TV Guide January 23-29, 1988 – Bad Boy to Role Model

TV Guide January 23-29, 1988 – Bad Boy to Role Model

Once a troublemaker, Johnny Depp of 21 Jump Street is now admired for his cool and his part in a series about teen problems.

On a lonely, rainy, anonymous street, Johnny Depp, running through a scene from Fox’s 21 Jump Street, roars up in his blue Mustang, screeches to a halt, leaps out and starts talking tough. His Jump Street character, Tom Hanson, is a rookie cop who’s gone undercover to infiltrate circles of teen-age criminals, but Depp’s stance as a hoodlum would fool anyone. With his angelic punk face and his hair cascading James Dean-style into his eyes, he looks the perfect teen-age rebel.

It comes from years of real-life experience. Depp, 24, grew up in Miramar, Fla., where he wasn’t exactly on the road to becoming a National Merit scholar. “I hung around with bad crowds,” he admits. “We used to break and enter places. We’d break into the school and destroy a room or something. I used to steal things from stores.” And, like some of the kids Officer Tom Hanson has busted on 21 Jump Street, Depp was into drugs. “Pretty much any drug you can name,” he says, “I’ve done it.” At 13 he lost his virginity, and at 16 he dropped out of high school.

Fast-forward eight years to Vancouver, where Jump Street is shot. Depp has acquired a taste for $80-a-shot cognac and is a fan-magazine star, routinely mobbed by adoring teen-age girls. He is also one of the stranger sights in Vancouver, consistently wearing the same eccentric outfit: tattered blue jeans with a hole in the knee, combat boots, a beat-up leather jacket, a weird white rag (actually a first-aid sling) wrapped around his forehead, and several tarnished earrings. It’s a look he perfected in 1986 in the Philippines while working on the film Platoon, in which he had a part as Lerner, small-town boy who serves as the unit interpreter.

It’s easy at first glance to think that Depp is trying hard to stand out, but the people who know him best insist it’s something altogether different: Johnny Depp is simply the embodiment of the ineffable, universally coveted quality called “cool”.

“The coolest person I know,” says Holly Robinson, who plays Officer Judy Hoffs on Jump Street. “He’s naturally cool. Everybody else tries to be cool, but Johnny just is.”

“If this were the ’50s, he’d move to Paris or hang out with Jack Kerouac,” suggests Patrick Hasburgh, creator and executive producer of Jump Street.

“What struck me about him when he auditioned was that he wasn’t nervous,” says Steve Beers, supervising producer of the show. “He was laid-back. He had this presence. He’s an unusual personality. He’s also one of the nicest people I’ve ever worked with.”

How cool is Johnny Depp? He’s so cool that he orders a $75 bottle of wine without blinking as he sits down in his favorite Italian restaurant (weird white rag still around his head) to explain how he got that way. So cool that after a few months in Vancouver, he persuaded his mother and stepfather to move there and live with him. So cool that when he was 16, shortly before he left high school, he moved out of his house to live in a car with his best friend, Sal, because that’s the only place Sal had to live and he didn’t want him to feel abandoned. It was a ’67 Impala that they filled with empty beer cans, while living on submarine sandwiches from a 7-Eleven. A few months ago, Sal went up to Vancouver to visit Depp and impressed the producers with his unusual, to say the least, ability to fill his mouth with air and blow it out like some strange-looking fish. Sal is now the character on Jump Street called “Blowfish”.

Back in blue-collar Miramar, where Depp’s father was director of public works and his mother was a waitress, Johnny and Sal were into drugs, girls, petty crime and, most of all, music. Music was how they kept the faith within their isolated teen-age world of angry parents and threatening teachers. When Depp was a kid, he heard a gospel group and knew right then that he wanted to make music. At 12, he paid $25 for an electric guitar, locked himself in his room and started playing. The next year, he started his own rock band and has since been in 15 different groups, supporting himself since leaving home at 16. The most successful group was called The Kids, and it was while playing lead guitar with that group that he moved to Los Angeles in 1983 to try to make it big.

At the same time, he took a seedy apartment in Hollywood and began peddling ball-point pens over the phone to make enough money to live. He also got married, got divorced and met actor Nicolas Cage, a former boy friend of his wife, who told him he ought to try acting. Cage set him up for a meeting with his agent, who, despite Depp’s utter lack of acting experience, took one look at his face and sent him to an audition for the movie A Nightmare on Elm Street. Depp had an actor friend stay up with him for the next two nights coaching him on the lines, and he got the part.

“He just had a very powerful and yet subtle personality,” says Wes Craven, director of Elm Street. “There was some sort of charisma about him.” Craven also admits, “My teen-age daughter and her friend were there at the reading, and they absolutely flipped out over him. He’s got real sex appeal for women.”

Next came a role in a teen sexploitation film called Private Resort, which Depp would just as soon forget. “It was a stupid movie,” he says. Depp’s lack of experience caught up with him, and he had trouble getting roles for about a year. He became so discouraged he contemplated abandoning acting, until Platoon came along and gave him the creative and professional boost he needed. Then immediately after returning from two and a half months filming in the Philipines, the Jump Street role came up as a possibility. The idea of going from a high-quality film like Platoon to a new, unproven television series was unpalatable to Depp, and he refused even to look at the script. Another actor, Jeff Yagher, was hired for the role, and that was that. But then, three weeks into shooting Jump Street, Yagher was off the show and Depp’s name came up again. This time he read the script, liked it and won the part.

After a few glasses of wine, though, Depp will tell you that when he decided to bend to the demands of television, he never thought the show would be as successful as it is, holding the possibility of a long commitment. “I thought it would go for one season, tops,” he says with a sly smile. In other words, he thought he’d get in and out in a matter of a few months, gaining experience and publicity in the process, and then he’d be on his way. Instead, he’s in the strange position of being trapped in a successful show.

“I’m not trapped,” he insists. “I mean, it’s good. The best thing about the show is that kids learn from it, they’re able to see things that go on in their high school and see them objectively. It teaches kids about drugs and safe sex. The worst thing is that some of the scripts we do are not important, they’re purely for television. But what I thought when I originally started the show was, if I’m going to do a television series, I want to do something that means something. I don’t want to go out and do Dallasor Dynasty. You know what I’m saying?”

Outside a Vancouver high-school gym where Jump Street is shooting, Johnny Depp is trapped in the hallway, mobbed by a group of teen-age girls intent on getting autographs from him. It takes about 30 minutes, but he stays, patiently and politely signing and signing and signing, giving each girl a meaningful look and engaging her in conversation as he hands her a scrap of paper with a sweet little message scrawled on it. First Carol. Then Monica. Then Brandi-with-an-i. The girls are in teen heaven.

“He’s so cute,” sighs one.

“He’s so cool,” coos another.

Yes. We know. Cool.

Big Bopper, 1988 – Who does Johnny Depp Really Love?

Big Bopper, 1988 – Who does Johnny Depp Really Love?

Photo1Title: Who does Johnny Depp Really Love?

Publication: Big Bopper

Issue: 1988

 

When Johnny Depp loves someone, he lets them know just how much! He’s not so quick, though, to share those feelings with others. The actor you know and love as “Officer Tommy Hanson” on 21 Jump Street likes to keep his personal life as private as possible!

Well, you can relax about the three women whom Johnny is closest to—they’re his mom, Betty Sue, and his two older sisters, Chrissy and Debbie! That’s right’ He’s closest to his family, and the reason you probably know so little about them is that Johnny does a super job of protecting them from too much publicity!

The truth of the matter is that Johnny is protective of his mom and sisters because he loves them so much! He knows that, while he chose a life in the public eye, his family {which also includes his dad, John, and older brother. Danny) didn’t, and he respects their need for privacy.

Sometimes this brown-eyed actor might appear to be a loner who really doesn’t need anyone. But this couldn’t be further from the truth!

He missed her so much…

The fact is this June 9, 1963 birthday boy is just-this-close to his mom. He even invited her to live with him in Vancouver. Canada where he films 21 Jump Street! You see, she lived in Florida with his step-dad. (Johnny’s parents are divorced and have both remarried other people) and Johnny missed her so much, he asked her to move on in!

Have Johnny and his mom always been close? You bet! Before Johnny came to California and became a TV star, he was in a rock ‘n’ roll band, and his mom was super supportive of his musical pursuits even when he didn’t earn a lot of money!

His sisters are also a source of love for him, and he hasn’t forgotten them! His sister Chrissy worked as a bartender in the club where his band, The Kids, played!

His other sister, Debbie, worked during the day and couldn’t spend as much time with him, yet they still stayed really tight!

Johnny’s best friends say that he’s definitely the baby of his family. Chrissy and Debbie often took care of him when he was little while their mom had to go to work.

Is he spoiled? Maybe a little, but since the Depps didn’t have lots and lots of money, the spoiling came from tons of love instead! He always gives them plenty of love back, so it didn’t hurt him a bit!

The people closest to Johnny say is he’s definitely a family man—the kind of guy who’ll marry the girl of his dreams and have children of his own someday. And you can bet he’ll be a great dad!

Book December 1987 – Before They Were Famous

Book December 1987 – Before They Were Famous

Johnny Depp

In 1987, Johnny Depp was already a teen idol through his starring role on the television series 21 Jump Street. He was living in a modest one-bedroom apartment in an art-deco building on Whitley Avenue in Hollywood. I would run into him several times late at night when he’d be hanging out with Nicolas Cage and other friends at Canter’s, a popular after-club eatery.I recently photographed Johnny again. His hair had grown but his angelic face remained much the same. Stardom had not inherently changed him; he was still soft-spoken and sweet. I did notice, though, a newfound inner strength and self-assurance.Johnny wanted to go beyond doing traditional leading-man roles and he has.

I grew up in many different houses. One in Miramar, Florida, sticks out in particular. We lived at 68th Avenue and Court, on the corner of a busy street. The house was a three-bedroom built in the sixties. It constantly smelled of my mom’s cooking: soup, beans and ham. I remember my brother and sister fighting. I had a poodle named Pepi. I shared a bedroom with my brother, who is 10 years older than me. He listened to a lot of Van Morrison and Bob Dylan.

We moved constantly. My mom just liked to move for some reason. By the time I was 15, we had lived in about 20 houses. It was hard. Depending on how far we’d move, you’d have to make new friends. Fortunately, I didn’t have to change schools often. But we never stayed in one neighborhood for long. At the drop of a hat, we’d go.

My mom was a waitress; she’d been a waitress since she was 14. My father was the Director of Public Works in Miramar. They divorced when I was about 16.

To this day, I hate it when I have to move from location to location. I get very angry, as a result of having to move so much as a kid. I live in Hollywood now, but I’m in Vancouver shooting 21 Jump Street about nine months of the year.

I was very mischievous as a boy. I loved tape recording people when they didn’t know. One time a friend and I dug a really deep tunnel in my backyard. We covered it with boards and leaves. I was attempting to dig a tunnel into my room. I liked to push it and see how far I could go. If you knew me during high school, I think you’d describe me as “the kid with long hair who was always playing guitar.” I wasn’t big on participating in school activities. I used to bring my guitar to school and I’d skip most classes to sneak into guitar class.The teacher would give me a practice room to play in. That’s pretty much what I spent my high school years doing.

You know, I never made the decision to become an actor. At least not in the beginning. I got into it off-the-cuff. I moved from Florida to Los Angeles with a band I was playing with called The Kids. A friend of mine introduced me to Nicolas Cage and we started hanging out. Nick thought that I should try acting and see what would happen. At the time, I wasn’t making much money. I played a few clubs with the band here and there, but I still had a lot of time. So, I decided to give it a shot. Nick set up a meeting for me with his agent and she sent me to read for a movie. 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.

Doing Nightmare on Elm Street was a trial-by-fire sort of thing. I’d never acted before. I’d never done school plays; nothing. The fact that it was totally new to me was a tremendous challenge. I’d never done anything like this, hitting marks and saying lines and thinking about why my character was doing what he was doing. It was totally the opposite of being in a rock ‘n’ roll band. In a band, you are four people, all working together to write great songs or to get a record deal. In acting, I found it was just me. It all depended on me and my own choices. I didn’t have to answer to anyone about what I wanted to do. The band wasn’t doing well, so I turned my energies toward acting.

As you become more well known as an actor, more people get involved in you, directly and indirectly. You’ve got the “Suits” or “Bigwigs,” as I call them, the “yeses” and the “nos.” Sometimes, they want you to do things that maybe you don’t believe in or feel like doing, like promos. I tend to follow my instincts and say, “No, I’m not going to do that.” It causes trouble, here and there. But I think the main thing is to be honest, rely on your instincts and do what you feel is right and not necessarily rely on what other people think.

Television is a little frustrating for me. 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. I think that in the beginning of an acting career, everybody wants to achieve notoriety or stardom. In the beginning, that was very glamorous to me.

You want to be famous because you want to be good at what you do and you want to be recognized for it, right? Now, being famous isn’t as important to me. My goal is to keep learning because I’m nowhere near where I want to be. Like I said about the fame thing: if that becomes the motivation behind everything, even if you achieve it, you’re going to get stuck there and you’re not going to go any further.

I don’t believe in the whole “leading-man thing and that’s all he’s ever going to do.” I mean I’d like to shave my eyebrow or my hair off, or do anything. I want to hopefully, with some of the roles that I do later on, make people see things in a different light, so that they won’t just go with the flow and feel they have to be or act a certain way, just because the President says, “That’s the way it is.” I’d like to do as many different roles as I can.

I try to read as much as I can. On The Road by Jack Kerouac is one of my favorite books. There are a lot of books I’ve read that I’d like to film. I love the concept of The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. I’d like to become a giant cockroach. I love Van Gogh. I’ve always been interested in people who had mental torment, weirdos. I think everybody is pretty whacked out in their own way. I deal with my anxiety by smoking a lot of cigarettes and listening to very loud music. I like Bach, the Georgia Satellites, Led Zeppelin and Tom Waits. I like Tom Waits a lot.

When I was a kid, I did drugs when I freaked out. I mean, I was in a rock ‘n’ roll band in Florida, the cocaine capital of the world. Drugs are really prominent in the club scene, especially there. They were hurting me physically and mentally. Drugs were dragging me down. They were killing me. I quit. Now, I just smoke like a fiend.

I would never do a role that glamorized self-abuse or racism. Racism freaks me out. The black and white thing. The term “nigger” is still used constantly. Why is somebody who’s black a “nigger”? It doesn’t register. Living in Florida, there’s tons of rednecks out there. I mean, these guys want to hear “Sweet Home Alabama” 24 hours a day. Racism freaks me out a lot.

The homeless are pretty important to me. There are a lot of people out there who have no food, no home and no money. A lot of them are there by choice but some can’t help it. I wish some of the people with the big bucks, instead of buying a Rolls-Royce or another Mercedes, would give a little scratch to the people who are hurting. I don’t know about sacrifices. I think once you make a choice to be an actor, there’s always a balance between good and bad. You’ve got to go through hell to get to heaven. In every good there is evil; in every evil there is good. Through everything bad that’s happened to me, I’ve learned from it, which is OK.

People usually think that if you’re an actor and you’re 24 and you look a certain way that you’re an asshole. So they treat you like an asshole at first. Then they realize that you’re a human being and a nice guy.

As far as actors go, I like Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson and Walter Matthau. I respect Nick (Cage) a lot. He’s trying to go for something really different and he’s in a great position to do that. He’s very intense and he’s got really innovative ideas. I think he’s going to do a lot.

Why would a director choose me? I can only say that hopefully, there’s something underneath my look or image that maybe hasn’t come out yet, that he thinks he could bring out. I want to try to do things differently. I want to experiment. I want to express different things at some point. It’s just the beginning. I’m not even born yet. I’m still trying. I’m still pushing. I hope I never stop pushing. I don’t ever want to get to a place where I feel satisfied. I think if I do that, it will all be over.

 

YM, October 1987 – Johnny Depp and Sal Jenco

YM, October 1987 – Johnny Depp and Sal Jenco

Title: Johnny Depp and Sal Jenco

Publication: YM

Issue: October 1987

 

Photo1If you ask Sal Jenco and Johnny Depp where they met, chances are they’ll snow you with a story about a “nostril flaring festival in Rio de Janeiro.” Actually, they met under slightly less exotic circumstances: at gram­mar school in Florida. Sixteen years later, they’re still inseparable. When Johnny played guitar in a rock band, Sal was the band’s road manager; now that John­ny’s starring on the Fox Broadcasting series 21 Jump Street, Sal’s got a part, too. Perfect foils, Johnny is soft-spoken and baby-face handsome; Sal’s a roly-poly loud mouth. “The only time we argue is over the girls I date,” admits Sal, 24. “He spends too much money on them,” explains Johnny, 23. An aspiring stand-up comic, dead­pan Sal will tell you he also raises pygmy Palestinian llamas in Malibu, while straight-man Johnny swallows a laugh. “We’re like brothers, and we’re both major slobs,” says Johnny. Adds an uncharacteristically serious Sal: “Johnny’s very warm, very generous—the best guy I know. What can I tell you, I love the creep.”

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