against the law to eat betwecn the hours of 9 p.m. and 4 a.m., and let’s make people walk backward, you know? [Mocking) I’m angry abour it.

So let’s talk about somethIng more pleasant’ ‘Gilbert Grape’ 

I haven’t Seen it yet. 

Why not? 

I’m waiting until the last possihle second. I think I should see it with a paying audience. I have no way of being objective -I get crazy and make people sick when I watch that stuff. So to see the real reaction would be grounding in a way – not to have those courtesy laughs and applause that happen in screenings. 

I confess I went to a screening – a friend and I – and we cried.

Yeah? Good. It’s nice to be affected by something. 

Your teeth are kind of gross in the movIe -I’m relieved that in person you have lovely teeth. 

[laughs] Yeah, they’re fine. I went to the dentist and had him do some bonding and some chipping for the movie. 

And YOU have lovely red hair in the movie. 

[smiles]  Miss Clairol. l don’t remember the number, just that it was redder than red. It had to do with this guy I grew up with…a friend named Bones, who saved my life once. I was doing a really ridiculous thing-I was blowing fire with gasoline in my mouth [shakes his head], and I lit my face on fire. I couldn’t get it out, and Bones put it out. Bones kind of reminded me of Gilbert. 

In the movie, your mother IS a wreck afler her husband leaves, and her children have to take care of things –  Did that parallel what happened when your parents split? 

I wouldn’t say it’s an exact parallel, but, you know, there are elements of being that age and going through that which parallel what Gilbert’s experiences might have been. It’s traumatic for everybody, and especially for a wife. My mom wasn’t well. So we all pulled together and did the best we could. And everything worked Out fine. Everybody is happy as … a big ball of snot. 

What a nice way of putting it. So, hmm, you’re 30. So …  

Yeah (nods], I’m 30. I’m approaching that area where I find myself thinking about all kinds of things I never thought of before. Like … silverware

Silverware? 

Yeah – silverware, plams, furniture and making an effort to be more organized than I’ve ever been. Whereas for 30 years, I had no control over that – I would just throw things, and it was like a filing system …. Bur now I’m trying to find a place for everything. It’s interesting. I think it’s just growing up. 

I was in this Antique store recently, and I saw this set of silverware – it was from the early ’30s, and it had Bakelite handles and I thought, Wow, this is really beautiful. So I decided to buy it. As I was leaving the store, I thought, Christ,  just bought silverware! This is insane. 

Now you have to get a set of dishes … 

I know. (Whispers] But I’m a little frightened, a little scared to buy plates …. I don’t know if I can do it. 

So you’re starting to think about all that grown-up stuff. 

Part of me does want to be grounded in that way and have a foundation and be amongst my stuff and live quietly, domestically. But the other part of me wants to, you know, rub mud all Over my face and climb trees …. It’s interesring because here I am at 30, and I find the two merging, and it’s easier – it’s not so much oil and vinegar anymore. And the good thing abut being a collector of stuff or having that place you’re afraid you’ll be stuck in because all your stuff is there, is that you can always pile it up and light it On fire.

So when do you think You’ll be ready to have children? 

I don’t know. I Just know that I’ve always loved kids, bur I’m also frightened of them. little tiny babies with their little rolling heads (wide-eyed, as if holding a baby], no neck muscles formed yet. They frighten me, you know? But I have a lot of friends who have kids, and it’s great for them, so…

Is marriage your ideal? 

 Yeah, that is certainly the ideal situation. I wouldn’t do it in this town, though. Ideally I’d have a big chunk of land somewhere, not necessarily in this country, maybe in France or something. A wife, kids, a dog, some chickens, a pig, a mule … But there is still this part of me that can’t sit around in one spot. 

 But an actor doesn’t sit around in one spot. Every moyie is another location. 

 Yeah, but one thing about being on a film  that’s always uncomfortable for me is that I have to be on the set for a certain time, and I have to be there every day. So for three, four months, I have to be somewhere, and there’s a very strong part of me that doesn’t want to have to be anywhere. 

 Are you saying you’re getting out of the business someday? 

 Maybe, I’m not sure. I mean, it could all go away in 20 minutes. Anything’s possible. I like the business – more than I ever did, at this point – and 1 feel myself becoming more adult about the business. But there are other things I want to do. [Pause] I like the process of creating, whether it’s writing – and this is not necessarily for the public, it’s just for me – writing, making little films, drawing, making music for friends, not for any kind of record deal. In the same way, I like acting – I like the collaboration between a filmmaker and an actor, an actor and the Camera crew, an actor and the grips, because to me all those people are working together and conspiring for me. 

 What Is it about seeing yourself onscreen that makes you queasy? 

I don’t know. [Squirming] Everything – it’s Just so uncomfortable. I guess, On a real simple level, as an actor, you see things you could have done. (A bird lands at bis feet and stares at him as if for food. Sorry, I don’t have a any food. I’ll give him Some sugar. [he opens a packet and pours it on the groud.] Bill also, I’m comfortable with the fact that 1 may never be satisfied with my work and I like that-l don’t want to be too satisfied.[The bird moves to a tree above his head.] He’s sharpening his beak …. I think he’s gonna shoot himself into the back of my head, burrow into my skull. 

That would be really great for this story. You’ve gone far in your 10 years as an actor. 

 Yeah, I’ve been very, very lucky. 

But is it luck, or did you want it that way? 

 Well, it is the way I wanted it, but people don’t always get what they want. I’ve been lucky that people like John Waters and Tim Burton were willing to take a chance with me. 

How did you get Tim to see you? 

I resigned myself that he’d never see me in the role (of Edward Scissorhands]. I was sent the script by my agent, read it, thought it was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever read, and my agent said I’d meet with Tim Burton. And I said, “Forget it, won’t happen. It’ll just be embarrassing.” I canceled the meeting, but my agent pushed me, and I had the meeting, and it went really well. He liked me, I liked him, but still I thought it would never happen. Then I got the call saying I got It and ... [sbakes head) I was ecstatic. 


And now you’ve iust done ‘Ed Wood’ with him. 

Ed Wood was a perfect experience. I know that sounds like I’m bulls—ting because everybody says that after a film, but it was, really, and a perfect escape from playing a serious role in a kind of sad movie like Gilbert Grape. 

Ed Wood liked to wearwomen’s clothes. Did that require lots of research? 

 No, not really. I just thought I’d get comfortable with the feeling of being in women’s … articles. I’d go out with a tight bra on under my shirt and jacket. Around the house I wore slips and pumps and then tested the waters with garter belts and stockings, I got braver every day. 

 So what surprised you about the experience? 

The shocking thing was how much goes into the process – the stockings, the garters, then doing those things up and then girdles, brassieres, straps! … It made me have more respect for you guys – for women – when you get dolled up. And I have a profound respect for transvestites, who get all dolled up and then have things to hide. It’s painful …. 

 Perhaps you kept an angora sweater from the film? 

I kept an angora Sweater and my pumps. 

Oh, really? 

I like to keep articles of clothing from films I do. I started on Platoon -I kept part of my uniform, the boots, I Stole the helmet. From CryBaby I have my leather jacket and boots and jeans, from Scissorands I have the costume and the hands, from Benny & Joon the cane, the hats and a jacket or two, from Gilbert Grape I think I just took some clothing. 

 Are you aware that people say, “He does all those weird movies”? 

Yeah, [laughs] I just don’t see the point in redoing things that have been done 10,000 times and done better by someone else. 

But do you consciously not do big mainstream movies that make, like, $100 million? 

I’d love to be in a film that makes $300 million -it’d be great. But I’m not gonna do something just to gain more commercial success. 

You wouldn’t shy away from Car chases and guns? 

No. I just don’t feel that it’s right to do something …. I don’t feel like I have to make $15 million or that the picture has to make $300 million. My job is just to try to play a character and take that character from point A to point B to wherever. 

In person, you don’t seem hungry or ambitious at all, yet objectively, considering who you’ve worked with, you seem very ambitious. 

There are things I’d like to achieve in my life …. I do ultimately Want to have enough money so that when I do have kids, they don’t have to worry …. I suppose the only ambition I have is to be able to do the right thing and not have to compromise. 

Do you want to create art? 

I want to create … things. And if it’s art, then that’s good. If it’s not, then I don’t know what I want to call it. I want to create things and to be involved in creating things. I don’t know if movie making is art, either. I really don’t. When you look at something like Beauty and the Beast by Cocteau, there are things in that film that were so beautiful, so surreal, so great, that you think of it as art. But, I don’t know, is it really? I mean, look, it’s too easy to make something today that people consider art. I don’t think that pouring ketchup on your hand and chopping it off is art. 

It just occurs to me that you’re a high scbool dropout. But you’re well read, you know a lot about art and history. Do you think In any way that you’re compensating for your lack of formal education? 

Definitely. But immediately, you know-as soon as I dropped out. When I was in school, I didn’t feel inspired to learn. And when I got out, you know, I wanted to know what my big brother knew. My big brother was a guy who read everything and knew great books and knew great art and knew great music, and I admired that. I don’t think I read a thing in high school. 

So you’re making up for lost time? 

Sure. You Can learn a lot from books. I got obsessed with certain periods in history and the lives of writers and painters, and I want to know about them. And then when I learn about them, I want to know why they did certain things -the process is endless. 

Yeah. So let’s just get something over with. Let’s talk about the Viper Room. You were there the night River Phoenix died? 

[Nods] 

When did you find out that he had died? 

[Clears his throat] Well, before we go into this, which we can, there are two different subjects. One of the subjects is, you know, the unfortunate, very sad death of River. Then there’s me being attacked by tabloids and stuff about the club. So, one, your question: I found out that it was River at about three or four in the morning. I was calling to find out how the young man was who had been taken away in an ambulance. 

I had literally walked off the stage – me and a group of guys were playing – and one of the bouncers said, “One of Flea’s friends is having some kind of seizure,” or something like that. I walked out the door, and the paramedics were there with this young man, and there was a bunch of people around. And I stood there, and I was hoping that, you know, everything would be OK. And I let the person -who 

I later found out was Samantha Mathis – I said to her, “If there’s anything we can do, if yon need a ride to the hospital, whatever,” and she said: “No, I have a way to the hospital. I’m fine.” And they took him away,and Flea went in the ambulance with him. That was probably one in the morning, and then, later that night, after calling the hospital and calling the club back and calling everybody, I found out that it was … that the kid had passed away, and that it was River. 

Did you know him? 

We had met. We weren’t dose friends … and on a professional level, I respected him as an actor. I mean, there was a specific road he was on that I respected as an actor [struggling], and it’s realIy unfortunate and a waste, I think. I feel terrible for his family. And I felt angry at the way that the media handled it. And that’s the tabloid press and the legitimate press. A lot of the legitimate press, I thought, really merged with the tabloids on this thing and exploited the situation, and I Thought it was really disrespectful and unfortunate that his family and friends had to experience that 911 call, you know? And I don’t know his family, but I understand they’re a very close, strong family …. I just … I’m sympathetic. 

You closed the pub for a week? 

About a week and a half, I think. 

Had you considered closing It permanently? 

I considered closing it permanently. I.. [uneasily] I considered it before that night. Our initial feeling on the club is we- 

Who’s ”we”? 

The other two owners, Sal Jenco and Chuck E. Weiss. We can take this little space on Sunset Boulevard, we Can make it nice inside and create a place where people can go and hear Billie Holiday over the sound system, and Louis Jordan and Cab Calloway, and John Coltrane, Frank Sinatra or Chet Baker. … And it took on a life of its own. We had lines outside of the place! And I thought, My God, this is not what I wanted at all. So, yeah, I’ve thought of that all along, since day one. 

One story that was printed said that the night the Viper Room reopened, a well-known drug dealer was standing by the front door. 

[Disbelief] Who’s to say? Does a drug dealer wear a sign or a jacket that says, “I’m a drug dealer”? I mean, who knows who’s what? You cannot – in a nightclub in any city that I know of -go and strip·search people. [Strongly] And I do wonder if these people think that I’m ignorant or insane- that I’m going to allow people to do drugs in a place that I am a part owner of. I would never allow that to happen …. look, jf anything positive is to be gained, it’s this: 

A normal young man with a good head on his shoulders and a promising future, a guy who was a good human being, made a mistake. And it’s a mistake that anyone of us could make. And kids should know that, and adults should know that. People should know that …. you don’t tarnish the memory of this person because he made a mistake. We’ve all done things we shouldn’t have done. Everybody. No one is exempt. 

One more thing, and we’ll change the subject. You’ve answered this before, but once more; Are your drug days far in the past? 

[Nods] Yeah, it’s in the past. Definitely. 

OK. There’s another subject you don’t want to talk about: your personal life. 

[Stiffly] yeah …. 

You were married and divorced by the age of 22? 

[Warily1 Uh-huh. 

Are you still friends with your ex-wife? Yeah. 

Since then, you’ve had a succession of serious relationships, three broken engagements. 

Uh-huh. 

What I’m getting at is, didn’t your divorce scare you from trying marriage again? 

[Long pause] I think what it all boils down to is, I was having a real good time. [Pause] I mean, I can’t say that I regret anything I’ve done, as far as girlfriends or being engaged goes. I had a good time. 

But you didn’t marry any of them …. 

I am very … I’m uncomfortable planning something in the future. I’m uncomfortable saying, “This is going to be happening when I’m 32,” you know what I mean? So I rely very much on what’s happening at the particular moment, and I like living like that. So if I’ve gotten engaged or if I got married and divorced and this and that, vou know, it’s really – in my opinion-unimportant to anybody else’s lives. It is not going to affect their lives one 

way or the other, so why are they so curious about it? 

They’re curious because these women are famous- 

No, when Sherdyn Fenn and I were together, no one had really heard of me. And that was before she had sort of broken out into the public eye. 

So what happened? 

I mean, I couldn’t give specific reasons for anything that l’ve done, you know, and a team of shrinks couldn’t, either, probably. You know? [Dry laught] Am I trying to repair my mother and father breaking up? I don’t know. I don’t know what any of it is. And I really, to be honest, don’t care, because I don’t regret any of it. I had a really good time. 

OK. Let’s lighten up and talk about your movies and the people you’ve worked with. We’ll leave out’A Nightmare on Elm Street.’ 

That was a fun experience. Not many people can say they were Slicked through a bed [laughs1. 

‘Platoon’: What do you remember about Oliver Stone? 

Um, Oliver is a really great director. He’s got his methods that, you know, that work. He wanted to keep us angry and kind of hungry and confused, and he did certain things that kept us that way. He would try to piss us off. I have a lot of respect for Oliver. 

I think you’re being diplomatic. 

[laughts] He’s an interesting guy. 

Cry·Baby·, Where to begin? A cast of millions …. 

A great experience. 

Obviously you bonded big-time with John Waters. 

Yeah, I consider John one of my best friends. But also, not a lot of people can say that they have been able to sit down at a table with Iggy Pop and Patricia Hearst and Polly Bergen and John Waters all at the same time. 

What did you think of Patricia Hearst? 

I love her. I think she’s great. She’s really a good, good, good person. [Pause1 I Sort of had a crush on her. 

‘Edward 5cissorhands .. : 

[Smiles] Edward … 

… and Tim Burton … 

Tim. I love Tim. Tim’s brain is incredible. He was one of the few people I think I could call a genius. Believe me, I’m careful with that word. But Tim is. 

Winona Ryder. 

Um … nice girl. 

C’mon. As an actress. 

A very good actress. A really good actress. 

Aidan Quinn in ‘Benny&Joon.’ 

He is just really a great acror. And my idea of what a real man is, He’s a great husband. He’s a great father. … IGrins] I’m trying to think if there is anyone I Call trash … 

Please do! 

I know. I just can’t think of anyone …. 

What’s Juliette Lewis like? 

Cool. Really calm. Nice, sweet. [Laughs] She’s very funny, you know, l love the way she’s just, like, seen everything. It’s just like [imitating her distinctive voice], ‘Yeah, whatever.’ 

It’s been written that you two have been dating. 

Oh yeah, I know. No, it’s not true. And it was written that we were, you know, shtupping while we were doing the movie. 

Shtupping. 

Shtupping. No. She’s a friend of mine. We made a film together. 

I heard. you loved working wIth Martin Landau in ‘Ed Wood.’ 

I admire Martin. He’s rejuvenated my respect for acting and my respect for it as an interesting and fun creative process. He made me feel like you can do this and have a great time. I don’t go for the whole troubled-actor thing – the pained, tortured actor. I just feel fortunate and lucky. 

So you’ve made a couple of great movies and worked with a lot of interesting people. Does it feel like 10 years since you started? 

No, no …. [Grins] Uh-uh. It feels like 30 years and 2 years at the Same time. 

Can you picture yourself in 10 years? 

Only, You know, very loosely do I think about things like that. It just doesn’t do any good. I just hope, you know what I mean? I hope everything is OK. I hope my family’s OK. And I hope that I’m able to do the things I want to do, whether it’s acting or whatever …. 

There you go again, hinting that you’re leaving the business. 

[Teasing] Yeah, you never know …. 

Just promise that you won’t quit the business by the time this story comes out, OK? 

I [Laughs] No, no, no. I won’t quit. 

US, February 1994 – Johnny Depp

US, February 1994 – Johnny Depp

Title: Johnny Depp

Author: Leslie Van Buskirk

Publication: US

Issue: February 1994

 

Photo1JOHNNY DEPP APPEARS TO BE IN A TRANCE. HIS EYES ARE GLAZED, registering something halfway between panic and pure bliss; his arms twitch in a kind of slow motion; his famously bowed lips are frozen in a secretive semi-smile.

This is how Depp behaves when he’s really happy. He is standing in his favorite store, the Heritage Book Shop, on Melrose Avenue, in Hollywood, staring at a stack of letters — unpublished correspon­dence between two well-known writers (whose names Depp has requested be kept off the record in case he buys them) — on a desk. Moments before, Depp’s arrival caused a cheery flutter of greetings from the staff, all of whom the actor knows by name. “This is where he gets into trouble,” says owner Lou Weinstein with a wink.

The 30-ycar-old actor has been coming here since he arrived in L.A. from Miramar, Fla., some 10 years ago as a high school dropout who thought playing guitar in a rock and roll band was his destiny. “I didn’t have any money, but they were always nice to me,” he says. Though Depp probably looks the same as he did back then — today he’s wear­ing chinos and a black jacket so frayed it gives new meaning to the word threads — now he can afford the pricey first editions and rare manuscripts that put him over the moon: He’s a movie star.

In the hierarchy of young Hollywood, Depp stands alone. While other actors in his age group compete for the privilege of toting tom­my guns, swashbuckling on horseback and diving from planes, he has managed to find roles in movies remarkably free of such clichés. Instead, Depp’s body of work consists of playing innocents who wander quirkier roads: He was the ultimate juvenile delinquent in John Waters’ sublime teen sendup, Cry-Baby (1990), an exploited orphan in Tim Burton’s suburban fairy tale, Edward Scissorhands (1990), and a love-struck dyslexic with Buster Keaton tendencies in last year’s Benny &Joon. Currently he’s onscreen as a grocery deliv­ery boy who has to care for his retarded younger brother and 500-pound mother in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. And mere days ago, he wrapped Ed Wood, his second collaboration with Tim Burton, in which Depp stars in the title role as the legendary bad-movie direc­tor with a penchant for wearing women’s clothes.

Depp’s been turning down high-profile, big-studio pictures for some time now. For example, a few years back when he was TV’s actor du jour via 21 jump Street and Dawn Steel was running Columbia Pictures, she tried convincing him to take a leading role in Point Break. It should have been his big break, but he passed, and it went to Patrick Swayze. “And I’ve just offered him another movie and an enormous amount of money,” confesses Steel, who now heads her own production company at Disney. “And I know he will make the decision not based on anything other than whether or not he likes the part. Rising to the top of the heap is irrelevant to him.”

His friend Faye Dunaway doesn’t buy it. “You may not see him saying, ‘God, I want to make it big in Hollywood,’ but he has — in his soul and in his belly — the fire for good work,” says Dunaway, who co-starred with Depp in Arizona Dream, the 1992 Emir Kusturica movie that has yet to be released stateside. “It would be too easy for him to go for the next Musketeers movie, you know? That’s not what he wants.”

Says Gilbert Grape co-star Juliette Lewis: “A lot of actors and actresses just want to be safe and look really pretty and cool in front of the camera. Johnny’s not like that. He’s in it for the work and for creating.”

As successful as he’s been at constructing a unique American art-house career, Depp has been unable to control certain aspects of his fame. Although he claims not to understand why anyone cares about his love life, his romantic entanglements make for interest­ing gossip-column fodder. Married and divorced by the age of 22, he has subsequently been engaged to actresses Sherilyn Fenn, Jennifer Grey and Winona Ryder. His profile rose again when he opened the Viper Room, the Sunset Strip nightspot where rock stars have been known to play impromptu sets. And when River Phoenix collapsed and died outside the club last Oct­ober, Depp again found himself in the news, held personally responsible for any and all of young Hollywood’s mistakes. Disarmingly friendly (he’ll say hello to passers-by who’ve rec­ognized him) and unfailingly polite, Depp appears serious, responsible and in control of his life. Over endless cups of coffee and legions of cigarettes — his two vices — he responds to questions, his low voice stop­ping and starting to clarify a point. Darkly handsome to be­gin with (“I told him I was leav­ing my husband for him!” jokes Dawn Steel), he becomes more attractive, but for a different reason: He seems like a man who knows who he is.

Are you ever gonna quit smoking?

I’m no quitter.

Never tried?

I quit once for two weeks, and I was really, really miserable. And I had boundless energy, and I was having huge conversations with people I couldn’t stand, and at that point I just thought, What are you doing?! I’m really shocked at this whole nonsmoking thing. I mean, let’s just really go the distance: Let’s make it absolutely against the law to eat between the hours of 9 p.m. and 4 a.m., and let’s make people walk backward, you know? [Mocking] I’m angry about it.

So let’s talk about something more pleasant: ‘Gilbert Grape.’Photo2

I haven’t seen it yet.

Why not?

I’m waiting until the last possible second. I think I should see it with a paying audience. I have no way of being objective — I get crazy and make people sick when I watch that stuff. So to see the real reaction would be grounding in a way — not to have those courtesy laughs and applause that happen in screenings.

I confess I went to a screening – a friend and I – and we cried.

Yeah? Good. It’s nice to be affected by something.

Your teeth are kind of gross in the movie – I’m relieved that in per­son you have lovely teeth.

[Laughs] Yeah, they’re fine. I went to the dentist and had him do some bonding and some chipping for the movie.

And you have lovely red hair in the movie.

[Smiles] Miss Clairol. I don’t remember the number, just that it was redder than red. It had to do with this guy I grew up with, a friend named Bones, who saved my life once. I was doing a really ridiculous thing —I was blowing fire with gasoline in my mouth [shakes his head], and 1 lit my face on fire. I couldn’t get it out, and Bones put it out. Bones kind of reminded me of Gilbert.

In the movie, your mother is a wreck after her husband leaves, and her children have to take care of things. Did that parallel what happened when your parents split?

I wouldn’t say it’s an exact par­allel, but, you know, there are elements of being that age and going through that which par­allel what Gilbert’s experiences might have been. It’s traumatic for everybody, and especially for a wife. My mom wasn’t well. So we all pulled together and did the best we could. And everything worked out fine. Everybody is happy as…a big ball of snot.

What a nice way of putting it. So, hmm, you’re 30. So….

Yeah [nods], I’m 30. I’m ap­proaching that area where I find myself thinking about all kinds of things I never thought of before. Like…silverware.

Silverware?

Yeah — silverware, plants, fur­niture and making an effort to be more organized than I’ve ever been. Whereas for 30 years, I had no control over that — I would just throw things, and it was like a filing system…. But now I’m trying to find a place for everything. It’s interesting. I think it’s just growing up. I was in this antique store recently, and I saw this set of silver­ware — it was from the early ’30s, and it had Bakelite handles — and I thought, Wow, this is really beautiful. So I decided to buy it. As I was leaving the store, I thought, Christ, I just bought sil­verware! This is insane.

Now you have to get a set of dishes….

I know. [Whispers] But I’m a little frightened, a little scared to buy plates…. I don’t know if I can do it.

So you’re starting to think about all that grown-up stuff.

Part of me does want to be grounded in that way and have a foun­dation and be amongst my stuff and live quietly, domestically. But the other part of me wants to, you know, rub mud all over my face and climb trees…. It’s interesting because here I am at 30, and I find the two merging, and it’s easier — it’s not so much oil and vinegar anymore. And the good thing about being a collector of stuff or having that place you’re afraid you’ll be stuck in because all your stuff is there, is that you can always pile it up and light it on fire.

So when do you think you’ll be ready to have children?

I don’t know. I just know that I’ve always loved kids, but I’m also frightened of them. Little tiny babies with their little rolling heads [wide-eyed, as if holding a baby], no neck muscles formed yet. They frighten me, you know? But I have a lot of friends who have kids, and it’s great for them, so….

Is marriage your ideal?

Yeah, that is certainly the ideal situation. I wouldn’t do it in this town, though. Ideally I’d have a big chunk of land somewhere, not necessarily in this coun­try, maybe in France or something. A wife, kids, a dog, some chickens, a pig, a mule…. But there is still this part of me that can’t sit around in one spot.

But an actor doesn’t sit around in one spot. Every movie is another location.

Yeah, but one thing about being on a film that’s always uncomfortable for me is that I have to be on the set for a certain time, and I have to be there every day. So for three, four months, I have to be somewhere, and there’s a very strong part of me that doesn’t want to have to be anywhere.

Are you saying you’re getting out of the business someday?

Maybe, I’m not sure. I mean, it could all go away in 20 minutes. Anything’s possible. I like the business — more than I ever did, at this point — and I feel myself becoming more adult about the business. But there are other things I want to do. [Pause] I like the process of creat­ing, whether it’s writing — and this is not nec­essarily for the public, it’s just for me —writing, making little films, drawing, making music for friends, not for any kind of record deal. In the same way, I like acting — I like the collabora­tion between a filmmaker and an actor, an actor and the camera crew, an actor and the grips, because to me all those people are work­ing together and conspiring for me.

What is it about seeing yourself onscreen that makes you queasy?

I don’t know. [Squirming] Everything —it’s just so uncomfortable. I guess, on a real simple lev­el, as an actor, you see things you could have done. [A bird lands at his feet and stares at him as if for food.] Sorry, I don’t have any food. I’ll give him some sugar. [He opens a packet and pours it on the ground. ] But also, I’m comfort­able with the fact that I may never be satisfied with my work and I like that — I don’t want to be too satisfied. [The bird moves to a tree above his head.] He’s sharpening his beak— I think he’s gonna shoot himself into the back of my head, burrow into my skull.

That would be really great for this story. You’ve gone far in your 10 years as an actor.

Yeah, I’ve been very, very lucky.

But is it luck, or did you want it that way?

Well, it is the way I wanted it, but people don’t always get what they want. I’ve been lucky that people like John Waters and Tim Burton were willing to take a chance with me. How did you get Tim to see you?

I resigned myself that he’d never see me in the role |of Edward ScissorhandsJ. I was sent the script by my agent, read it, thought it was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever read, and my agent said I’d meet with Tim Burton. And I said: “Forget it, won’t happen. It’ll just be embarrassing.” I canceled the meet­ing, but my agent pushed me, and I had the meeting, and it went really well. He liked me, I liked him, but still I thought it would never hap­pen. Then I got the call saying I got it and…[shakes bead] I was ecstatic.

And now you’ve just done ‘Ed Wood’ with him.

Ed Wood was a perfect experience. I know that sounds like I’m bullsting because everybody says that after a film, but it was, really, and a perfect escape from playing a serious role in a kind of sad movie like Gilbert Grape.

Ed Wood liked to wear women’s clothes. Did that require lots of research?

No, not really. I just thought I’d get comfortable with the feeling of being in women’s…articles. I’d go out with a tight bra on under my shirt and jacket. Around the house I wore slips and pumps and then tested the waters with garter belts and stockings. I got braver every day.

So what surprised you about the experience?

The shocking thing was how much goes into the process — the stockings, the garters, then doing those things up and then girdles, bras­sieres, straps…. It made me have more respect for you guys — for women — when you get dolled up. And I have a profound respect for transvestites, who get all dolled up and then have things to hide. It’s painful….

Perhaps you kept an angora sweater from the film?

I kept an angora sweater and my pumps.

Oh, really?

I like to keep articles of clothing from films I do. I started on Platoon—I kept part of my uni­form, the boots, I stole the helmet. From Cry-Baby I have my leather jacket and boots and jeans, from Scissorhands I have the costume and the hands, from Benny & Joon the cane, the hats and a jacket or two, from Gilbert Grape I think I just took some clothing.

Are you aware that people say, “He does all those weird movies”?

Yeah. [Laughs] I just don’t see the point in redoing things that have been done 10,000 times and done better by someone else.

But do you consciously not do big mainstream movies that make, like, $100 million?

I’d love to be in a film that makes $300 million — it’d be great. But I’m not gonna do something just to gain more commercial success.

You wouldn’t shy away from car chases and guns?

No. I just don’t feel that it’s right to do something…. I don’t feel like I have to make $15 million or that the picture has to make $300 million. My job is just to try to play a character and take that char­acter from point A to point B to wherever.

In person, you don’t seem hungry or ambitious at all, yet objectively, considering who you’ve worked with, you seem very ambitious.

There are things I’d like to achieve in my life…. I do ultimately want to have enough money so that when I do have kids, they don’t have to worry…. I suppose the only ambition I have is to be able to do the right thing and not have to compromise.

Do you want to create art?

I want to create…things. And if it’s art, then that’s good. If it’s not, then I don’t know what I want to call it. I want to create things and to be involved in creating things. I don’t know if movie making is art, either. I really don’t. When you look at something like Beauty and the Beast by Cocteau, there are things in that film that were so beautiful, so surreal, so great, that you think of it as art. But, I don’t know, is it really? I mean, look, it’s too easy to make something today that people consider art. I don’t think that pouring ketchup on your hand and chopping it off is art.

It just occurs to me that you’re a high school dropout. But you’re well read, you know a lot about art and history. Do you think in any way that you’re compensating for your lack of formal education?

Definitely. But immediately, you know—as soon as I dropped out. When I was in school, I didn’t feel inspired to learn. And when I got out, you know, I wanted to know what my big brother knew. My big brother was a guy who read everything and knew great books and knew great art and knew great music, and I admired that. I don’t think I read a thing in high school.

So you’re making up for lost time?

Sure. You can learn a lot from books. I get obsessed with certain periods in history and the lives of writers and painters, and I want to know about them. And then when I learn about them, I want to know why they did certain things — the process is endless.

Yeah. So let’s just get something over with. Let’s talk about the Viper Room. You were there the night River Phoenix died?

[Nods.]

When did you find out that he had died?

[Clears his throat] Well, before we go into this, which we can, there are two different subjects. One of the subjects is, you know, the unfortunate, very sad death of River. Then there’s me being attacked by tabloids and stuff about the club. So, one, your ques­tion: I found out that it was River at about three or four in the morning. I was calling to find out how the young man was who had been taken away in an ambulance.

I had literally walked off the stage — me and a group of guys were playing—and one of the bouncers said, “One of Flea’s friends is hav­ing some kind of seizure,” or something like that. I walked out the door, and the paramedics were there with this young man, and there was a bunch of people around. And I stood there, and I was hoping that, you know, everything would be OK. And I let the person—who I later found out was Samantha Mathis — I said to her, “If there’s anything we can do, if you need a ride to the hospital, whatever,” and she said: “No, I have a way to the hospital. I’m fine.” And they took him away, and Flea went in the ambulance with him. That was probably one in the morning, and then, later that night, after calling the hospital and calling the club back and calling everybody, I found out that it was.. .that the kid had passed away, and that it was River.

Did you know him?

We had met. We weren’t close friends…and on a professional lev­el, I respected him as an actor. I mean, there was a specific road he was on that I respected as an actor…[struggling], and it’s real­ly unfortunate and a waste, I think. I feel terrible for his family. And I felt angry at the way that the media handled it. And that’s the tabloid press and the legitimate press. A lot of the legitimate press, I thought, really merged with the tabloids on this thing and exploited the situation, and I thought it was really disrespectful and unfortunate that his family and friends had to experience that 911 call, you know? And I don’t know his family, but I understand they’re a very close, strong family…. I just…I’m sympathetic.

You closed the club for a week?

About a week and a half, I think.

Had you considered closing it permanently?

I considered closing it permanently. I…[uneasily] I considered it before that night. Our initial feeling on the club is we —

Who’s “we”?

The other two owners, Sal Jenco and Chuck E. Weiss. We can take this little space on Sunset Boulevard, we can make it nice inside and create a place where people can go and hear Billie Holiday over the sound system, and Louis Jordan and Cab Calloway, and John Coltrane, Frank Sinatra or Chet Baker…. And it took on a life of its own. We had lines outside of the place! And I thought, My God, this is not what I wanted at all. So, yeah, I’ve thought of that all along, since day one.

One story that was printed said that the night the Viper Room re­opened, a well-known drug dealer was standing by the front door.

[Disbelief] Who’s to say? Does a drug dealer wear a sign or a jack­et that says, “I’m a drug dealer”? I mean, who knows who’s what? You cannot — in a nightclub in any city that I know of— go and strip-search people. [Strongly] And I do wonder if these people think that I’m ignorant or insane — that I’m going to allow people to do drugs in a place that I am a part owner of. I would never allow that to happen…. Look, if anything positive is to be gained, it’s this: A normal young man with a good head on his shoulders and a promising future, a guy who was a good human being, made a mis­take. And it’s a mistake that any one of us could make. And kids should know that, and adults should know that. People should know that…. You don’t tarnish the memory of this person because he made a mistake. We’ve all done things we shouldn’t have done. Everybody. No one is exempt.

One more thing, and we’ll change the subject. You’ve answered this before, but once more: Are your drug days far in the past?

[Nods] Yeah, it’s in the past. Definitely.

OK. There’s another subject you don’t want to talk about: your per­sonal life.

[Stiffly] Yeah….

You were married and divorced by the age of 22?

[Warily] Uh-huh.

Are you still friends with your ex-wife?

Yeah.

Since then, you’ve had a succession of serious relationships, three bro­ken engagements.

Uh-huh.

What I’m getting at is, didn’t your divorce scare you from trying mar­riage again?

[Long pause] I think what it all boils down to is, I was having a real good time. [Pause] I mean, i can’t say that I regret anything I’ve done, as far as girlfriends or being engaged goes. I had a good time.

But you didn’t marry any of them….

I am very…I’m uncomfortable planning something in the future. I’m uncomfortable saying, “This is going to be happening when I’m 32,” you know what I mean? So I rely very much on what’s happening at the particular moment, and I like living like that. So if I’ve gotten engaged or if I got mar­ried and divorced and this and that, you know, it’s really —in my opinion —unimportant to anybody else’s lives. It is not going to affect their lives one way or the other, so why are they so curious about it?

They’re curious because these women are famous —

No, when Sherilyn Fenn and I were together, no one had real­ly heard of me. And that was before she had sort of broken out into the public eye.

So what happened?

I mean, I couldn’t give specific reasons for anything that I’ve done, you know, and a team of shrinks couldn’t, either, proba­bly. You know? [Dry laugh] Am I trying to repair my mother and father breaking up? I don’t know. I don’t know what any of it is. And I really, to be hon­est, don’t care, because I don’t regret any of it. I had a really good time.

OK. Let’s lighten up and talk about your movies and the people you’ve worked with. We’ll leave out ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street.’

That was a fun experience. Not many people can say they were sucked through a bed [laughs]

‘Platoon’: What do you remember about Oliver Stone?

Um, Oliver is a really great director. He’s got his methods that, you know, that work. He wanted to keep us angry and kind of hun­gry and confused, and he did certain things that kept us that way. He would try to piss us off. I have a lot of respect for Oliver.

I think you’re being diplomatic.

[Laughs] He’s an interesting guy.

‘Cry-Baby’: Where to begin? A cast of millions….

A great experience.

Obviously you bonded big-time with John Waters.

Yeah, I consider John one of my best friends. But also, not a lot of people can say that they have been able to sit down at a table with Iggy Pop and Patricia Hearst and Polly Bergen and John Waters all at the same time.

What did you think of Patricia Hearst?Photo4

I love her. 1 think she’s great. She’s really a good, good, good per­son. [Pause] I sort of had a crush on her.

‘Edward Scissorhands…’

[Smiles] Edward…

…and Tim Burton…

Tim. I love Tim. Tim’s brain is incredible. He was one of the few people I think I could call a genius. Believe me, I’m careful with that word. But Tim is.

Winona Ryder.

Um…nice girl.

C’mon. As an actress.

A very good actress. A really good actress.

Aidan Quinn in ‘Benny & Joon.’

He is just really a great actor. And my idea of what a real man is: He’s a great husband. He’s a great father…. [Grins] I’m trying to think if there is anyone I can trash…

Please do!

I know. I just can’t think of anyone….

What’s Juliette Lewis like?

Cool. Really calm. Nice, sweet. [Laughs] She’s very funny, you know, I love the way she’s just, like, seen everything. It’s just like [imitating her distinctive voice], ‘Yeah, whatever.’

It’s been written that you two have been dating.

Oh yeah, I know. No, it’s not true. And it was written that we were, you know, shtupping while we were doing the movie.

Shtupping.

Shtupping. No. She’s a friend of mine. We made a film together.

I hear you loved working with Martin Landau in ‘Ed Wood.’

I admire Martin. He’s rejuve­nated my respect for acting and my respect for it as an interest­ing and fun creative process. He made me feel like you can do this and have a great time. I don’t go for the whole troubled-actor thing — the pained, tortured actor. I just feel fortunate and lucky.

So you’ve made a couple of great movies and worked with a lot of inter­esting people. Does it feel like 10 years since you started?

No, no…. [Grins] Uh-uh. It feels like 30 years and 2 years at the same time.

Can you picture yourself in 10 years?

Only, you know, very loosely do I think about things like that. It just doesn’t do any good. I just hope, you know what I mean? I hope everything is OK. I hope my family’s OK. And I hope that I’m able to do the things I want to do, whether it’s acting or whatever—

There you go again, hinting that you’re leaving the business.

[Teasing] Yeah, you never know….

Just promise that you won’t quit the business by the time this story comes out, OK?

[Laughs] No, no, no. I won’t quit.

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