Early Film Career

post #1608 by Lizzy on August 1st, 2009, last updated December 11, 2011

Johnny had taken to blowing off steam on the set and also in real life as he has said that “it wasn’t really rebellion, it was just feeling uncomfortable in my own skin and not really knowing where my place in life was” However he was labeled as the rebel and to those not acquainted with him, viewed on as the same. He has admitted to his down fall in his understanding of life as he said in one interview (rolling stone 2008. ) “I was a dumbass,” Around this time his relationship with Fenn faded out and he was seen with a couple other starlets including Jennifer Grey (from Dirty Dancing). There are plenty of stories about his actions on the set of 21 jump street including setting his underwear on fire and making up the script as he went along. He would throw out his own absurd ideas for the script, feeling this was one way to discount the scripts that he was uncomfortable with. Johnny was open about his feelings that the scripts be more “up to date” and dealing more with what the young people were experiencing in their lives at the time. Although these things may have been viewed by others as out in left field, some were deliberate attempts to be outrageous although some others were serious suggestions to bring Johnny’s ideas of important issues to light. He also was not happy about the fact that he was called upon by the show to speak about different subjects that he felt he had no authority to present to the public. “They wanted me to get on camera in these public announcements telling kids to stay in school, when everyone around knew that I was a drop out. I mean who am I to look these kids in the face with hypocritism?”

Finally, after living with the frustrations in a seemed trap, he was able to accept his next film entitled Cry Baby. bio_early5The offer came in the form of a letter sent to him by John Waters himself. Johnny read the the script and loved the idea of making fun of his huge “teen idol image.” This satire was exactly what the doctor ordered for Johnny. A way to blow off some steam while using his talents to share in a creative project that would allow him to start spreading his wings. Waters was looking for an actor that could take a step back and laugh at himself and he also wanted a young actor that could pull in the “hip” crowd. He found Johnny exactly what he wanted for the role, talented, willing to take a gamble on a role and more than willing to poke fun at the image he so wanted to shed. Johnny was more than happy to oblige Waters and dove right in to the film. He was even more pleased when John encouraged him while filming to contribute to the script with his own input and ideas. Johnny had nothing but praise for Waters saying that “John would actually want to hear my ideas, he would go out there and work with me if I had a problem with a part of the film, he’s the only director I have worked with that would go there.” Johnny’s character was a guitar player and musician and even though Johnny did not himself provide the vocals for the musical numbers, he was very involved in supervising the choices of vintage guitars and amplifiers for the film. He also was able to not pretend to play the guitar numbers but show them in the real life talent he possessed. This was just another asset to the choice of this role for him. Johnny’s costars and peers in the film would soon find that Johnny was a joy to work with and he befriended many of them who he kept in contact with in the years to come. They found him hardworking and dedicated and also willing to learn and try new things. “It is rare to find a young star willing to take constructive criticism and suggestions like Johnny welcomed them”, stated Waters. Cry baby found quick audience and a worldwide appeal as it became hugely popular in other countries even more than in America, partly due to the fact that the genre was lost on the young crowd in the U.S. who had outgrown the Elvis idea of the fifties. Johnny still had to return to 21 for one more season, but was finally able to start shedding his skin thanks to Cry Baby.
bio_early4 This was about the time that Johnny met Winona Ryder at her premiere for the film Great Balls of Fire (1989). It has been said that they met in the lobby and it was love at first sight for them both. “It was a classic glance like in West Side Story where everything else went foggy,” Johnny is quoted to have said. A couple of months later they were introduced properly by a mutual friend. Johnny shared this thought; “When I met Winona and we fell in love it was absolutely like nothing ever before-ever. They found that they shared many things in common and became “Hollywood’s newest couple.” Of course their relationship was played out in the tabloids and the press and to this day is still talked about among many. There are a great deal of quotes and information about this part of Johnny’s life and even now after all this time it lingers as a time-mark in his public life. For this reason it is not necessary to expand much more on this subject.

bio_early7 The next film offer to come Johnny’s way would be the film Edward Scissorhands. He had been after Winona to play opposite him in the film and she agreed. She was already committed to another film, but for certain reasons could not fulfill that commitment and so she gladly accepted the film offer. The film was directed by a young upcoming director named Tim Burton. The idea came from Tim’s own personal inability to communicate as a child. He felt that he could not express himself in a proper way and so he wrote the script of Edward to help portray his feelings of Americas inability to accept diversity itself. Edward the main character was a boy with wild hair and pale skin, he possessed scissors in place of hands and was stored away from the world not only outside but inside as well. Johnny has spoken many times about the role in which he was meant to play, “I felt so attached to this story?How could I convince the director that I was Edward, that I knew him inside and out?” Johnny was sure that this was a once in a lifetime chance and the meeting between the two genius minds was arranged right away. (This was a meeting of destiny and unbeknownst to either one of them would help to mold their futures.) They met at the coffee shop of the Bel Age Hotel in Los Angeles. There they were, these two individuals who although think above the normal mind and imagination, stumble and stutter through their wording and share a awkwardness for using words to relate. Even now it can be seen talking to them together that they share a certain understanding and mindset, also a uncomfortable feeling in explaining thoughts and impressions. Johnny and Tim have both talked on numerous occasions about their first meeting. Johnny has said, “After sharing three of four pots of coffee, stumbling our was through each other’s unfinished sentences but somehow still understanding each other, we ended the meeting with a hand shake and a ‘nice to meet you’.” Tim has said this about his first meeting with Johnny, “Johnny is very much known as a teen idol and he’s perceived as difficult and aloof. As a person he’s funny and warm, a great guy. He’s a normal guy-at least my interpretation of normal-but he’s completely the opposite of this perception.bio_early8
So the themes of Edward, of image and perception, of somebody being perceived to be the opposite of what he is, was a theme he could relate to.” Tim was glad to have Winona in the other leading role, he had worked with her before on Beetlejuice. Johnny has talked about the fact that this was a very difficult time for him and that he relied greatly on the experience and input of the other more seasoned actors on the set. He also said that Edward was such an unique individual that he saw him as “having the innocence of a new-born or the unconditional love of a puppy.” Johnny was very honored to work with such a seasoned cast and felt close to them all, especially Vincent Price who was a father figure to Johnny during the filming and whom he had contact with until Price’s death, soon after the film. At first Johnny said that it was difficult trying to move around and live in the costume with no hands, but soon it became a part of him and felt very comfortable. There was more than one incident on the set with the blades as in one scene when Anthony Michael Halls character has to confront Edward and Johnny accidentally punctured Hall slightly on the arm. Johnny apologized over and over again to Anthony, who told Johnny “it’s cool man.” The experience of working on Edward Scissorhands encouraged Johnny tremendously, he had found new friends and let his new experience guide him through his beginnings of the “movie making monster” that can be somewhat aggravating. Johnny was adamant about staying true to the roles he felt drawn to. “I never want to settle into complacency?to be satisfied is to stop growing”, Johnny has this feeling of his work and goals in his films.

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The biography up to and including “Serious acting” is now under copywrite and trademark by Johnny-Depp.org and Laura Elizabeth Cline, (lizzy4depp). It may not be used without credit on any other work or website.

Thanks to Martina for allowing me to write and her help and support and to Beth for helping with research. Also to Just_Me for writing parts of the old biography here.

Sources for this new biography are “Johnny Depp A Modern Rebel by Brian j. Robb”,
“Johnny Depp an illustrated Biography by Nick Johnstone”, “The secret world of Johnny Depp by Nigel Goodall” and “Depp” by Christopher Heard, as well as different interviews seen and read through the years.






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