What Makes Johnny Famous?

What Makes Johnny Famous?
Icon, June 1998
by Dana Shapiro

Despite relentless attempts to abandon the image that launched his career, Johnny Depp can’t seem to escape his own face.
Once told a front desk clerk that his name was Mr. Donkey Penis…used to hang off the ledge of a parking structure with Nicolas Cage… was spotted in a gay bar with John Waters…had his “Winona Forever” tattoo surgically altered to read “Wino Forever”…got a speeding ticket…broke some furniture…slept in the bed where Oscar Wilde died…got in an argument with a photographer named Jonathan Walpole in a London pub; “He pulled both my ears,” Walpole said. “Very hard.” “I’ve just handed Johnny Depp a thick stack of press clippings downloaded from the data retrieval service, Lexis-Nexis. “You just type in ‘Johnny Depp’ with a headline restriction, and this is the type of stuff that comes out,” I explain.
He flips through the pages with a mix of intrigue, amusement, and disgust, reading the occasional quote that catches his attention. “Jesus,” he says, “this is bizarre.” Depp charged with assaulting a security guard in Vancouver in 1989, described Canadians as ‘Moosehead-drinking hockey players,'” he laughs. “Good lord,” he says. “Wow, this is weird: ‘Emir Kusturica] and Johnny carried around
Dostoevsky books and Kerouac books and they wore black. They had never worn black in their lives. They kept everybody in the cast and crew awake all night because they were blasting music and getting drunk.’ I think Vincent Gallo said that.” He continues flipping. This is amazing,” he says. “What’s it called–Lexis-Nexis?”
It’s two o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon and Depp is eating chicken chow mein at the Formosa Cafe, the star-clogged Hollywood restaurant that open in 1946 across the street from the Goldwyn Studios (now the Warner Hollywood Studios). Outside in the parking lot are mock reserved spots for Frank Sinatra, Clark Gable, Bette Davis, Lee Marvin, Grace Kelly, Larry, Moe, Curly, and Elvis–“Nothing But a Hound Dog” on the sound system.
I bet she used to be a real dish,” Depp says quietly of the waitress, a skinny, motherly woman with extra makeup and a wink for the movie star. She doesn’t say anything fan-like, but it’s clear she knows who Depp is–after the meal, he’s allowed to smoke in the nonsmoking section. “You wouldn’t happen to have a toothpick, would you?” Depp asks her.
On the walls above the table, and all over the restaurant, hang the autographed faces of everyone from Tony Curtis to Michael Douglas to Liza Minelli to John Ritter. “Meet me at the Formosa” reads the sign above the bar. “Where the stars dine.”
Whether or not you consider Johnny Depp a “star” depends on whether you chalk the concept of fame up to public recognition, acclaim, hatred, or talent. JonBenet Ramsey is famous for dying. Dennis Rodman is famous for making himself famous. Thomas Pynchon is famous for not being famous. And then there are those who become famous by dating famous people–Gwyneth Paltrow, Rande Gerber, Donovan Leitch, Nicole Kidman–an unfortunate factor that has kept Depp’s name in print and made his personal life more marketable than his films.
“There’s an episode, a little moment on Beavis and Butt-head that I really like,” says filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, Depp’s good friend who directed him in the 1996 film Dead Man. “They’re watching a Tom Petty video and Beavis is saying, ‘Why is this guy so famous?’ And Butt-head says, ‘Because he’s always on TV.’ Beavis says, ‘Yeah, but why is he always on TV?’ Butt-head says, ‘Because he’s famous.’ And Beavis is getting really upset, y’know, because he can’t follow that concept–why are people famous?”
Four years ago, Tim Burton called Depp and said, “What are you doing?” and Depp said, “Hanging out,” and Burton said, “Can you meet me at the Formosa Cafe in about 20 minutes?” Depp said, “Yeah, yeah I’ll be there.” When he arrived, Burton was sitting at the far end of the bar, having a beer. “So I sat down, we had a beer, and he says, ‘I got this story,'” Depp recalls. “And he started talking about the film, and within five minutes I was like, “Okay, let’s do it, I’m there. Just say when.'” Burton had the idea of making a black and white biopic of the transvestite filmmaker Ed Wood and wanted Depp to play the lead. (It was Burton who, four years earlier, legitimized Depp’s acting career when he chose him–over Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, and Michael Jackson, among many others–to play the role of an innocent experiment whose scissorhands keep him in fear of cutting what he truly loves.)
While Edward Scissorhands certainly called attention to Depp’s potential, it was his role as Ed Wood that solidified his status as an actor, proving he had a range beyond the passive handsomeness of his previous roles in Arizona Dream, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, and Benny and Joon. Unlike, say, Tom Cruise, whose looks are obscured by a gung-ho enthusiasm that makes even his dramatic roles seem like action-adventure, Depp’s brooding face and mannered coolness can be distracting. The most obvious exceptions are Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood, because in the former Depp’s face is disguised with makeup and scars, and in the latter he turns the passivity into a put-on–Ed Wood is more of a caricature than a character, and for that reason, Depp is all the more effective.
When Depp was shooting Ed Wood, Jarmusch was staying at his house in L.A. and recalls how the role of the grinning, panty-wearing “worst director of all time” was making his friend a little weird. “At the end of the day, I’d hang out with him or whatever and he was Ed Wood for at least three or four hours after he’d leave the set,” recalls Jarmusch. “He had this stupid smile on his face, and I’d ask him, ‘Johnny, what do you want to eat–Thai, Chinese, Italian?’ And he’d say, ‘They all sound great! Everything’s terrific! What would you like? And it was so not Johnny. I just wanted to slap him–come one, cut it out, you’re scaring me. But he couldn’t. I really gave me the creeps.”
Though Depp says his role as the withdrawn, unfinished monster in Edward Scissorhands is closest to his own personality, his role as William Blake in Jarmusch’s Dead Man may be a closer parallel to the boy from Kentucky who moved to L.A. to get a record deal but wound up with his face spread across the covers of every teen magazine in America, unintentionally becoming known as a heartthrob. In the film, Depp plays a soft-spoken accountant from Cleveland who goes west to the industrialized town of Machine with a letter promising him a job, but when he gets there, nobody seems to know who he is. He goes to the local bar, where an act of chivalry leads to a self-defense murder, and his face winds up spread across the covers of Wanted posters, unintentionally becoming known as a killer. The rest of the film is spent running away from, and ultimately confronting, the image on the poster.
“Johnny’s character is sort of like a blank slate, and everyone projects an identity onto him that he doesn’t even understand necessarily,” Jarmusch explains. “He’s not an outlaw, violent-type guy, but he gets made into a wanted, hunted criminal. And Johnny has that too, in that he has the ability to let others project things onto him. And it happens to him in his real life as well–movie star, bad boy–whatever they project onto Johnny seems, to me, so far off from who he really is.”
“When I first met him I thought he was just that dork from 21 Jump Street,” says Vincent Gallo, who stars with Depp in Arizona Dream. “What’s interesting about Johnny is that he’s been able to permeate the mainstream without pandering to it.” Juliette Lewis, who played Depp’s love interest in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, says, “We were linked together in the first three weeks of filming, but we never even talked to each other really. I worked with him, but I don’t have a clue who he is as a person. I mean, that’s something to say.” “If you don’t mention how shy he is, you’ll be missing the boat on a lot of stuff,” says Peter DeLuise, who played big Doug next to Depp’s small Tom on 21 Jump Street. “The reality is that he’s a tiny, little, sensitive guy, and more times than not, he’s overwhelmed with people coming up to him.”
How do you like your potatoes?
“My favorite way to eat anything is fried,” Depp says. “Gotta be fried.”
Chicken fried steak?
“Oh, f**k. Live for it. Love it.
So you like McDonald’s better than Burger King.
“I love ’em both. But I think I love Burger King maybe a little better. I know it’s char-broiled, I knot, but…I’m a big advocate of fast food. I’m from the South. I’m complete and total and utter white trash, and that’s okay, y’know. I love pork, I live for pork. I just think pork is the best thing in the world.”
Did Winona Ryder eat pork?
“Yeah, Winona ate pork.”
How about Kate Moss?
“Kate eats pork, hell yeah. She’s English.”
But you’re single now, right?
“I’m single now, yeah.”
Is it strange looking up at a billboard and seeing your ex-girlfriend?
“No, it’s nice, you know? It’s nice to be able to sort of drive by and wave, say hi. It’s sweet. I like seeing her face.”
Do you date vegetarians?
I”I did date a vegetarian actually. And she’d sit there and watch me feast on some pig snout, hog snout. Yeah, I’ve dated a couple vegetarians.”
Do you trust vegetarians?
“I don’t really trust anybody who doesn’t eat pork. I mean, it’s fine if you’re a vegetarian, but fuckin’ A, man, how can you not eat pork?”
What’s interesting about Depp is not that his parents got divorced, not that he dates mostly white women, not that he pulled some guy’s ears for repeatedly asking Kate Moss’s friend for a cigarette and then taking a sip of her drink (actually, that is kind of interesting), not that he smoked some pot or swallowed some acid. What’s most interesting about Depp is his career. Not because it was launched by playing an androgynous sex symbol on the Fox Network’s first hit show, 21 Jump Street, not because he showed his ass in the embarrassing Private Resort, but because the films that he’s chosen to be in, and the fact that he’s chosen to be in them, is, for lack of a better word, interesting.
“I think Hollywood would have preferred to have made him into a different kind of product,” Jarmusch says. “Johnny’s not your typical player–you can see by the choices he makes. He hasn’t done the Nick Cage-type of moves, to be in big action movies.”
It’s an observation worth exploring because Depp’s films are atypical (past costars include Joe Dallesandro, Patty Hearst, Traci Lords, Vincent Price, George “The Animal” Steele, Jerry Lewis, and Robert Mitchum), and Nicholas Cage (besides introducing Depp to acting) is a relevant person to bring up, if only for the sake of contrast. Cage launched a career with the same type of “oddball” roles that Depp has become know for taking–Valley Girl, Birdy, Vampire’s Kiss, Wild at Heart–but now he’s making summer blockbusters. Conversely, Depp began his film career by playing preppy roles in mall-targeted films like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Private Resort, and went on to make films like Arizona Dream, Ed Wood, and Dead Man–good work that few people saw.
What’s also interesting is how this self-proclaimed white trash, high school drop-out wound up living in Bela Lugosi’s old mansion in the Hollywood Hills and getting A-list acting offers when not one of his 14 starring roles has ever been nominated for an Oscar, and the highest grossing movie that he ever starred in (Edward Scissorhands: $56 million) came out eight years ago.
Of Depp’s last three major releases since Ed Wood–all more “typical” than his usual work–Nick of Time seemed to be the most conspicuous peek over the “mainstream” fence, but Christopher Walken, John Badham (the director of Saturday Night Fever), and the film’s Hitchcockian roots made a good defense for Depp’s bad decision. Before that, Don Juan DeMarco was almost legitimized by Marlon Brando’s surprising participating and Depp’s authentic accent, and Donnie Brasco had ex-Godfather Al Pacino and an identity-questioning script to separate it from a genre that should have ended with Goodfellas in 1991. Still, none of these films approached the original craftiness of Ed Wood.
Of Nick of Time–released three years before this month’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (directed by Terry Gilliam and starring Depp as Hunter S. Thompson’s alter-ego, Raoul Duke)–Waters says: “Of all Johnny’s movies, I wouldn’t pick it as my favorite.” Jarmusch: “Nick of Time wasn’t a movie that interested me very much, nor did the character that he played.” DeLuise: “I thought Nick of Time was a valiant attempt, although I don’t think it really worked as they thought it might.” While it seems unanimous that Nick of Time was the low point, Depp’s recent decisions–to star in Roman Polanski’s next project, The Ninth Gate, and as the lead in the Hughes Brothers’ biopic of, curiously, Howard Hughes–once again show he is more attracted to working with certain actors and directors than increasing his visibility at the multiplex. “His motivations are based on what makes his life interesting,” Jarmusch says, “rather than what skyrockets his quote for a film or whatever.”
What certainly hasn’t skyrocketed Depp’s quote–and perhaps his riskiest career move yet–was his directorial debut, The Brave (based on the book by Gregory McDonald and co written with his brother Dan), a film about a Cherokee Indian who agrees to be in a snuff film to earn money for his family. It stars Depp, Brando, and Max Perlich, and features a score by Iggy Pop. The poster for The Brave (which Depp has hanging in his house) features an image of a painted creature that looks like a Basquiat scrawl–Depp saw it on a wall, and has no idea who did it. But perhaps the most striking aspect of the promotional image is that Depp neglected to put his own face on it. (For now, anyway.)
As a first-time director, Depp says he was “scared shitless” for the film’s premiere last year at the 50th Cannes Film Festival. “You walk up the red carpet, you know, the whole thing: go up there, wave, go in and sit down and watch the film with 2,500 people. Film goes through. No coughs, no moving shoes. You’re charged, you’re out of your mind, you’re everything. You’re dying, you’re ready to vomit, you’re shaking, you want nothing but to get horribly drunk. And at the same time you’re really proud, and you’re embarrassed, because you feel exposed, you know? You just feel like you’ve ripped your chest cavity open and just begged someone to s**t in it.”
Which is not far from what some critics did, and with a vengeful sort of glee. By most accounts, The Brave was booed at the 8:30 AM press screening, but found a much warmer reception later that evening at the official premiere. Lisa Schwarzbaum, a critic from Entertainment Weekly who was at the press screening, recalls, “It had a nice look to it, it was beautifully lit, had a very moody feeling to it, but was sort of astonishingly not ready to be seen. It was actually kind of embarrassing. He really needed somebody older who wouldn’t be afraid to say, ‘You know, Johnny, nice idea, but let’s sit on this for a while. Let’s get a little life behind you before you take on something like this.’ With any luck, it will never be released and nobody will ever have to see it, and I mean that for him as well as the audience.”
Says Waters, who was with Depp later that night for the premiere: “Well, it’s very serious, but it’s certainly arty. He didn’t make a commercial kind of movie, which I think is good. People loved it.”
But the film has yet to be picked up, and Depp seems frustrated by the negative press. “Hollywood Reporter, Variety, all these f**king things, they come out and they say, ‘The Brave was booed last night’. Well, they lied. And distributors were scared shitless. It was a film that was over two hours long, it got booed, you know–they thought it got booed–but it’s like, the people in this town play Follow-the-Leader, man. If Joe down the street has a really nice pair of sneakers but, you know, Bob doesn’t know if he likes them or not until he sees Sue’s boyfriend Lance wearing them. Then if two people like ’em, I’m there, y’know? That kind of mentality is like a fuckin’ disease.”
In 1986, Depp spent 10 weeks in the jungles of the Philippines filming Platoon, only to come home and find his part as Lerner the translator had been almost completely chopped out of the finished film, partly because Oliver Stone thought the Lerner character was diluting the good-guy power of Charlie Sheen, and partly, Depp says, for his changing some lines (something he says he does often). Around this time, he began dating Sherilyn Fenn (Twin Peaks, Just One of the Guys), one of four girls he’s been engaged to in his life. (“Haven’t you seen the bumper sticker in L.A.?” asks Jennifer Grey, who was engaged to Depp for eight months in 1989: “Honk if you’ve been engaged to Johnny Depp.”)
Depp’s first fiancee, Lori Ann Allison (a makeup artist five years his senior), became his wife for two years in 1983. “I was engaged to Sherilyn, um. I was engaged to Winona. I was engaged to Jennifer Grey,” Depp says. “Out of respect to the girls I was with, I’ll just answer that I was engaged to those people. But a lot was written about that s**t, and it was taken to another level and it was turned into some kind of horrible joke, you know. I like the idea of marriage. I don’t know if I believe in it, but I like the idea, the concept. I don’t know if one person can be with one person until they die. I don’t know if that’s humanly possible.”

What Makes Johnny Famous – part 2

Disappointed with the outcome of his part in Platoon, Depp accepted the job to play an undercover high school cop named Tom Hanson on 21 Jump Street, a decision he says was almost entirely wrong. He never wanted to be a TV actor, but the prospect of a steady paycheck and his hunch that the show wouldn’t last more than a season outweighed his artistic ambitions. “Actually, there were good people involved, and in terms of the camera, the lighting, marks, television is a great education” Depp says. “So that was like college for me. So that was like college for me. But I just didn’t want to be involved in that kind of assembly-line s**t, you know? I didn’t want to be a product. I didn’t want to be a product. I didn’t want to be that thing, that hunk s**t or whatever. It wasn’t me.
21 Jump Street became the flagship show for Fox, and consequently Depp became the poster child for the up-and-coming network, his face on every ad they took out. “He was the star,” says DeLuise. “There was no doubt in anybody’s mind, and I think he really resented that. On the show they would always randomly cut back to his face while he was listening to other people talk–he was forced to react and make faces, and that made him mad. So Jim [Whitmore, the director] came up with this great idea: he said “I’ll tell you what, you don’t have to make faces, I will give you the subtext of the scene. There is poop somewhere nearby, and at the beginning of the scene you sense there is poop, and then you actually smell the poop, and then you can’t seem to get away from the poop, and then you need to know where the poop is. Now just work on that.” And if you look at the expression on Johnny’s face, he is trying to find the poop.”
“I was bored to tears and I was dying,” Depp says of his days on the show. “I was chewing my own leg. Whitmore would do things like that to keep the scene interesting for me. If you had the subtext that somewhere in this room was s**t, it made a lot more go on during the scene.”
Around this time in Baltimore, John Waters (Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble) was looking through teen galleries/magazines for a boy to play the role of Cry Baby Walker, a leather clad “drape” with a tattoo of an electric chair on his chest. “With Cry Baby, I was trying to make a job, a satire of an Elvis movie,” Waters explains, “and to me, Johnny certainly looked right. He looked like the perfect juvenile delinquent. Then I watched 21 Jump Street and I met him and I knew he had a sense of humor–that was the main thing. And he told me he hated being a teen idol. I said, ‘Stick with us, we’ll kill that. Don’t worry.'”
“John saved me, he really did,” Depp says. “Because I was desperate to get out of that mold, y’know, and desperate to not be a product anymore. And by doing Cry Baby, and John giving me that gig, it was a major turning point. I always like to say that John Waters made me a millionaire. I used to always say that to him: “‘Do you realize you made me a millionaire?'”
But it was a symbiotic relationship. Without Depp, Waters wouldn’t have been able to get the money to make the type of campy musical he wanted to make, and without Waters, Depp wouldn’t have gotten the chance to spit at his own face. And it worked. “Cry Baby still plays constantly on cable and all over Europe, and that’s thanks to Johnny. Because even if it was not successful in some countries, it can play now because it’s a Johnny Depp movie, not a John Waters movie. And I think Johnny can thank me for ending him being a teen idol.”
Though barely any of Depp’s teen magazine-reading fans ever saw the movie, the right people obviously got the joke because that same year (1990) Depp was cast in the highly sought-after role of Edward Scissorhands. “I didn’t even want to meet Tim Burton [who was just coming off Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and Beetlejuice],” Depp recalls. “I wanted to but I thought it was pointless. Tracy [Jacobs, Depp’s agent] forced me to. I just said, ‘No way, it’s embarrassing.’ You know, something you want so badly and he’s never gonna see me as that, never. He’s gonna think, ‘Aaw, fuckin’ TV actor s**t.’ Everybody wanted that fuckin’ role, so I just thought, ‘Hell, why would he give it to me?'”
Burton did give it to him, and subsequently added to the image-smearing process that Waters had started. After Depp had gone overboard proving what he wasn’t in Cry Baby, he found in Edward a character that he truly identified with. “I just knew the guy, I knew the character. I knew everything,” he says. “I remember it was the 89th day–right before I did my last shot on the movie which was doing the ice sculpture with Kim, Winona’s character. And I remember getting the makeup on, and everything, and looking in the mirror before I went to set, and I’m thinking, ‘f**k, this is the last time I’m gonna see this guy,’ you know, this is it, this is the last time. It was like saying goodbye. It fuckin’ made me cry, it was weird, it was bizarre. I really, really, really miss him.”
Did you know there’s a porno called Edward Penishands?
“Yeah, I’ve seen it,” Depp says. “It’s great, it’s really funny. It’s the same deal, y’know, Edward, the fuckin’ hair and everything, and the suit, the black thing, but instead of scissors for hands, he’s got these massive fuckin’ penises, just huge dicks on each hand–huge, though. He’s real timid and all that stuff, and girls come to him and really like him a lot, and, y’know, he can f**k three women–he’s got one here, one here, and then he’s got his own.”
What feature do you look for in a woman?
“Everything.”
How do you feel about feet?
“Feet are very important. Feet are very, very important.”
Are they pretty high up on the priority list?
“Way up, yeah, about top two.”
What would be an example of bad feet?
“Bad feet, let’s see. Long toenails. Horrible, can’t even think about it. Long toenails is a bad move. It’s just an awful image, y’know.”
What if the second toe is longer than the first toe?
“That’s okay. It depends, y’know, the aesthetic of the…there should be a certain symmetry to feet. And I’m not a big symmetry fan. I like things a bit asymmetrical–in fact I need that–but feet, there’s gotta be a certain symmetry to the feet. Feet say a lot. If a girl doesn’t take care of her feet, there may be problems elsewhere.”
Do you think it’s important to be able to fart in front of each other in a relationship?
“I’m not so sure.”
No?
“Hmm…”
She shouldn’t
“I’m not sure she should.”
Should you?
“I’m not sure it’s the kind of thing that boys and girls should be doing together. Some things should be private, you know?”
“Johnny has a Porsche, right, and he had to pick Marlon Brando up from his house–they were going somewhere–and Brando was like, ‘John, I’m so disappointed, I can’t believe you have a Porsche, I don’t want to be seen with you in this car, how can you possibly…'” recalls Jarmusch. “This whole thing with Brando–‘I’m not riding in a Porsche with John’–he was really putting it down, it was really funny.”
Depp’s black Porsche Carrera 4 is parked near a sealed green gate in the Hollywood Hills. There is a security key pad next to the gate and a camera to see who’s pressing the buttons. The doors open, and I look around what was once Bela Lugosi’s backyard (Depp bought the house in 1995 for $2.3 million). It looks gothic and intricate, like a dirty Hollywood castle that was scrubbed clean. A big metal, yellow gorilla stands near the edge of the property with a large, semi-erect penis spewing forth a stream of water that, I’m told, is sometimes cranked up and pointed into the neighbor’s yard. The words “You Can Run But You Can’t Hide” are spray painted in black letters across his chest. “Something they did annoyed him so he rigged it up so it would piss on them,” Jarmusch says, “which is very Johnny. He has this adolescent kind of humor, and that prankster-style revenge.”
The security camera is connected to a four-part black-and-white monitor that sits in what could otherwise be a kitchen in a Better Homes and Gardens spread (aside from the few cans of Drum tobacco on the kitchen table. There is a basket of fruit, boxes of cereal, stacks of books, pots, pans, and candles. There is a bottle of Cuervo 1800 on the window sill, a black-and-white pit-bull mix names Moo (a gift from Moss, who Depp met in February 1994 and dated until recently), Palmolive by the sink and a man, Mr. Pink (who lives in the guest house), making a salad that Johnny apparently adores. This is the brightest room in the house.
The bar is off the kitchen. There are beers on draft, a stocked wall of booze, a sound system, and low-dipping leather chairs placed around an old table. In the corner are the steel painted scissorhands displayed in a glass case, as well as a prototype for an Edward Scissorhands doll that never got made, and the wispy wig for his part in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. On the walls hang paintings, the Wanted poster from Dead Man, a personalized record plaque from Oasis, pictures of Kerouac, Burroughs, Cocteau.
Sitting deep in a chair, Depp is rolling and smoking Drum after Drum and telling me how people have called him Johnny his whole like. “My grandfather would call me Big John, but my mom and dad and sisters and brother, they always called me Johnny. People always say it sounds fake–Johnny Depp. I remember when I was with my first agent and she said, ‘Um, what do you want your name to be?’ It was such an odd question, I said, ‘What do you mean?’ And she said, ‘You know, in the credits and stuff.’ And I said, “Johnny, I guess. Johnny Depp. Why?’ ‘Are you sure you don’t want to be John Depp or John Christopher Depp or John Depp II or John Christopher Depp II?'”
The youngest of four children (two sisters, one brother), Depp grew up in the working-class suburb of Owensboro, Kentucky. Their house and neighborhood, Depp says, were similar to the 1950s pastel land of Edward Scissorhands: tract housing, neat lawns, quiet streets. John Depp Sr. was a public servant working as a civil engineer, and his wife, Betty Sue (whose name Johnny had tattooed on his left bicep), was a waitress at a local restaurant–she gave birth to her most famous child on June 9, 1963. “My mom is one of my best friends in the world,” Depp says. “It’s interesting, my dad’s a big guy, a really fuckin’ tough-looking guy, but the advice [on how to fight] came from my mom. I’ll never forget it; she told me when I was little: ‘Lookit, you get in a fight with somebody, and they’re bigger than you, you pick up the biggest fuckin’ brick you can find and you lay ’em out, you just fuckin’ knock ’em out.'”
When Depp was seven, the family moved to Miramar, Florida, a small town near Miami. They lived in a motel for a year before his father found work as a public works official. It was in Miramar that Depp would meet Sal Jenco, his best friend since then who now runs Depp’s Hollywood club, the Viper Room (opened in August 1993)–and the inspiration for the name of Iggy Pop’s cross-dressing character in Dead Man.
Depp was always more interested in rock ‘n’ roll types than sports figures, but says that when he was a kid, he could tell you every player on the Miami Dolphins. “I can remember being a little kid in Florida and loving Jim Kick,” he says. “It was Kick and Csonka, they were the running backs. And I loved Jim Kick. Not because he was a brilliant player–he was a good back, he was solid–but I loved him because he was the first guy in the NFL to have long hair and a Fu Manchu, you know? I liked him because he was an outsider.”
Despite a face that one might assume would automatically put Depp in the popular clique of his high school, he maintains that, like Kick, he was an outsider. “High school can be fun I guess, hang out with girls, make friends and all that s**t, but that just wasn’t for me,” he says. “There were sort of different classes of people–I guess it still exists. There are the jocks, and the smart kids with good grades and stuff, and there was like rednecks or something, and then there are the burnouts. I was considered a burnout. I was just, you know, kid of a weed-head.”
He avoids specifics, but says that he went through a difficult period when he was 15 years old and his parents got divorced. “I had issues, major problems with that, how [my father] left and what-not. So we had a little bit of a rough spot, but we cleared it up and we’re good now, now we get along real well. Yeah, I love my pop. And I love–you know, I worship my mom.”
Though as a kid he liked to flip through the channels looking for old black-and white movies, especially Dracula and Frankenstein, Depp says he never even considered a career in film. He remembers his older brother Dan introducing him to A Clockwork Orange and Last Tango in Paris (his first glimpse at Brando) when he was 13, but it was the guitar his mother bought him that same year that would have the greatest impact on the youngest Depp. He learned to play sitting in his room, and when he was 17, he joined a local band called The Kids. They became well known in the South Florida punk rock scene–opening for Iggy Pop, Talking Heads, the Pretenders, The Ramones–and Depp truly thought that they were going to make it. He says the music was “kind of loud, aggressive power pop–at the time I would’ve compared it to early U2.”
When he was 20, Depp moved to L.A. with the band (renamed Six Gun Method because they weren’t kids anymore) in search of “the almighty record deal.” They did okay, but their presence was nothing compared to what it was in Florida. “It was real difficult out in L.A.–we’d play at these little clubs,” he says. “We were trying to build a following and stuff, but you make no money. You’d make literally, like, 25 bucks.” To supplement his income, Depp took to selling pens over the phone, “My first experience with acting,” he says.
Before long, “the band sort of stopped. We were all homesick and the majority of them split. I was sort of left hanging with no band,” Depp says, “and I was just going to make the movie.”
The movie was Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street. Depp’s ex-wife Lori had introduced him to Nicolas Cage, who convinced him to go on his first casting call in front of the director, whose young daughter happened to be there watching and seems to have been instrumental in getting Depp the job. He earned $1,200 a week–“shocking money,” he says–and made his screen debut as Glen Lantz, the main character’s preppy boyfriend who falls asleep and gets swallowed by a bed and then spit up with a stream of blood. The aspiring rock ‘n’ roller was now an actor.
“To me he’s more a rock ‘n’ roll-type guy than a Hollywood guy,” Jarmusch says, a perception that is only strengthened by Depp’s high-profile girlfriends, his association with bands like Oasis, the Butthole Surfers, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the fact that he got caught tossing things around a hotel room. In September 1994, Depp made all the papers when he was arrested at New York’s Mark Hotel and charged with two counts of criminal mischief after allegedly trashing the hotel room where he was staying with Moss. It was perhaps his biggest–and most ironic–media moment: The boy who became a household face playing a copy on TV, then satirized the copy by getting arrested in Cry Baby, was now in the pages of People wearing a ski hat and sunglasses, being escorted to the 19th Precinct in handcuffs.
“People did a piece on me like I was some kind of hellion on the road to ruin,” Depp says. “And they went out and found the picture that made me look the most unhealthy and debauched and put it on the cover. Such disgusting pigs.”
Have you ever spent a fair amount of time with a writer, trusted them, and then they twisted the story around and wrote some slasher piece about you?
“Absolutely,” Depp says.
Want to yell at anyone?
“There was this cretin at Esquire magazine–and they were cunts, man–it was after the Mark incident, and this guy had a hard-on for me in the worst way, it was so apparent, he wore it all over his face and his clothing–it was all over him. And when I showed up for the photo shoot, they had built an entire hotel suite on stage. And this fuckin’ weak pathetic photographer–this glorified paparazzi–was going along with this idea. And I said, ‘What’s this for?’ and he said, ‘Well, we thought, or the magazine thought, you might enjoy taking the piss out of the incident and just beating the s**t out of this hotel room and just f**king destroying it.’ I said. ‘Wow, this must have cost you a lot of money, building this.’ ‘Yeah, it really did,’ he said. And I said, ‘I’m not f**king touching it.'”
Back at the table in the bar of Depp’s house, I pull out a copy of a cheezy unauthorized biography called Johnny Depp: A Modern Rebel. There is a picture of him as Cry Baby on the cover–leather jacket, Elvis hair, a tattooed tear dripping from his left eye–but the irony of Waters’ creation is completely lost in this context. It looks earnest.
Getting arrested in front of a camera may have been the most effective scene in Depp’s image-killing campaign, but the incident launched a whole new set of labels. “A modern rebel,” Depp says, laughing, holding the book. “Someone showed this to me, and at first I was like, ‘Oh f**k.’ But then–check this out…” He turns to the introduction and points to the first photo in the book. It’s a full-page shot: gelled hair, face half-buried in the crook of his arm, one eye peeking out at the reader. It isn’t him. Depp laughs and says the guy in the photo looks like he’s from New Jersey or something, that he has never tight-rolled his jeans like that, and most importantly, the guy in the picture can grow a beard–Depp can’t. He hands the book back to me with a smile that seems almost proud. “That’s what makes this book f**king genius.”

CANNES/MAY 15, 1998: ENJOY YOUR TRIP!

ust as a drug trip, the day was an upward motion from reality to a dream, with its rise and its flash when I met Johnny and remembering our meeting when I went to bed after a very special trip.

THE PRESS CONFERENCE: A bad beginning. For the beginning of the day, I’m not really lucky. The press conference is over-crowded and I couldn’t enter the room. Anyway, I didn’t have the right pass. The access is only authorized to the journalists with the pink pass and I had the white. But there was another way to watch the press conference. On the first floor of The Festival Palace, there was a place where you can sit on deck-chairs (as if you were on the beach) and follow the press conference live as it is broadcast on TV Festival ! ! ! A lot of people agree with me when I say that’s the best way to hear and record a press conference. You’re well installed and the sound is better for your recorder. That’s how I saw and recorded the Fear and Loathing press conference. Vicki will put some clips from the conference soon with this report.

THE MOVIE: Let the delirium enter your mind. SYNOPSIS – The gonzo journalist Raoul Duke is scheduled to write an article about a motorcycle race in Las Vegas. He travels there with his attorney, Dr Gonzo, driving a crimson convertible full of every sort of drug and pharmaceutical product. They begin a savage drug-fueled trip into the heart of the American Dream. REVIEW – The most interesting part of this movie is Gilliam’s choice to dedicate the entire movie to his characters, by the cinematography, the special effects and the editing, to make the audience live the trip of the individuals from inside. Sure, Gilliam uses too much moving animals for the hallucinations. But the choice of the frames, the deep focus, the colors, the filters, the design ? Las Vegas is absolutely fabulous ? the acting a little exaggerated from Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro but exactly right for their mad characters. The editing which follows the trip exactly, slow or fast depending of the characters’ mind, give the film wealth, which make the hallucinatory trip of the two individuals almost palpable. Terry Gilliam tells a story showing the trip at the good and bad moments, without any morality about drug-addiction in his filmmaking. People may regret his no-engagement against drugs, but it’s an artistic choice depending on his interpretation of the novel upon which the movie is based. The two characters don’t care about the consequences of their behaviour. They just enjoy their journey in Las Vegas, experiencing with drugs the limits of their bodies. That may be shocking for our 90’s eyes, but we have to remember the spirit of the 1971 Hunter Thompson novel. Gilliam’s filmmaking gives a light and humorous but finally realistic description of the perception of drugs in the early seventies. Finally, the only reproach we can address to Terry Gilliam is having lost his idea by giving a sort of morality in two sentences about the drug consequences at the end of the movie, granting to the American morality at the end of a great movie which was just a glance without any message on the story of two individuals.

THE PARTY: The apogee of the trip. In spite of my invitation, it was hard to enter the party. The guards made me wait about 20 minutes. The reason was Johnny Depp himself. He was inside with Kate Moss so the organizers didn’t want too many people around them. After this long wait during such an important moment in my life, I finally entered with friends. First we went to the bar to have some Champagne. Then I went to the area for dancing just to prove to my friends that I’m not there only to see JD but also to have fun. I was very surprised to see Johnny just one meter in front of me, seated at a table with Kate Moss. Arrrrgggghhhh! That’s not a dream : he is there. As I looked again, I saw him talking to someone I knew. So I went over to them, to say hello to my friend and of course to Johnny. Very politely, he talked to me and I answered him stupid stuffs like “Hi ? How are you ? Good Champagne ? Enjoy your party ?” I didn’t want to disturb them anymore. Johnny was touching Kate’s hands for a while and he didn’t seem to enjoy the party very much. So I went back to the dancing area. A few minutes later, he left to attend another party for “The Ninth Gate”. Around three o’clock, I decided to go to bed, my mind full of pictures of the coolest man I’ve ever met. Sure he said those things to me to be polite. He certainly must have said the same words to a lot of people during the party and ours was a 2-minutes meeting that he surely does not remember. Anyway, I was really happy to meet him. He IS really cool.

MARIE

from johnnydeppfan

ELIZABETH’S MEETING, MAY 8 1998

I met Johnny and Terry Gilliam on their press tour for Fear and Loathing. They did an interview at our radio station and I thought I would pass a picture along to you. Johnny was the nicest guest we have ever had at the station and Terry was constantly cracking jokes and laughing. Along with the souvenir picture, I salvaged one of Johnny’s cigarette butts and have it in a test tube. This is not something I normally do, but hey, you take what you can get.

I knew that there was a possibility that Johnny and Terry Gilliam would stop by the station that evening for the interview, but there was more of a possibility that they would call in or not come by at all. Knowing my luck, it would be the latter. Unfortunately I had spent the previous evening at a local “watering” hole and was suffering the next day from too much “water”. Clad in jeans and a shirt freshly crumpled from the floor, I stumbled into work unprepared for an actual face to face meeting with anyone out of the ordinary. One hour before we were off the air we got the news, from our “Italian connection,” that they were coming by after all. Nervousness set in. No amount of makeup or hair-styling could help me at this point. At least the dirty shirt had aired out.

Terry and Johnny arrived and I was sent to bring them into the studio. What the hell, all I usually get to do is pull music and make bad jokes, maybe put in an order for food. I am totally honest when I say that I am horrible at recognizing people. Also that I wasn’ t really sure what Johnny looked like, because, well…I’m stupid. So, I took the back door out of the studio and headed down the hall to the lobby. The offices were closed so there wasn’t anyone else in the building. I could see a group of people at the end of the hall where it was dark, and then there was a guy walking towards me, heading towards the men’s room. I said, “Hi” and rushed by him wondering what that “deer-in-the-headlights” look was on his face for. When I reached the lobby, I realized that everyone there was either old or female. The guy I passed in the hall and ignored was Johnny. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Why am I so stupid?

Johnny came in and introduced himself to everyone in the room and shook hands. I sat in the corner and tried not to drool, rock back and forth and laugh hysterically. During the whole interview, Johnny chain-smoked and I dreamt of days to come where I could sit in a damp basement and roll his cigarettes for him. Hour after hour, day by day. Anyway, after the interview, I was running commercials and Johnny was signing things and taking pictures. I had to get in one of these. So, I left one of the interns at the board and told him which buttons to punch. He looked scared to death. What’s more important, a picture with Johnny or a little dead air? I leaped like a gazelle to the other side of the room and was making my move to stand next to Johnny in the pic and somehow I got caught in a Jedi-body-switch manuver and ended up a person away. Aaack. Oh well. On their way out, Johnny shook my hand and remembered my name. I thought that was very cool. In an equally un-cool move, I grabbed the ashtray and kept a cigarette butt for myself. It is now hanging in a test tube from my ceiling, right next to Mike D’s plastic cup with protein drink residue. On a completely different note, Johnny and Kate broke up the next week. Maybe my impression wasn’t so bad…

Bop, May 1998 – Why did Johnny Depp Say That?

Bop, May 1998 – Why did Johnny Depp Say That?

Title: Why did Johnny Depp Say That?

Publication: Bop

Issue: May 1998

Photo1There’s not doubt about it: Johnny Depp is a man of few words. You might say that to this 21 Jump Street actor, talk is cheap—he’s an action -oriented sort of guy!

But when 25-year-old Johnny does choose to speak up, he says a great deal—with so few words! In fact, one simple sentence from Johnny uncovers a whole world of meaning. Here’s some classic examples:

 

“CELEBRITY? WHO’S A CELEBRITY?”

That brief remark is a typical “Johnny-ism,” clearly revealing that this 5’10” tall performer has never, does not, and never will view himself as a “star.” Actually, the whole concept of being a celebrity is a bit odd to him!

Johnny doesn’t feel that his appearances in movies and television merit any special treatment from anyone. The fact that he’s talented, and quite adorable to boot, does not figure into his self-image. All these qualities, insists this Owensboro, Kentucky-born boy, are “no big deal.”

“WHAT’S ACTION?”

After several hardworking years of trying to make it big as a rock and roll guitarist, Johnny found his sudden break into acting unexpected, to say the least!

On the set of his first film, 1984’s Nightmare On Elm Street, a guitar less Johnny seemed like a wide-eyed, confused child. On the first day of shooting, he was still getting over having left his band-mates only a couple of days earlier.

“Action,” is the word a movie director calls when he wants a scene to begin. The question above was posed by this naive Johnny to the director of Elm Street, Wes Craven!

“I was scared and lost” confesses Johnny.

 

“I RAN INTO IT BLINDLY.”

If love is blind, then that would provide the perfect explanation for Johnny’s first marriage back in 1983. The marriage, which ended in divorce less than three years later, gave him his first, tough lesson in love.

Following his divorce, Johnny kept company with actress Sherilyn Fenn. Alerted to the dangers of becoming too close too fast, he didn’t allow the relation­ship to become too serious.

Today, with a more mature understanding of the true meaning of commitment, Johnny has become engaged to marry Dirty Dancing actress Jennifer Grey. Johnny confides that he has finally learned the secret to a long-lasting relationship: “You have to be comfortable with yourself first.”

“I LIKE PICASSO AND CHAGALL

Johnny’s fondness for these two famous painters points out the fact that there’s more to this guy than acting and rock ‘n’ roll. Johnny has a full appreciation of life, and that includes the arts.

An avid reader, Johnny’s ideal weekend would be to cozy up in his Vancouver, Canada home and devour novels by well-known authors. In between books, Johnny would treat himself to a few hours of video-watching—he’s known for renting stacks of tapes at a time!

“IT’S LIKE FAST FOOD.”

This is how Johnny sums up the way in which a performer can, he feels, become too “commercial.” For instance, once someone’s name is well-known, that person might accept offers to appear in a lot of advertisements or even a quick, low-quality movie.

Johnny feels that these types of offers are similar to ”fast food”— the projects are made with little time and imagination, for a quick profit. And that’s not Johnny’s idea of playing fair! He would rather wait for some high-quality projects to come along, or to create his own, than take advantage of his fame just to make money.

“I’VE GOTTEN SCARY LETTERS!”

With the success of 21 Jump Street, a show that deals with some of the very serious problems facing teens today, it’s not surprising that this guy who plays “Tommy Hanson” on the series would receive a variety of mail.

Though most of the letters Johnny receives are filled with kind and supporting words from fans, he still does receive some mail from people requesting his help. These letters are from teens who are feeling depressed, having problems with their families, school and/or their social lives. Johnny takes this mail very seriously.

“I try to write back and tell them to hang in there,” he says.

“I WANT TO SHAVE MY HEAD!”

What?! Cut off those gorgeous brown locks that go so beautifully with those big brown eyes? Well, only if the role is right! You see, Johnny would like to expand his acting career to include all types of characters, and not just the traditional “leading man roles” that people tend to envision for this classically handsome fellow.

Taking on the challenge of unusual acting parts appeals to Mr. Depp, and that’s just what he plans to do—even if it means “going bald”

Paris Film Festival

I met Johnny on Sunday, April the 5th of 1998: he was there to give an award at the ending ceremony of the Paris film festival, where his friend Sean Penn was the President of the Jury. I was at this festival but people without invitation weren’t allowed to be present in the theater for the ending ceremony, so I decided to wait a moment behind the barrier to see some stars. And then, he arrived (with his director Roman Polanski). I was totally crazy because it wasn’t provided he would be there.

Briefly, he was exactly as Sam has written: very nice, generous and smiling with everybody (when the guy by my side gave to him a 1 dollar banknote to sign it, he said joking “am I worth only this price?”). He signed lots of autographs and allowed lots of pictures. And when a man who was with him told him he had to enter the theater, he wanted to stay longer to sign other autographs and take pictures with fans who were behind the other barrier. An angel!!! (Contrary to Sean Penn who hadn’t stopped when he had passed very quickly in front of fans, before Johnny). He was the star who stayed the longest time with fans, and when he was gone, everyone said he was great. Since this day, I love him still more. I took 2 photos of Johnny, but I didn’t talk to him because I was too impressed to tell him something interesting, I prefered to be quiet.

encounter from johnnydeppfan

Bop, April 1989 – What’s All This Talk About Johnny Depp?!

Bop, April 1989 – What’s All This Talk About Johnny Depp?!

Title: What’s All This Talk About Johnny Depp?!

Publication: Bop

Issue: April 1989

 

Photo1When you’re John Christopher Depp II, you get used to being the prime subject of conversation.

Fortunately, Johnny (which he prefers to be called) doesn’t take himself too seriously. His attitude is that people are going to talk, so why not let them?

Since most of the chatter concerning this 25-year-old talent is positive, Johnny’s feelings are rarely hurt, nor, surprisingly enough, has he let any flattery go to his head. He simply takes it all in stride.

“Getting attention from the public is very nice, but it’s still a little strange, you know?” he ponders aloud with a clear gaze in his brown eyes that lets you know he is too strong to ever allow fame to affect his ego.

If there is any truth to the study of astrology, then it’s only natural that this Owensboro, Kentucky-native takes an easygoing stance on his celebrity status.

According to the stars, it is a characteristic of those born under the sign of Gemini, as Johnny was, (June 9, 1963 was the magical date) to be the most talked about and controversial folks in the entire zodiac!

Of course, Johnny didn’t exactly choose a career that’s custom-made for those who prefer to keep out of the public eye. As someone who’s dedicated to the field of entertain­ment, the son of John and Betty Sue Depp has shown that he’s quite willing to open his heart and soul to the people of the world.

The fact that his role as “Tommy Hanson” on 21 Jump Street has made him an instant role mode for teenagers, who gain insight into such issues as drug abuse, sex and moral responsibility when they watch the show, places him even further in the spotlight of public discussion.

Again, this attention has not made Johnny shy away. Rather, it makes him proud because he sees firsthand that he is making a difference, which, to him, is the entire purpose of being an actor.

“I’ve talked to teenagers who have told me a certain episode of Jump Street made them under­stand that their problems weren’t unsolvable. It’s great that we’ve been able to help them in that way,” smiles the 5’10” tall performer.

“Natural cool”

Part of what makes Johnny so charismatic and influential on the screen is that he has what some refer to as “natural cool.” In other words, he doesn’t try to be cool—he just is!

Many people work hard at creating an image by wearing only certain clothes, talking in a certain way and hanging out at all the right places. But Johnny doesn’t have the time to play this image game.

There are no trendy outfits in this unique guy’s wardrobe. He wears only what is comfortable. As a matter of fact, this lover of antiques admits that sometimes he looks a bit on the sloppy side! And yet, to others, Johnny always manages to look sharp!

When approached on the subject of image, modest-minded Johnny simply remarks, “1 don’t know what cool is. I just be myself.”

Johnny’s commitment to being an individual is something that comes through in his humor, and it’s also something that makes people eager to figure him out.

Though the usually serious subject matter handled on Jump Street rarely allows him to show off his comedic skills, those who know him well say that Johnny is a regular barrel of laughs that is if you can appreciate humor of a decidedly offbeat sort!

For instance, when asked what he would do if one day he woke up and his acting career was over, Johnny matter-of-factly replied that he would move to a faraway island and sell turtles for a living! You see, Johnny comes up with remarks that are so unusual, and even silly, that you just have to laugh.

But because his brand of humor is anything but typical, Johnny’s jokes often leave folks saying to themselves, “Is he kidding or could he possibly be serious?!”

Sight for sore eyes!

One characteristic about Johnny that is definitely not controversial, yet still has a lot of folks talking, is his gorgeous looks! There is no question about it—with his lean build, sensitive eyes, soft brown hair and well-chiseled features, Johnny is a pleasure to look at!

And although Johnny himself doesn’t make a big fuss over his looks, others do, especially those of the opposite sex!

With the popularity of 21 Jump Street, Johnny’s handsome face has become familiar to girls all over the world. But all this attention from the female of the species isn’t anything new to Mr. Depp.

It was back in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s when Johnny was a member of an aspiring band called The Kids that he received his first taste of sex symbol status.

Recalls Suszanne Witkin, the wife of one of Johnny’s former bandmates, “When you’re a member of a band, you naturally tend to attract a lot of attention from girls. But there were five guys in The Kids, and most of the girls liked Johnny the best.”

At first, being admired by the opposite sex made Johnny, who is shy by nature, a tad embarrassed. However, as time went on, this adaptable fella began to like all the positive female feedback!

To this day, Johnny takes his knack for attracting attention all in stride. He understands the need people have to know about one another. After all, he has a curious streak himself. And besides, he’s enough of an optimist to believe that folks will talk about the good rather than the bad!

Bop, February 1998 – Does Johnny Depp Alone Make 21 Jump Street A Success?

Bop, February 1998 – Does Johnny Depp Alone Make 21 Jump Street A Success?

Title: Does Johnny Depp Alone Make 21 Jump Street A Success?

Publication: Bop

Issue: February 1998

Photo1During the 1987-88 season of 21 Jump Street, it could have been very easy to mistake Johnny Depp for the star of the show. It seemed like the gorgeous actor was featured in every single episode!

Things have changed in the “new and improved” 1988-89 season of the series! This year, it’s already apparent that the folks in charge of Jump Street want you to know all four main characters (as well as the new guest star) as real people. Not only are you seeing plenty of Johnny as “Tom Hanson,” but you’re also getting a chance to see more of Peter DeLuise (“Doug Penhall”), Dustin Nguyen (“Harry Ioki”) and Holly Robinson (“Judy Hoffs”), along with the show’s newest addition, Richard Grieco, who plays “Dennis Booker”!

But how do the sparkling personalities of 21 Jump Street fit together behind the scenes? You already know that they’re a distinctly diverse group as far as their hometowns and backgrounds go—so what is the glue that holds them together?

First of all, they get along great’. There’s not a trace of jealous rivalry amongst this bunch! There are, however, lots of good times! Johnny and Peter decided they would place pretty Holly to the fun-test when she initially arrived on the set by ambushing her with water guns! She has since armed herself with her own water pistol and keeps the two banditos at bay with her sharp eye and aim!

Even when they’re not up to their wet antics, this cast finds ways to enjoy one another’s company. Richard shares a love for motorcycles with Johnny—both guys are proud of their vintage bikes!

Twenty-four-year-old Holly, a native of Philadelphia, Pennsyl­vania, and Dustin, who hails from Saigon, Vietnam, have an especially close bond of friendship. As 26-year-old Dustin remarks fondly, “Holly’s my pig-out buddy!” The two are wild about Vietnamese and Chinese food and share a meal whenever they can!

Dustin goes on to reflect, “I have two people up here that I’m really, really close to—one is Holly. She’s almost like a sister to me.” And the other? It’s Dustin’s girlfriend in Vancouver, Canada!

Dustin and Peter also get along because, as Dustin reveals, “Peter is a great guy—his sense of humor just never stops!” In fact, it’s senses of humor that keep Dustin and Peter, as well as Johnny, Holly and Richard so close!

Keeping sane and happy!

This easygoing gang manages to keep each other sane and happy even though they spend months and months away from their homes. All of them moved to Vancouver in order to make the weekly series and they truly have become a second family to each other!

Moreover, these professionals all went through difficult periods during their childhoods. Johnny grew up in an anything-but-wealthy neighborhood in Miramar, Florida where he was faced with tough decisions about his future.

Some of the decisions he made were not popular ones, and even Johnny, who’s now 25 years old, admits they probably weren’t the best ones! For instance, this Kentucky-native dropped out of high school to pursue his career in rock ‘n’ roll, and at one time he experimented with drugs—all before he turned 18 years old.

But luckily for Johnny (and all his fans!), he was able to recover from these early mistakes and stick with his musical aspirations. He played guitar in several Florida bands before he moved to Los Angeles, California in 1983. And though he dreamed of a rock ‘n’ roll career, Johnny happily stumbled into acting instead.

Peter DeLuise’s tough times were completely different. Unlike Johnny, Peter didn’t grow up in a tough neighborhood. In fact, he had a comfortable background and the advantage of having a famous father, actor/comedian Dom DeLuise.Photo2

However, Peter did have to face several unpleasant situations. For example, even though he was the quarterback for his high school football team, he was looked down upon by other students because he wouldn’t do drugs! That’s right! The other kids thought his refusal to take drugs wasn’t cool. Then, after he graduated from school, his parents expected him to move out. “As soon as I got out of high school, I also had to leave the house. It was one of my father’s stipulations,” explains 21-year-old Peter.

Family flees!

Dustin’s childhood was a stressful one. Born in Vietnam, he was forced to flee his homeland with his family when he was only ten years old due to the conflict going on in that country. Before he left Vietnam, he witnessed the shooting and killing of his best friend on the beaches near the city of Saigon. An episode of 21 Jump Street last season dealt with Dustin’s experiences, and this show received a special award for its historical portrayal of the conflict.

Dustin acknowledges that making that episode was particularly trying. “It wasn’t like just acting anymore. A lot of emotions started coming back,” he recalls.

Holly, on the other hand, grew up in a seemingly fairy tale-like environment. You see, her mom was (and still is) a manager for actors and actresses, and her dad played “Gordon” on the early Sesame Street show! For a four-year-old Holly, though, life was a little confusing because it was sometimes difficult for her to distinguish between her father’s TV role and his real-life role as her daddy.

Holly confesses, “Any psychologi­cal problems I have, I blame on Sesame Street1.” But during this confusing period in her life, Holly experienced her first taste of acting on that show, and she’s still going strong in the profession!

Richard, who is from Watertown, New York, faced problems of his own. Back in high school, this handsome 23-year-old seemed to spend an awful lot of time in the principal’s office! Recalls Richard, “I always got good grades, but I was a bad student because I rebelled against rules and regulations!” Luckily, his skills as a football player earned him a scholarship to college, where he studied political science and then moved on to acting and modeling.

A unique bunch!

Perhaps what keeps this crew together is that each of the co-stars comes from a different background and has faced a unique challenge. As a result, they allow themselves to be the individuals they are!

Keep your eyes peeled for the plot lines to change even further on in the year. Dustin explains, “I’m really excited about this season because the writers and everybody have put a lot of work into it! We’re going to be able to tackle more controversial issues this season and not have to hold back as much as we have in the past.”

Teen Machine, 1998 – Everything You Wanted to Know

Teen Machine, 1998 – Everything You Wanted to Know

Title: Everything You Wanted to Know

Publication: Teen Machine

Issue: 1998

 

Photo1Dark-eyed Johnny Depp might view himself as one of television’s most reluctant sex symbols, but everytime he appears on the screen, the hearts of viewers can’t help but hop to 21 Jump Street.

When Johnny was growing up in Miramar, Florida, the last destination he envisioned for himself was on a television show At that time, all he wanted to do was play in a rock and roll band. He recalls: “People would remember me as the kid with the long hair who was always playing guitar. I used to bring my guitar to school, skip certain classes and sneak into the guitar class. That’s pretty much how I spent my high school years.”

He finally become a player in a band called the Kids, and they headed out to Hollywood in the hopes of landing a record deal. Once when they were playing a gig at one of the clubs on Sunset Strip, Johnny met and befriended Moonstruck star Nicolas Cage. Johnny’s cash flow of the time was very low, so when Nicholas offered to introduce Johnny to his agent, Johnny complied. He explains: “She sent me out on an audition. The director gave me a script and told me to study it; I did, came bock two days later, read for the part and they gave it to me. That was my first film—Nightmare on Elm Street.”

Johnny very quickly learned the difference between playing in a band and acting. Ho discovered that as part of a band, he had three other people working and pulling with him. But with acting, he says: “I found it was just me. It all depended on me I had to make my own choices”

He wasn’t too thrilled, to say the least, by his second choice of acting jobs in what he describes as a terrible sex-ploitation film called Private Resort. He admits: “I figured at least I was earning my living by acting and that beat working at Burger King. And I got paid for learning.”

Johnny’s turning point as an actor came when he co-starred in the Oscar-winning film Platoon.

Although a lot of his work ended up on the floor of the editing room, he claims it was one of the best experiences he ever had. The experience was so intense that when Johnny returned to Los Angeles, he needed some time to chill out and began playing rock and roll again.

Six months later Johnny landed the plum port of Tom Hanson, the baby-faced rookie cop on the Fox television series 21 Jump Street. And the rest, Johnny believes, is a mystery.

It’s not that Johnny doesn’t appreciate all of the adoration and fan mail; it makes him happy. Yet the guy is basically shy and unused to being the center of attention. He claims he is claustrophobic and gets a little nervous when he’s in the middle of a crowd scene. He says: “If people recognize you, it’s no big deal. They just say, ‘Are you him?’ And you say, “Yes I am,’ and then you talk and you sign something. Nobody’s out to hurt you. They just want to see what you’re all about.”

Johnny’s most difficult task has been protecting his private life. Since he has become of one America’s heartthrobs, everyone and her sister is dying for details of his own heart’s inner workings. For three years, magazines and gossip sheets were charting the see-saw relationship Johnny had with actress Sherilyn Fenn. Yes, they were engaged; no they’ve split up; yes, they are definitely engaged. Johnny shudders at the thought of making any of this information more public than it already is; in fact, his manager always reminds interviewers that Johnny’s personal love life is off-limits.Photo2

Johnny doesn’t take this viewpoint just for the sake of being uppity. He believes: “You gotta do that with your relationships, with the things that are precious to you. You take them and keep them in a place where no one can touch them. Keep things private. You want to keep your personal life personal and your business life business.” Try as be might to keep his love life out of the limelight, tongues ore wagging about Johnny and his new gal pal. It seems that shortly after Johnny and Sherilyn broke it off for good, he met Dirty Dancing star Jennifer Grey. Friends of the duo are saying that during the vacation trip they took to Mexico, they discussed the possibility of a very private wedding ceremony.

Naturally neither of the hot stars are talking.

Right now, Johnny mostly likes talking about the tough social issues that 21 Jump Street are taking head on. The show has dealt openly with the seriousness of suicide, drugs. AIDS and child abuse. And Johnny is delighted with his character’s sense of truth. He says solemnly: “There’s the potential there to help somebody. Whatever I’m doing must possess a sense of truth Otherwise it won’t work—it’s just a lie.”

Tommy Hanson, the rookie undercover cop on 21 Jump Street is the ultimate in casual cool And the real lite Johnny isn’t any different As far as his own wardrobe is concerned. Johnny likes to keep it as simple as possible Just give him some jeans, a flannel shirt and some black motorcycle boots and he feels comfortable.

 

Film Review, June 1997 – Depp Undercover

Film Review, June 1997 – Depp Undercover

Title: Depp Undercover

Publication: Film Review

Issue: June 1997

Photo1DON’T EXPECT Donnie Brasco to have any of the inno­cent charm of Edward Scissorhands or the kitsch sensi­bility of Ed Wood – Johnny Depp’s latest film is as far removed from these as is possible. The 33-year-old actor stars as Joe Pistone in the almost unbelievable true tale of an FBI agent who manages to infiltrate a Mafia ring for six years in the 1970s. Starring with Al Pacino – who plays Joe’s mentor and guide through the Mafia world, Lefty Ruggiero – Depp is astonishing as the FBI agent whose double life threatens to tear him apart. And while Depp isn’t exactly renowned for being typecast, if he were to find himself a comfortable niche in other films that are as unflinch­ing and graphic as Donnie Brasco, the likes of Brad Pitt would be looking over their shoulders.

The Mafia men in Donnie Brasco are not the sort that a mother-in-law would welcome with open arms. They can appear to be friendly enough but running through them is a streak of vicious ruthlessness. In their world it’s often kill or be killed. Amazingly, Depp managed to meet Mafia men before shooting the film.

“Yeah, well, we spent some time with some guys,” he says almost nonchalantly. “You know, all I can say really is that it’s not exactly what we’ve come to know in the movies – that sort of wise-guy persona. I found the majority of them to be good guys – real gentlemen, family men, good fathers, good husbands. I had the utmost respect for the guys that I met.”

Not exactly the response that you would expect from someone meeting the Mafia. We’ve all seen The Godfather!

Depp continues. “I never asked them about their business and they never volunteered any information. I wouldn’t really have been ready to receive that! I just got to know them and found them to be very, very good guys.” He pauses for a moment. “What they do for a living is a mystery to me. Again, I don’t believe it’s exactly what they portray in the majority of the movies. I think it’s closer to what happens in Donnie Brasco.”

It’s true that you don’t find a horse’s head in anyone’s bed but if the film is even remotely true to life, the Mafia men that Joe Pistone met were cold killers.

“ I don’t think they’re serial killers,” says Depp of those he met. ‘There’s a circle in which they live, and within that circle there’s a game of survival. You know, you can tag this to anyone who has a pulse: ‘If it’s him or me, he’s going down’. I mean, I can’t be more plain than that. That’s just the way it is. If somebody’s going to get you, you’re going to try and get them first.”

The fact that Depp sounds like he understands these people does not mean that he condones their way of life. The film made him very aware that his life as an actor is far removed from their terrible reality, and he never found any similarities between the life of an undercover agent who has to be somebody else and his life as an actor.

“It’s different. I can always back up and do a second take. Joe didn’t have that advantage. I think what got him through is that he didn’t portray a character. He didn’t pretend to be anything else. Obviously he didn’t run into the room screaming that he was an FBI agent. He was himself with those guys. I think the pressure of having to go and pretend to be somebody or play a character would’ve probably sunk him.”

Indeed, the fact that Pistone could be revealed at any time in the film as an imposter frazzles the nerves of the viewer, never mind what Pistone went through in real life to break the Mafia ring. It comes as no surprise that Depp wanted to lighten the atmosphere during filming.Photo2A

“Al [Pacino] and I were experimenting with some…” he pauses, then laughs, “…noises. It’s important on a movie set, you know, to have a good time. I had this little device that sends out a noise that could make you think that the guy sitting next to you was, er…very ill.”

He admits that playing the same trick on Pacino, an actor who never gets anything less than the utmost respect from his co-stars, was a little risky. “There was always that chance,” he laughs. “I had a sneaking suspicion that he had a sense of humour. And I was right. He’s really one of the funniest guys I’ve ever worked with.”

That wasn’t quite the same experience he had with the director, Mike Newell, who didn’t always appreciate Depp’s attempts to lighten the mood.

“Mike got a little hot under the collar now and again. He was like [affects a deep, booming voice!, ‘Oh my God, Johnny! Stop!’ He got a little sick of it. It actually made me want to do it more – and then he laughed and lightened up.”

For all his attempts to make people smile, Depp acknowledges that playing Joe was difficult.

“The most challenging [aspect] was to play Joe Pistone in such a way that he would be able to live with it for the rest of his life. This is a guy who lived through something unbelievable for six years. And for some actor to come in and sort of make-believe and pretend… I felt a huge responsibility to him and to his family to do it right and to make him proud; so that it was something he wouldn’t be embarrassed by.”

It has been reported that Pistone himself felt a sense of deja vu watching Depp play his life on the big screen, especially in the scenes with Depp and Pacino together. Depp is superb as Pistone and, rat her humbly, he is a little wary of admitting that he managed to capture the real Joe Pistone.

“I can’t say for sure. He would be the best judge of that. I feel like I did. I spent a lot of time with him beforehand. I really put myself as far into this character as I could. I certainly did my best. I hope [Joel is happy. He hasn’t punched me yet, which is a good sign!”

If what Depp says is true, there is some similarity between Joe Pistone’s attitude as an FBI undercover agent and his own movie career: they were both themselves and weren’t interested in creating an image.

“It’s what I’ve tried to do,” confirms Depp. “Just be myself and not manufacture some formula that’s worked before. I just want to be myself and allow that to get out there. I don’t know if it’s successful. Who knows? I’ve read a couple of things and it’s so far from me”.

Depp appears resigned to his treatment at the hands of the media, but it doesn’t mean he has to like it.

“The biggest misconception is that I’m, you know, a whisky-guzzling, drug-taking, drug-addled menace. I’m just not any of those things. There were incidents in my life that have become public knowledge. The media have taken those little things, grabbed the ball and run with it. It’s a drag, but it’s something you’ve just got to carry around with you.”

While he might laugh at being nominated one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world, Depp views the way in which the media can completely fabricate a person’s life with weariness. He doesn’t want it but can’t do much about it. The hassle comes with the job.

Being famous can be a liability, but one of Depp’s biggest assets is that he refuses to be typecast. He’s no Schwarzenegger or Stallone who, try as they might, cannot fight their way out of the mould Hollywood has made for them. He recognizes that when he first appeared he was pigeonholed (“They do that with everybody, everybody”) but the films he has made and what he has learned ensures that he won’t be following in Arnie’s and Sly’s footsteps.

Photo3“The only time I tried to promote something was when Fox [US| was building its network and they needed to build it on someone or something,” he recalls. “Suddenly I was watching television and I would see these commercials. They weren’t commercials for 21 Jump Street! the series which launched Johnny to television fame, they were commercials for Johnny Depp. That really scared me, really scared me. I had gone from not being able to pay my rent and being completely anonymous to suddenly walking down the street and people were pointing and looking and all that stuff. It was a very strange time for me. So the only thing I did was to try and fight that. I just wanted to show myself-and that can be a problem. I was very naive.”

But who doesn’t know Johnny Depp now? After over a decade of making films and being a big box-office draw, hasn’t he become used to being recognized and pointed at?

“It will always be strange. On some level, I hope it is always strange. I hope I don’t get used to it, because that would be a very strange existence.”

Moving on, Depp has high hopes for his next project, The Brave.

“I wrote it with my brother and decided to direct it and be in it. I’ve been cutting for a few months and getting very close to that final edit and to doing the score and all that stuff.” Depp hopes to have the film ready for entry into this year’s Cannes Film Festival. At the time of writing there’s still no confirmation if it will premiere there, but he’s keeping his fingers crossed.

Like almost every movie he’s done. The Brave is very different from the one before, and it’s certainly going to be controversial as its subject matter involves ‘snuff movies’. Despite the fact that the media have picked upon this, Depp insists it isn’t the film’s focus.

“It was never meant, at least from my point of view, to be a shocker or something that had horrible violence in it. That was just part of the structure of the story. I really believe in it. I’m very proud of it so far.”

Depp stars (with good friend Marlon Brando) as a man whose family are given money in return for Depp sacrificing his life in the snuff film.

“Marlon did his time in the film as an incredible gesture of generosity,” Depp says happily. “He’s been very, very supportive

of me over the last few years and it’s more than a dream come true.”

Johnny Depp, true to form, isn’t worried that people will be put off by the film’s disturbing subject matter.

“It’s not very graphic at all. What I try to do is leave a lot to the imagination. This is just an opinion, it’s not a judgment on anything, but the majority of films made today are made within a certain structure and a formula that has worked before. I don’t think they leave enough for the audience-to think about. I think the audience is intelligent, but most films don’t allow them to be.”

BARRY GETS CLOSE TO JOHNNY AT THE VIPER ROOM

Background: Summer-Fall 1995 I went to the Viper Room a few times, the energy was amazing! I went on December 31st. Sandra Bernhardt was performing, which was terrific.

Suddenly, I turned-around and I saw Kate Moss sitting on the back of the booth near the bathrooms, and I said to myself “He’s gotta be here!” I looked down from Kate, and there he was, sitting in the booth drinking wine. Hair hanging in his face, being kind of sullen.

Edward Scissorhands and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape have touched me deeply. I so wanted to tell him, but there was no getting near him with all the bodyguards. Flea showed-up. It was quite the scene.

Nevertheless, the crowd (and bodyguards) became casual by 2AM, when I was coming out of the men’s room, and there he was, standing right next to me: tee shirt and cords, very Johnny. I lingered for a moment, as he was talking with someone. I considered approaching him, but didn’t want to be rude by butting- in.

Suddenly, he headed-off down those stairs, into the night. Maybe some other time!

Barry

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