Back from hell: a report of my adventure in Venice

I arrived from Venice very late last night and I was so tired that I just had the strength to crawl into my bed, and that’s why my report arrives so late. Sorry! Here’s what happened in Venice on Sept, 8 2001:Venice:

Venice: Well, what to say? It’s unique, extraordinary! As Johnny said, it’s shocking. I arrived by train at 6 o’clock in the morning as it was clearing up. You have the impression that the train is floating on the sea and before you appears a skyline of colorful, medieval houses immersed in the water. It’s a vision you never forget. Every corner of the town is a jewel, you walk on through small streets and every few steps you find a wonderful bridge on an amazing channel shaded by ancient buildings, so beautiful it cannot be described. And the Venetians are so warm, kind and helpful. Really stunning!!

The Festival of Venice: If you love movies and cinema…forget it! It’s a circus, a horrible merry-go-round organized only for journalists, producers and politicians. The audience is completely ignored and kept apart. You imagine it’s a cultural event, a celebration of the cinema, and you have a very bad surprise! Ok, I won’t go into details because it would be boring, but really, if you like cinema, avoid the festivals!

The Premiere: When I arrived in Venice, I first went to the ticket office to buy the tickets for the Premiere. The poor dreamer! The two girls who worked there killed every illusion. The tickets for the premiere were not for sale. Someone decided that only the ones with invitations would be allowed to enter. Moreover, only a few accredited would have entered, if there were seats left. Of course I had no invitation and I was not accredited, so my last hopes disappeared. Another projection was scheduled the same evening for the audience in another theater, but of course the start time was an half hour earlier than the premiere, so if I had decided to go there I would have also missed Johnny entering the movie theater. What a dilemma! I was shattered. Anyway, I bought two tickets for the second projection (one for me and one for Luca) and went visiting the Palace of Cinema. At 10 o’clock in the morning, Luca calls me on the mobile and tells me his friend in Venice has found two invitations. Suddenly I jumped “From Hell” to “Paradis” 😉 I couldn’t believe my ears…and I was right! Because when Luca arrived we found out that actually there was only one invitation! OK, by that time I decided that the life of the fan was not for me! You must have a strong heart and iron nerves to get by; instead I just felt I was about to breakdown! But not everything was lost. Luca’s friend (a girl whose name is now impressed with fire letters on my heart) said: “OK, I will lend you my accredidation and you’ll try to enter”. I looked at the picture on the badge…well, maybe it could work with a little imagination and a pair of glasses, in the crowd and the darkness of the entrance and with a BIG, BIG, BIG luck!

Well, after two hours of waiting in an incredible crowd at the entrance of the theater, with pushes and elbows in the back and without even breathing, the horrible security men begin to let small groups of people go in, one step forward, two steps forward, another small group, at last I’m in the next group or so it seems. Another ten minutes of endless wait and then they let other people enter. I’m the next one, when the two assholes join their fists exactly before my chest and scream “Stop! Nobody else”. What ???? I think. And for the first time I really took advantage of my small stature, I bow and manage to pass under their arms; they try to lower the hands to stop me going… but it’s too late, I’m in the theater. I fly near the girl who checks the accredidation badges with a finger on the photo and run into the room…I’m so confused and increduluous that I don’t know where to go… I stand in the center without knowing what to do, when a girl comes near to me and says “Miss, you have to sit down, please” I turn back to her “But he? Where is he?” She smiles and says “He’s there!” And points her finger some rows upstairs. I follow her direction and…he was there.

Johnny: I stood there before him trying to let every second, every instant last forever. He was there, surrounded by a magnetic aura which cannot be described by words. You can see thousands of his best pictures but not one of them gives you the least idea of what he looks like in person. Pictures and cameras put a filter which dims the power, the fire which burns into his eyes. You suddenly understand at once without any doubt left why he became what he is and why he made all he made. You look into those eyes and see what John Waters, Tim Burton, Jim Jarmusch, Terry Gilliam and the others have seen, and you understand why he’s special, different, unique. You also understand that he’s not happy, that he feels uncomfortable, dressed like a prince with every eye on him. He never stops moving, he tries not to look at the audience, talks with the directors, holds firmly Vanessa’s hand, touches his face. You almost feel guilty to be there, because this is a torture for him and you know that it’s because of you, because you want to see him and he cannot help it. Suddenly the speaker calls the directors names, the audience applauds, then Heather Graham’s name, another applause, then Johnny’s…the room bursts, standing ovation, everybody screams his name, he tries to disappear in the seat, but someone tells him he has to stand. He stands up for one second and seats again with the most embarrased smile I have ever seen, and you feel again you shouldn’t be there.

At the end of the projection, when the lights turn on, another standing ovation, he has already his cigarette in his hand, tries to smile at the audience, then grabs Vanessa’s hand (the most intimate gesture I have ever seen) and they go away.

Vanessa: We have always said: What a lucky woman she is. Now, I say: What a lucky man Johnny is. Her beauty is amazing. That kind of beauty that makes you feel better. The perfection of her face, which is completely distorted by the pictures, is spectacular. But this is the minor aspect. She is a powerful woman. As soon as you look at her, you would like to know her better, to talk to her. Her intelligence is something that you can perceive just by looking at her. I was stunned! She was there in all her beauty and elegance just to support him. That was his night, and she didn’t care to appear, to be photographed, she was there only to help him. I almost had the impression that she directed him, there was an amazing contrast between his anxiety and her utmost composure. The class of that woman is not something you can describe. I was so happy for Johnny! And I hope, really hope, that she will be patient forever and look after our boy, because she’s really the kind of woman he needs. The love that surrounds that stunning couple radiates like the sun on a summer day!

From Hell: The movie is extraordinary, unique!! Johnny-fans will find all the answers to their secret dreams and new breeds of fans will be born from it. I must say that watching a Johnny movie knowing that you’re watching it with him is a one-time experience. But in my case, instead of distracting me, all my senses were awake and sharpened, and I watched every scene as though I could comment on it with him. I almost felt his breath behind me. In the role of Inspector Abberline, he is in a state of grace! He could make the mistake of proposing again Ichabod Crane, but he reinvented a brand-new character with all the features we all love. He explores the depth of a damaged man who has an utmost complex personality, conveying all the nuances of a great soul with only the power of his eyes. This is the kind of movies in which he stops being an actor and becomes a poet, if we intend for poets that special category of persons who are able to express universal feelings, like the love and pain, in a unique way. The atmosphere of London at the end of the 19th Century is perfectly rebuilt, the plot is brilliant and the rythem is breathtaking. Heather Graham is a good actress, but she suffers Johnny’s titanic interpretation. Ian Holmes is, instead, a great counterpart. Also the soundtrack is wonderful.

Inspector Abberline is in the line of Johnny’s characters who are cursed, because they are destined to SEE. I thought about the myth of Cassandra, the priestess of the ancient Troja, who was a seer and forecasted the ruins of her people, but nobody trusted her and her own people repudiated her. Abberline is a seer, too, and for this reason he is destined to suffer. So if you wonder why Johnny accepted this role, I think this is one answer. Nobody else is able like him to express the suffering of the ones who can look and read into other people’s souls. And the movie is also a wonderful love-story, the kind of story that Johnny feels very deep inside. So, once again: thank you, Johnny!

The most moving thing: One minute after the end of the movie, I saw a little girl of 7 or 8, hand-in-hand with her mother. She was about to burst into tears and screamed to her mother: “Oh mum, please let’s go and look for Johnny.” I’m sure that if Johnny had seen her, he would have kissed her on her cheek and promised to marry her one day.

The funniest thing: Outside the Palace of cinema there was a message board on which you could write all you wanted about the Festival. One message read: Johnny, we left work and all to come here and see you. Please, show up!

It seems that all Johnny-fans have the same problems.

Acknowledgements: My endless gratitude to Luca and his friend in Venice. Without these two wonderful people I would have never been able to see Johnny and enjoy the movie with him. I really hope I will be able to do something in return, one day.

Conclusions: Well, I learned a great lesson: I love and respect Johnny too much to chase him again. I will never do it again. If you have a great admiration for a painter, a look at his paintings is enough. And so it should be for Johnny, he talks to us through his movies and those should be enough for me for the rest of my life.

This whole experience and the vision of him in Venice inspired me to write this small poem I would like to share with you:

From Hell

After seeing Johnny in Venice

And now be happy

the way you don’t know

Wearthat face and the smile

they will hardly forget

They tell you to go

and you walk on

They ask you to stop

and you turn back

But in the evening

alone in your room

you hang the face on the wall

and with the hands on your eyes

you think of nowhere

With all my love,


Licia’s Encounter

Hello, this is Lica. I’m a elementary teacher.

i’m very interested in cinema and movies and in particular my passion’s name is: JOHNNY DEPP!i’ve been following him for 11 years and i always loved his performances…what i really love of him , even if i don’t know him deeply, it’s his sincere smile..i love his simplicity and the sincere way he lets the fans ge close to him…he doesn’t feel to be a great movie star…and he doesn’t want anyone to consider him like that…
he’s spontaneous in everything he says and does…and that’s the reason why i0m not surprised that the gold world of Hollywood that he can’t bear described him as a rebel…
he’s not fake …ha doesn’t conform to hypocrisy and star system…
i lived all this at the 2001 venice film festival, when i met him, the 8 spetember 2001…and from that moment on everything i had always thought had a confirm.
until that moment i was not so convinced to meet him…i’ve never loved the autographs, the pics together…because i think that a glance could give me more than anything else!
and it was like that…
a few days before leaving my cousin phoned me to tell me she had the tickets for the from hell premiere…
i was really excited, but i was sad too, ’cause i didn’t know if i was going to meet him or not…
the 7 september 2004 i left for venice with a friend fan of depp, excited and confused…
the night i never slept, thinking at him, fearing i would make some “gaffes”, i wuld not talk…

that day in venice we were lots of fans, all waiting for him with pens and cameras, and my heart was beating very fast…
Johnny arrived a bit late, with the beautiful Heather Graham next to him…his look made me going crazy and i started trembling…he always smiled and neversaid no to requests of photos and autographs by the fans…
he was getting close to us, stretching hands, giving kisses…autographs, pics…and here he comes..”say something” i thought, “this is your chance!” but when i found him so close to me i couldn’t help stretching my hand towards him and started crying…
and he took my hand with infinite sweetness and i said ?thank you johnny?…he smiled as only him can do and put his hand on his heart doing a little “bow”…and he went away slowly…

in that moment, my life changed and i really understood what is the face of love…



‘Festival d’Istres’, South of France

image: festivaldistresfrancevalou01.jpg image: festivaldistresfrancevalou02.jpg image: festivaldistresfrancevalou03.jpg
some more pics here

Valou (webmaster of the late ‘Tandem vp’ site) reported to Jean-Yves, webmaster of ‘Vanessa Paradis c’est l’enfer’:
She arrived at the concert at 6pm that day and went to the parking lot where cars arrive in the hope of seeing Vanessa… there were security guys so she thought it meants Vanessa was about to arrive. She was right: 5 minutes later, Vanessa got out of a grey Mercedes 4×4 with dark windows, with Lily-Rose asleep on her nape… Johnny and some guy named Philippe (Vanessa’s assistant?) follow…. They all enter the concert auditorium without looking at the fans… A few minutes later, Johnny and Philippe came back to the car to get their stuff (packs etc..). Valou asks if she can take a picture. Philippe replies ‘no’.

So, she leaves with other fans to the auditorium, buys the program (another fan buys a ticket) etc… and one of the staff guys tell them “oh look over there, Johnny is signing autographs!”…. they run to him. Philippe gives a kiss to Valou, the others take pictures and ask for autographs. Valou takes 2 close shots of Johnny. Then, she asks him to sign a small slide of Vanessa (by photographer Claude Gassian). Johnny looks very surprised, he doesn’t know how to sign so small but he does it. Valou takes another photo.

They were about 7 fans there. She was very excited to have finally seen Johnny in person! Valou will remember his sweetness: sweetness of his look, of his voice, of his movements… She didn’t think he was SO nice (a friend of her also fan said he was probably having a good day)…

Apparently, Johnny had seen the others fans while getting out of the car with Lily and Philippe, they had asked him for an autograph and he had said “I will come back”… Which he did. 🙂

Before the beginning of the concert, they bought flowers and gave them to Philippe. Vanessa must have had heard about the ‘meeting’ because she invited them to the next concerts!
Translation by Karelle

valou’s site:

PEOPLE, May 14, 2001 – Johnny depp

PEOPLE, May 14, 2001 – Johnny depp

Title: Johnny depp

Publication: PEOPLE

Issue: May 14, 2001


Photo1ACTOR Onetime teen idol Johnny Depp has gone out of his way to lose the dreamboat label. He keeps his hair long and lank, wears ratty clothes and has made his body what he calls a “journal of skin” by acquiring mul­tiple tattoos—including one that says “Wino Forever,” amended after his 1993 breakup with fiancee Winona Ryder. “I jot down life experiences that mean something to me— jot them down permanently.” Depp. 37. told The New York Times last month. The tattoos “just add to his whole gypsy mystique.” says Ted Demme, director of Depp’s latest film, Blow. “He looks like he’s on the outside, like he’s doing what he wants.”

Demme’s right on both counts. The Kentucky-born actor has been snubbing Holly­wood since his 1998 move to France, where he shares a Paris apartment and a farm­house near Saint-Tropez with actress-singer Vanessa Paradis, 28, and their daughter Lily-Rose, who turns 2 this month. Depp doesn’t work the red carpet on award nights, nor does he routinely hype his films on the talk show circuit. Yet the parts—and the plaudits—keep coming.

In the past year Depp has played two bohernian roles, in the historical drama The Man Who Cried and in the Oscar-nominated fable Choco­lat. That film’s director, Lasse Hallstrom, says the part of Roux, the Irish wanderer who woos Juliette Binoche’s Vianne, was “a perfect fit” for Depp and, at long last, his first all-out romantic lead. “I think in the past he’s been hiding a bit be­hind eccentric characters.” They’ve included a Kabuki-faced oddball with blades for fingers (1990’s Ed­ward Scissorhands). a misfit who models himself after silent movie comic Buster Keaton (1993’s Benny & Joon) and a Cuban drag queen (in last year’s Before Night Falls). “He doesn’t want to rely on his looks, and he doesn’t need to,” says Hallstrom.

But, try as he might, the 5’11” actor can’t disguise his assets. “He is so damn good-looking,” says director Demme. “Johnny’s cheek­bones are insane!” Actress Leslie Caron, who worked with Depp on Chocolat, adds. “He’s almost pretty, like a girl.” On the set of Blow, female crew members gathered around the monitors for his close-up shots. “When I called ‘Cut,’ I would hear this collective sigh going on behind my back,” says Demme.

Photo2They were just looking, of course; Depp has become a family man. Last May he took time off from the Chocolat set to fly home for his daughter’s first birthday. He loathes being apart from Lily-Rose and Par­adis. “The most we’ve ever gone is 17 days,” he recently said, “and by then I was chewing my hand off.” That’s quite a turnaround from a man who, after becoming the breakout star of the TV series P1 Jump Street in the late ’80s, gained a reputation for club-hopping and brawling. “I heard he was a hell-raiser, but I saw none of that,” says Caron. “He just charms you immediately.”

Not just another pretty face

Johnny Depp was supposed to be another TV idol. But the beautifully underplayed roles — like the voracious dealer in “Blow” — are adding up to a career – By Stephanie Zacharek.

April 19, 2001 | Johnny Depp, so often described as androgynously beautiful, is really more like a male cat, a creature so sure of himself that his more masculine traits aren’t the first things you notice about him. You can see it in the way he underplays every role. Sometimes you look at him and you think he’s not doing much at all; then you realize that what he’s doing is so economical and so understated that you can’t afford to take your eyes off him for an instant. He wastes no line, expression or arc of movement. Like those ancient inky creatures painted on Japanese scrolls with just two or three strokes, he’s both the suggestion and the essence of feline masculinity, all implied muscle and Zen intelligence.

It takes that kind of muted confidence to forge a career the way Depp has. In the late ’80s, after a few tiny film roles, he emerged seemingly out of nowhere to become a teenage heartthrob on the TV series “21 Jump Street,” the kind of taint that some actors, no matter how talented they are, never recover from. Forget the fact that TV actors are so often viewed (wrongly) as movie actors’ less significant second-cousins; when you’re as good-looking as Depp, it’s a given that you’re going to be written off as nothing more than a pretty face. It’s the most unoriginal charge that critics and audiences can level at an actor, and yet particularly in Depp’s case, it was intoned in the press as if it were an unassailable fact determined by a team of brilliant research scientists. No one had much faith that Depp could develop into anything special. While the press busied itself with preconceived notions of the type of actor Depp was and always would be, no one saw that he was ready to pounce.

Copyright 2005

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

‘Festival d’Istres’, South of France

Valou (webmaster of the late ‘Tandem vp’ site) reported to Jean-Yves, webmaster of ‘Vanessa Paradis c’est l’enfer’:
She arrived at the concert at 6pm that day and went to the parking lot where cars arrive in the hope of seeing Vanessa… there were security guys so she thought it meants Vanessa was about to arrive. She was right: 5 minutes later, Vanessa got out of a grey Mercedes 4×4 with dark windows, with Lily-Rose asleep on her nape… Johnny and some guy named Philippe (Vanessa’s assistant?) follow…. They all enter the concert auditorium without looking at the fans… A few minutes later, Johnny and Philippe came back to the car to get their stuff (packs etc..). Valou asks if she can take a picture. Philippe replies ‘no’.

So, she leaves with other fans to the auditorium, buys the program (another fan buys a ticket) etc… and one of the staff guys tell them “oh look over there, Johnny is signing autographs!”…. they run to him. Philippe gives a kiss to Valou, the others take pictures and ask for autographs. Valou takes 2 close shots of Johnny. Then, she asks him to sign a small slide of Vanessa (by photographer Claude Gassian). Johnny looks very surprised, he doesn’t know how to sign so small but he does it. Valou takes another photo.

They were about 7 fans there. She was very excited to have finally seen Johnny in person! Valou will remember his sweetness: sweetness of his look, of his voice, of his movements… She didn’t think he was SO nice (a friend of her also fan said he was probably having a good day)…

Apparently, Johnny had seen the others fans while getting out of the car with Lily and Philippe, they had asked him for an autograph and he had said “I will come back”… Which he did. 🙂

Before the beginning of the concert, they bought flowers and gave them to Philippe. Vanessa must have had heard about the ‘meeting’ because she invited them to the next concerts!
Translation by Karelle

valou’s site:


[i]This encounter first appeared in Johnnydeppfan, and is now hosted here with permission of the webmistress./i]

I don’t usually post on message boards, but I read a few messages now and then, if they appear to be “information-based,” and after seeing John Bogdan’s impassioned account of the Johnny sighting and all the effort he put into the pursuit (after his run, was that FIVE miles?), I felt compelled to share my experience.

I was a guest at the taping. I read on Vicki’s web page a few weeks ago that J.D. would be on I.A.S. I work in a TV station-we operate on SCHEDULES-and I couldn’t find any indication, in any schedule anywhere, that Inside the Actors Studio even aired on 2/25, let alone with Depp as guest. Through one of our programming directories I found a phone number for Bravo and ended up speaking with the person who handles the press guests for the show. She says they don’t publish taping dates for fear of being inundated with “gate crashers” in the small auditorium. In fact, I learned, there are IAS season subscribers who pay to see all the tapings, so it isn’t exactly a secret! Anyway, she said, “Why don’t you come up?” (I live in Orlando.) Didn’t take me long to make plane and hotel reservations and I was on my way to NYC on Monday for a very un-characteristically spontaneous mini-adventure.

The 7pm taping was delayed about 45 minutes because of all the people who showed up. At one point I counted at least 130 people standing in the aisles. The show directors seemed overwhelmed, didn’t know what to do, paced back and forth; Lipton came out and said that this had never happened in 8 years and 115 or so guests and had to be due to the incredible career and popularity of “this man.” They brought out extra chairs, after trying to persuade some people to go to a viewing room somewhere (no one wanted to). I’m sure they were hoping the fire marshal wouldn’t choose that time to do an inspection. This is a very low-key production, as those of you who watch regularly know. I think their security procedures might change, however, after the chaos and confusion of Monday night.

They finally got everyone settled, with a few people sitting up on the camera platforms at the sides of the auditorium. I was grateful to find my name printed in large letters on the back of my chair, about 6 rows back on the side (Actors Studio students sit in the middle). When Johnny walked out, to a cheering, standing ovation, of course, he seemed shy, smiling at the audience, pausing and bowing slightly before he sat down. I must confess that my first impression was his hair. We all know from reading accounts of interviews that he sometimes looks pretty messy. But his hair was beautiful-lighter brown than I expected, long, but less than shoulder length, thick, shiny, and combed, although, by my rough estimate, he ran his hand through it about 750 times during the interview. Later when Lipton asked whether he preferred short or long hair, JD said he didn’t care, but his daughter doesn’t want him to cut it (a little sigh rippled through the audience). I was also struck by Johnny’s thinner-, paler-, and more-delicate-looking-than-I-expected-face. Those beautiful hollow cheeks are not done entirely with makeup, as one might think from his movies and photos. Lipton mentioned the crowd and how pleased they were to have him there?etc. About 3 sentences later, Johnny said something about “seeing that he would have to start this right away,” and immediately removed one of those dark cigarettes from what looked like a tobacco pouch, apparently a pre-rolled stash, which he continued to do, lighting and re-lighting through all of the taping, stopping every now and then to take a sip of water from the glass on the table next to him.

He wore a green bomber-type jacket, which he quickly removed (it was hot in there). He had on a Keith Richardson sweatshirt, jeans, and his famous boots. He appeared nervous and fidgety {and why not), and referred a couple of times during the Q & A about his nervousness before coming out on stage. Another time he was talking about the need for actors to watch and listen [to people], that he was always interested in watching people’s nervous habits “many of which he had been exhibiting tonight.” He smiled and laughed often, was funny and somewhat self-deprecating , spoke softly, was extremely polite and patient with the students during the Q & A, (lightly chiding one young lady who addressed him as “Mr. Depp” that his father is Mr. Depp), spoke warmly of the late Ted Demme, stating that it’s hard to talk about him in the past tense, then led applause for Demme. He was everything, in fact, that we would want him to be. I’m hoping no one could see the idiotic grin that was pasted on my face for most of the 3 hours. I don’t think I moved, actually.

I will tell you this much about the interview: Any die-hard Depp fan would know the answers to most of the questions before JD answered. I mentioned this when I called my Bravo contact today to thank her again for inviting me. I asked if the publicists provide the info to Lipton. She told me the researcher was sitting right in front of me at the taping (like I’d notice?), and that the guests provide a list of topics which they do NOT want discussed; the researcher does the rest. Maybe the researcher reads the same boards we do. Vicki should be proud. Luckily, knowing the answers would never keep a Depp fan from watching the show and to anyone else it will be new and interesting stuff!

One answer which I thought was delightful, when they were discussing where JD was living and why, etc. (we know all that), Lipton said, “There’s nothing like being in love and being in Paris,” to which JD replied, kind of to the side, “Yeah, it makes babies.” Johnny said he was living in France and living “here,” without any of that talk about violence in the US, which we have read in his previous interviews. One wonders if he is playing that down a little?don’t know?just wondering.

I’m really looking forward to seeing the finished product. The interview taping ran until about 10p, followed by the “classroom,” in which the students ask their questions (You know, the “Hi, I’m Buffy, I’m an actor” segment. Cheap shot?sorry?actually some very famous actors are graduates of the Actors Studio-you can look it up on the Internet.), lasting until about 11, when Lipton interrupted and said, “We’ve got to let this man go home!” Although I wasn’t sure, an inside contact tells me that JD was whisked out of the auditorium very quickly, which is where John Bogdan’s story takes over. She added that JD was somewhat overwhelmed by the late start, the chaos, and the unexpected and uncontrolled crowd, so Bogdan’s observations are right on. No air date has been announced yet-the editing time varies. If the popularity of the taping session is any indication, I would guess they might speed up the process and get the thing on the air as soon as they can. In this business, it’s sometimes hard to second-guess the plotting and planning. Due to the way ratings are compiled, I don’t think the cable networks hold off the hot stuff until sweeps, the way the b’cast stations do.

This has been a very exciting experience, an unexpected highlight of an otherwise VERY routine life, one which will keep me glowing for a long time. I suggest we check, or your TV listing-of-choice, regularly and do either a “Johnny Depp” or “Inside the Actor Studio” search to see the program listings. IAS lists two weeks out-so we’ll know when the program airs and won’t have to guess and gossip about it-well, guess, anyway. 😎 This has been a very long post. I hope you enjoy it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it today.

Movie Idols, January 2001 – Johnny Depp

Movie Idols, January 2001 – Johnny Depp

Title: Johnny Depp

Publication: : Movie Idols

Issue: January 2001


Photo1JOHNNY DEPP is an interesting man. As an actor he has that rare chameleonic quality that allows him to inhabit a role and convince you that what you see on screen isn’t a performance but a possession. Yet if you see or hear him being interviewed he can seem inarticulate, hesitant, something of a cipher. So you may conclude that he is one of those performers who, lacking a clearly defined character of their own is able to put on new characters like a suit of clothes. Then again, if you were to read any of the articles he has written about his influences and heroes, or pick out key quotes from printed interviews, he seems to be a deep thinker, a true eccentric, a strong and unique individual.

He is, in short, not an easy man to profile, a figure of apparent contradictions and paradoxes. Only one thing is certain – he is probably the finest actor of his generation. You can be assured that whatever film he is in it will be worth watching for him alone. Also, the fact that he has chosen to make it indicates that it has something in the script or the vision that will make it outstanding on one level or another. He doesn’t make popcorn trash, he is a genuine artist and his choices command respect.

John Christopher Depp III was born on the June 9, 1963 in Owensboro, Kentucky. Yes, he’s nearly 40 years old, though you’d never guess it from looking at him. His mother was a waitress, his father an engineer, and Johnny was one of three children. His childhood was one of constant change. “By the time I was 15,” he revealed, “we had lived in about 20 houses.”

They moved house almost at the drop of a hat, although they stayed roughly in the same area, so he didn’t have to change schools too often. There’s a sense from interviews that this lack of stability and predictability in his life left him restless, rootless and looking for some sort of certainty to hold onto. “To this day, I hate it when I have to move from location to location.”

He was a difficult and mischievous kid. “I hung around with bad crowds,” he said. “We used to break and enter places. We’d break into the school and destroy a room or something. 1 used to steal things from stores.”

He liked tape-recording people when they didn’t know. He dug a huge tunnel in his front yard, trying to reach his bedroom and “pretty much any drug you can name, I’ve done it,” he claimed. He lost his virginity at 13 and dropped out of school at 16, the same year his parents divorced.

At this time, his best friend Sal found himself homeless and living in a car, a ’67 Impala. Johnny joined him, and they filled the car with empty beer cans and lived off sandwiches. It wasn’t the most auspicious of starts in life – high school dropout from a broken home living in a car at 16, playing around with drugs and petty crime. For many people this would have been the beginning of a long, slow decline.Photo2

“When I was a kid, I did drugs when I freaked out… They were hurting me physically and mentally. Drugs were dragging me down. They were killing me. I quit.”

Simple as that. No rehab, no trauma. He just decided to stop and did so. This strength of spirit, refusing to give in and go down the self-destructive path that seemed so set, would stand him in good stead. “Everybody puts a label on it and calls me a bad boy or a delinquent or a rebel or one of those horrible terms, but to me, it was much more curiosity. It wasn’t like I was some malicious kid who wanted to kick an old lady in the shin and run, you know? I just wanted to find out what was out there.”

But Depp eventually found one certainty that kept him focused – music. When he was only 12 years old, he bought himself an electric guitar for $25, and from that moment on he devoted a lot of his time to practicing and playing. He skipped classes, actually with the help of his music teacher who allowed him to use a rehearsal room, and when he went home in the evening he would lock himself in his room and practice.

But even though he was devoted to music he couldn’t quite quit the habit of changing and moving that his parents had instilled in him. In just a few years he notched up a grand total of 15 different bands. Finally, he ended up playing lead guitar in The Kids, and he thought this could be his ticket to stardom. The band moved from Florida to LA in 1983 and started playing the club scene, looking for the big break. Depp is phlegmatic about their lack of success. “We didn’t make it, although we loved music. And 1 still do. I guess it happens.”

It was at about this time that he got married, to Lori Anne Allison, but the marriage only lasted two years and in 1985 they were divorced. Johnny and Lori remained on good terms and she soon started seeing Nicolas Cage, who made friends with Depp and suggested that he try his hand at acting. Realizing that his musical career had stalled – he was stuck telemarketing ballpoint pens – Depp decided he’d give it a try.

“Nick set up a meeting for me with his agent and she sent me to read for a movie,” he said. “They gave me a script to study. Two days later, I read for it and they gave me the role. That was Nightmare on Elm Street.”

During the two days between getting the script and giving the audition Depp had an actor friend stay at his home and help him prepare and learn his lines. Once he got the part he never looked back.

Photo3Depp had no experience or training as an actor. He’d never even been in a school play. His entire experience of performance was as part of a band, a collective, four people playing together as one. Now he had no one to rely on – he had to learn his lines, hit a mark, give a performance all on his own. It was a huge leap in the dark with huge potential for failure. And he knew it.

“Doing Nightmare On Elm Street was a trial by fire. The fact that it was totally new to me was a tremendous challenge. I found it was just me. It all depended on me and my own choices.”

Happily, his choices were sound. Wes Craven, the director of Nightmare, recalls why he cast an unknown quantity. “He just had a very powerful and yet subtle personality, there was some sort of charisma about him. He really had sort of a James Dean attraction.”

The fact that Craven’s teenage daughter, on set at the time, “flipped out” for Depp, may also have had some bearing on things!

Nightmare on Elm Street was a huge hit and Depp decided to stick with acting and see where it led him. Unfortunately it led him nowhere fast. A couple of TV guest spots kept him afloat for a year but his next movie project was a dire teen sex comedy called Private Resort. It bombed, and for a while he seemed to be suffering as a result of his lack of training and experience. His Private Resort co-star. Northern Exposure’s Rob Morrow, said that Johnny “had no idea what he was doing, yet he had an understanding of how people operate. He had obstacles, but he was aware of them.”

Next came a small part in another smash hit. Platoon, which gave his profile a much-needed boost. Part of the problem was that Depp didn’t want to do TV. “Television is a little frustrating for me,” says Depp. “There’s no time for preparation. In features, you have loads of time to do the work. And the work is the most important thing of all.”

Immediately upon returning from three-and-a-haJf months filming Platoon in the Philippines he got his big break, in TV.

21 Jump Street was a show about a group of young cops who help sort out troubled kids and teach them the error of their ways. Depp was approached but refused to even look at the script. “It wasn’t that I was snubbing television or anything, but I wasn’t ready for that kind of commitment,” he said.Photo4

Another actor was given the role and Depp continued pursuing movie roles. Three weeks later the other actor left the show and Depp was approached again. This time he agreed to read the script. He liked it and was on the set by the end of the week. “People weren’t banging my door down with scripts, and the pilot was very good, had a lot of strong possibilities. Plus, the average life of a TV series is not a long one, you know? So I decided to do it.”

He didn’t, however, consider it a big deal. “I thought it would go for one season, tops.” A bit of experience, a bit of exposure, another rung on the ladder and then back to movies, that was the plan. Unfortunately, the show was a runaway success and eventually ran for five seasons, making Depp a teen idol and a small-screen superstar.

He had to adjust to being greeted everywhere by crowds of screaming teenage girls. “After we’d shot the first season, it got a little strange. I don’t hate it; I don’t mind it; it’s not an ugly thing, but it’s a little strange.”

His love life then came under scrutiny, which did make him more than a little uncomfortable. For the record, he was engaged to Twin Peaks star Sherilyn Fenn for three years, and then to Dirty Dancing’s Jennifer Grey before Winona Ryder came on the scene and thrust Depp into the tabloid big league.

Back on Jump Street, Depp earned $45,000 an episode but when the show’s creator left at the end of the second season Depp came to question the morality of the show and the fact that scripts were often watered down to keep advertisers happy.

Photo5By the middle of the third season, he became so outraged by some of the scripts that in one instance he simply refused to appear in an episode. This forced the programme-makers to create a new supporting character specifically designed to do the things Depp didn’t want to do. Depp wanted to leave, but he was their star so he was held to his contract. There was a lot of on-set strife, rumours flew, things got bitter and angry and eventually, at the end of the fourth year, Depp was able to leave the show.

A lot of Depp’s subsequent movie choices are clearly dictated by the lessons he learnt at this time. His desire for offbeat, independent, uncompromising, quirky roles in films helmed by auteurs and visionaries comes from learning early on how easily art can be compromised, sullied and sold out in the commerce-driven Hollywood hills. During his time on 21 Jump Street Depp had been able to make a couple of movies in order to begin building the reputation that he hoped would support him when he inevitably left the show. That the films he made were Cry-Baby, for iconoclastic camera loony John Waters, and Edward Scissorhands for gothic genius Tim Burton, both give some idea of the risks he was willing to take. That’s not all; they show how much he wanted to balance the production-line working in TV with exciting and challenging big-screen work. It’s also a testament to Depp’s talent that such intriguing creators were anxious to work with someone who was, after all, just the star of a flashy kids TV show.

Having been so entirely trapped by commercial considerations for so long, so early in his career, Johnny Depp vowed never to fall into that trap again. He was going to forge his own path.Photo5


Four Johnny Depp films you’ve probably never seen but really should!



The most eccentric and impenetrable of Depp’s early films, it’s a heady mix of magic realism and family drama. There’s a flying halibut, some sledging, a little bit of flying, Jerry Lewis, and a turtle. Depp is Axel, a fish counter worker from New York (Depp describes Axel as a “more positive Holden Caulfield”) who is summoned to Arizona by his uncle, Lewis, who wants him to take over the family business, a Cadillac dealership, and marry a local girl. Unfortunately, Axel is more interested in the dreams of fish. Depp chose to work with Yugoslav director Kusturica alter seeing his earlier film, Time of the Gypsies, which moved him to declare, “If this film doesn’t affect you, you have no pulse.” If you can just go with the flow, the film is a total delight, and it won the special jury prize at the 1993 Berlin International Film Festival. Depp’s verdict: “Arizona Dream was the first time I watched myself where I didn’t feel sick.”

To go and make such a surreal film after the box-office hit Edward Scissorhands was incomprehensible to Hollywood’s money men but says Depp, “It’s refreshing to know now what I knew then, which really is, who cares about the numbers? When you’re able to, experience something like this, and live through something like this, and be involved with something as magical as this. You forget about how much a movie made in the box-office.” (1993)



A Western filmed in black-and-white that dances along the edge of incomprehension. Jarmusch’s film is an irony-free journey that is almost existential in its pointlessness and poetry. Depp plays William Blake, an accountant not a poet, who arrives in the town of Machine in the 1870 to take up a post that no longer exists. Turfed out of the factory that had offered him the job, he meets a young girl, shoots, and is shot by, her jealous lover. He then goes on the run, pursued for the man’s murder. He is befriended by an Indian who believes he is the poet Blake, even though he insists he isn’t and so wander off in search of Blake’s destiny. Depp is sweet and clueless as Blake, and Robert Mitchum makes his final screen appearance as the factory owner and father of the man Blake kills. Depp’s main co-star, Gary Farmer said that it’s “sort of a road movie with a horse”. Depp is, said Farmer, “pretty much half dead for most of the movie. It takes a lot of patience to be half dead. Especially for someone like Johnny.” Jarmusch claimed that Depp is “one of the most precise and focused people I’ve ever worked with… I’m more familiar with seeing him fall asleep on the couch with the TV on all night. But it somehow fits; he’s full of paradoxes.” (1995)



A man’s daughter has been kidnapped and unless he assassinates a US State Governor she will be killed. To save the day the would-be patsy must rescue his daughter, try to keep the governor alive, and defeat the bad guy who, it transpires, has merely been hired by more powerful backers. And to add extra suspense the film takes place in real time, giving it a palpable air of tension and threat. No, I’m not talking about 24, but a forgotten Depp gem from 1995, which saw him cast as an ordinary Joe, an accountant – again – and father, caught up in extraordinary circumstances.

Depp makes an interesting action hero, never entirely comfortable holding a weapon and constantly trying to outwit rather than outfight his foes. This man is no John McLane. That his nemesis is played to the hilt with a marvelously unhinged performance from Christopher Walken only adds to the value. Not a great film, but it showed the way for 24 and gave Depp a chance to some something very different for a change -be ordinary. He was accused of selling out but he refutes that. “I read the screenplay and liked it a lot. I was on the edge of my seat when I read this thing. I wanted to do it, and I wanted to work with John Badham. I also wanted to work with Christopher Walken, whom I’ve always admired.” He also insists it was nice to play someone normal for a change. “What happened to me for a while is that people started calling me

‘oddball’. They thought I could only play these outcasts. So, this was a chance to play something really straight.” (1995)



Depp plays a character with almost no dialogue in a haunting vision of Paris before and after Nazi occupation as seen through the eyes of a Russian emigrge, played by long-time Depp co-star Christina Ricci. Depp wanders enigmatically in and out of the film, a gypsy character riding a large white horse, and doesn’t really do a huge amount except look broody and magnificent. It’s almost as if he’s making a silent movie, and it’s startling how much he can communicate with just his face and eyes. This is a visually rich movie from director Sally Potter, full of subtext and muted character that manages to be both silent and operatic. (2000)


Opening like a cheap horror movie with titles that fly out of computer-animated castle facades, The Ninth Gate has an uphill battle to recover respectability from the very beginning – by Rob Blackwelder.

Until “Ninth Gate” turns vapid in the last couple reels, Depp gives a deeply immersed performance, playing Corso’s serpentine nature beautifully and even affecting a deeper, clearer, more educated vocal inflection than we’ve heard from him before. However, his credibility as a book expert is shaky at best. A true connoisseur would closely examine bindings, etc. A true connoisseur wouldn’t smoke while flipping through fragile, 600-year-old volumes, letting ash fall on the pages.

Copyright Ltd 2005

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

Empire, January 2000 – Village of the Damned!

Empire, January 2000 – Village of the Damned!

Title: Village of the Damned!

Author: Simon Braud

Publication: Empire

Issue: January 2000


Photo1AFTER TREKKING UP THE MUDDIEST FOREST TRACK in the entire history of mud (and, no doubt, tracks), Empire finally crests a densely wooded hill to be met with an arresting and slightly unsettling sight: occupying a clearing in the trees some 300 meters below is a tiny, perfectly formed 18th century village which appears to be under attack from alien spacecraft. Hovering above the spiky church, ramshackle half-timbered cottages and suspiciously bijou bridge is a collection of vast, incandescent slabs which are bathing the settlement below in a pale and unearthly light. It looks like the type of tableau you might find gracing the interior of an enormously expensive snow globe.

What is also rather eerie is that earlier in the day Empire inspected exactly the same scene, complete with glowing monoliths, meticulously rendered in miniature in a model shop at Leavesden Studios. And to add a further prickle of unease, as we set off down the mercifully less soggy path that leads to the cluster of buildings below, it occurs to us that this Is precisely how New York constable lchabod Crane first enters the Hudson Valley hamlet of Sleepy Hollow to investigate a series of grisly murders. And it’s here that he first encounters the local legend of the headless horseman.

THERE’S NO CAUSE FOR ALARM, OF COURSE. THE village is hardly more substantial than the cranially-challenged equestrian spook who haunts it. It is in fact, the setting for director Tim Burton’s cinematic retelling of the Washington Irving classic, The Headless Horseman Of Sleepy Hollow; the menacing illuminated blocks overhead are a vast lighting rig designed to provide the requisite ethereal hue during night shoots. And obvious that the set is vintage Burton. Based initially on early Dutch settlements in upstate New York, where the real town of Sleepy Hollow is located — its ostensible quaintness is undermined by a hint of stylised gothic: the houses are slightly too tall and slightly too thin, and they crowd together slightly too tightly. It’s an artful, almost comical corruption of cosiness — this is a community huddling together in fear of the spectre which stalks the dark woods that surround it.

Irving’s much loved supernatural yarn (renamed Sleepy Hollow for the screen) is perfect material for Burton. Set in 1799, it’s a dream-like mix of horror, fantasy and romance that tells the tale of awkward loner lchabod Crane — a schoolteacher in the book, a policeman in the film — who is sent to Sleepy Hollow after several of its inhabitants have been mysteriously decapitated by, he soon learns, the monstrous figure of a headless black rider. “lchabod is someone who is basically behind the times and ahead of the times,” says Burton, “and it’s the contradictory aspects aspects of his character which are always fun and interesting. One of the original images that I had in my mind is a character who lives in his head versus a character with no head, which I always thought was a wonderful symbol.” While pitting his expertise in forensics against the terrifying horseman, lchabod also manages to fall in love with Katrina Van Tassel, the daughter of the town’s most eminent family. Thus the stage is set for a perfectly Burtonesquc fairytale and the eccentric director has assembled something of a dream team to flesh out his typically phantasmagorical vision: Johnny Depp — in a piece of casting that was surely engineered by God plays lchabod; Christina Ricci is similarly blessed with the role of Katrina; Casper Van Dien plays Ichabod’s brutish love rival and, providing icing on an already tantalising cake, is the eminently strange Christopher Walken as the horseman. And in a nod to Burton’s beloved Hammer Horrors, the great Christopher Lee makes a cameo appearance as the New York burgermeister who orders lchabod to Sleepy Hollow. And just to whet your, no doubt by now, keenly honed appetites still further, the screenplay comes courtesy of Seven’s Andrew Kevin Walker, music is by long-time Burton collaborator Danny Elfman and, hot off his movie-stealing turn as Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace, Ray Park stands in as Walker’s double for the fight scenes. That alone should lead you to suspect plenty of blood and thunder alongside the misty romance.

THE LAST TIME EMPIRE ENCOUNTERED JOHNNY DEPP was when he sauntered onto the terrace of the Hotel Du Cap at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival. Sporting a superbly unusual suit and smoking a cheroot, his perfect features adorned by a moustache roughly as wide as a crack in a coffee mug, he was every inch the movie star, captured in his natural habitat. Now, seated at a rough trestle table in an arctic catering tent as night-time rain pounds the canvas roof, he is dressed in a flowing white shirt, ample of cuff, and an embroidered full-length waistcoat. The pencil-thin stogie has been replaced by liquorice roll-ups and his facial hair is a less raffish goatee. He looks tiny, unreal, like a Dresden figurine come to life. Seated next to him, Christina Ricci appears even more as if she has wafted in from some enchanted waking vision. Her saucer-eyed, elfin features are framed by lustrous blond hair. They are a mesmerising apparition.

Following Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood. Sleepy Hollow marks Depp’s third collaboration with Burton, and for him this reunion is definitely a Good Thing. “Going back to working with Tim for me is like recharging the batteries,” he says, directing his whispery drawl towards his feet. “I can go out and do other things and I start to question why I do them and what the point of certain things is, so coming back to Tim is a rejuvenating experience. It makes me understand why I do this and what it’s all about.” But this being Johnny Depp, a man whose predilection for all things off-the-wall is legendary, other incentives were of course involved.

“I love the story,” he says, simply. “I’ve been familiar with it since I was a little kid — it’s just one of those great American stories. And I think the character is very interesting. It’s a challenge to play someone who fills the role of the leading man, but to not play him as a standard hero.”

Photo2In that respect, lchabod is a character very in keeping with many others in the Depp cannon, particularly those he has played for Burton. Edward Scissorhands has the most obvious parallels, but even the delusional-yet-lovable Ed Wood provides plenty of evidence of Depp’s predilection for society’s waifs and strays.

“Yeah, Ichabod’s a freak,” he chuckles. “He’s very much an outsider. He’s definitely got his problems, his weird ticks, stuff like that.” And Depp is perfectly frank about why he is constantly drawn to endearing weirdos. “I’m an idiot,” he says, smiling. “No, I don’t know ,.. It’s like, yeah, there are a lot of characters I’ve played who seem to be related in some way. It’s kind of like a painting in a way; like something that you’re trying to achieve, something that you’re trying to say that’s never quite finished. I don’t know if a painter ever really finishes a painting. Maybe that’s what it is with me — I’m exploring this arena and I haven’t finished exploring it yet.”

In creating Ichabod Crane, Depp drew on a rich, if slightly perplexing, store of influences. There’s a great deal of Roddy McDowell in there (the late actor was a close friend of Depp’s), but, he alleges, he also pilfered freely from the classic Basil Rarhbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes films. Not surprisingly, he was also persuaded to take in a few Hammer Horrors to get him in the mood.

“Yeah. Did you watch any of those?” he says to Ricci. She shakes her head. “No, you said you were going to give me some but you never did.”

“I lied” he says. “I lied to Christina. I said I’d give her some films and I lied. I was familiar with some of them just from being a horror fan in general. Tim gave me a couple of Hammer tapes initially and we talked about the style. What I find fascinating about them is that there’s a style of acting that’s borderline bad, but it’s so borderline that it’s actually brilliant. I find that very interesting. I think Peter Cushing was a master craftsman, and Christopher Lee definitely is, and it’s a style of acting that I find very interesting.”

Sleepy Hollow is the second film that Depp has made with Christina Ricci — she had a small role in Terry Gilliam’s Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas — and it’s another re-match that he seems inordinately happy about.

“When Tim brought it up that he was casting Christina as Katrina I was very excited about going to work with her again, and about having more stuff to do together. I think Christina is one of the few actresses out there who is making brave choices — not just in the films she chooses, but in the work she’s doing. I think she’s terrific. She’s the real thing, and there’s a lot of fakes out there.” The fact that Ricci is sitting in very close proximity to him and there are still several more weeks of filming ahead of them shouldn’t lead you to doubt his sincerity. And he fiddles with his Zippo in a quite charming, “Aw, shucks” fashion as Ricci enthusiastically returns the compliment. “He’s amazing,” she says with feeling. “When we were doing rehearsals he would just slip into things. Like, he’d remember things from Ed Wood and he’d just start doing his Ed Wood thing. And we work together really well and he’s just really-genuine. I mean, I first met him when I was nine years old and he’s always been so kind. He remembers my mother’s name every time he meets her, which makes her life worth living. He’s also an amazing actor and look at him — he’s beautiful.”

On paper this comes over as unadulterated gush, but in fact, it’s very sweet and to his credit, Depp looks as if he’s about to suffer bashful meltdown. And if nothing else, it points to some highly convincing on-screen slushiness.

“Oh, I think that’s gonna be fine,” says Depp. “But certainly one of the first things that popped into my head was that, “My God, I’ve known her since she was nine years old and we’re going to be kissing and stuff!’ That was a little odd at first. But, you know, we’re both pretty calm, we’re not walking bags of neurosis — or if we are, we don’t bring our neuroses to work with us.” Oh no. That kind of thing, as we know, is reserved for snooty Mayfair restaurants and is traditionally accompanied by swinging planks of wood at intrusive paparazzi and yelling in an inexplicable Irish accent. Although Heaven forbid we should go into that here.

ONE OF THE DELIGHTS OF VISITING A MOVIE SET, APART from wallowing in mud and gawping at extras in period costume reading The Daily Mail, is that while you’re waning, you get shown all kinds of interesting behind-the-scenes stuff to fill the time. Today, we are taken to meet the horses. This turns out to be an unexpectedly terrifying experience, and not one we’d like to repeat anytime soon. Banish from your thoughts any notion of petting velvety noses and administering sugar lumps to four-legged friends, and imagine instead standing three feet away from a gigantic fiery steed which is stamping its anvil-sized hooves and blowing great clouds of steam out of its gaping nostrils — at one point, it even rears up on its hind legs and whinnies like a steam train. This is the headless horseman’s horse, and frankly, he’s fucking welcome to it.

Standing somewhat forlornly beside this colossal, highly-strung beast is Ichabod’s ride. This is a dumpy, docile old mare, hilariously broad in the beam and short in the leg who looks as if her rearing up days are a dim and distant memory. Again, it’s perfect casting.

Back with the talent of the two-legged variety and Johnny Depp appears as wary of the equinties as Empire. But apparently for entirely different reasons.

“We have a kind of edgy relationship.” says Depp guardedly, when informed of our harrowing ordeal. “One day she can be fine and the next she can be a little . . . peculiar.”

“He gives you hours of amusement,” chimes in Ricci. “Johnny loses it every time the horse farts.”

“Yeah,” he says seriously, “and the horse farts constantly. I take it as her statement about movies in general. She just doesn’t give a shit about what’s going on. She farts constantly and shits all over the set,” he smiles. “I like that horse very, very much …”

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